Despite efforts to reduce Nashville's greenhouse gas emissions in recent years, levels remain largely flat, and the city's rising traffic congestion and waste are main reasons why.
Nashville emitted 13.4 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2014, according to a new report issued Tuesday by Mayor Megan Barry's Livable Nashville Committee, equating to 20.14 metric tons per person. This is about on par with the national average of 19.15 tons.
Nashville's latest count is a slight uptick from the 13.2 million tons tallied in 2011, when Nashville's last greenhouse inventory was conducted, but slightly less than the 20.84 per-person rate of 2011. In 2005, Nashville's total greenhouse gas emissions equated to 26.17 metric tons.
Laurel Creech, assistant director of Metro General Services' division of sustainability, said some might feel discouraged to see the overall number go back up, but she said the inventory in 2014 included more data than the 2011 version. She also pointed to the city's rapid growth and development.
"Obviously you know that Nashville's has had a lot of growth, so transportation is a large contributor, waste is a large contributor and buildings is (sic) a large contributor," Creech.
The new emissions inventory, released before environmentalists gathered at the downtown library on Tuesday, is part of a lengthy report on improving sustainability in Nashville that includes 25 recommendations on a wide-rang of topics including mobility and transit, green buildings, waste reduction and natural resources.
Nashville is among a group of cities with a goal of reducing greenhouse emissions 80 percent by 2050. The regular inventory of emissions is required as part of Barry's participation in the Compact of Mayors network started by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg to tackle environmental issues.
Any Longsworth, director of the Boston Green Ribbon Committee and keynote speaker at Tuesday's event, said cities are increasingly at the battlefront of environmental issues.
"It's also partly because they just don't have a choice," she said. "Because 50 percent of us live in cities now and by 2050, 80 percent will live in cities. And city leadership has to figure out a way to do that and have some kind of quality of life."
Metro officials and a consultant began its count of emissions this past October and concluded work in December. Gases include carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane, among other gases. The year 2014 was used as a benchmark because the city lacked full data for 2015.
From 2011 to 2014, Nashville saw levels of emissions from commercial, industrial and residential energy, but emissions from transportation rose from 4.5 million metric tons to nearly 5 million, accounting for 37 percent of all emissions in Nashville in 2014. Emissions from solid waste more than doubled from 342,791 to 1.05 million.
Barry assembled the 35-member Livable Nashville Committee in May to "build upon the successes of" former Mayor Karl Dean's Green Ribbon Committee. Barry's group divided work into five areas: natural resources, mobility, waste reduction and recycling, green buildings and climate and energy.
In addition to the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050, the committee has also established goals of a 20 percent reduction by 2020 and 40 percent by 2040.
Recommendations also include ensuring that 40 percent of all Nashvillians are within 15 miles of transit access points; establishing an annual "Green State of Metro" mayoral address: implementing sustainability practices across Metro government; and encouraging current and future mayoral administration to dedicate staff to sustainability.
"This work offers an opportunity to not just advocate for a more livable city, but to authentically make progress toward it," Barry wrote in the report's preface.
Reach Joey Garrison at 615-259-8236 and on Twitter @Joeygarrison.