Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Washtenaw County developing a Climate Plan? 

The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners has a long history of actions and decisions which preserve the natural world and promote the efficient and sustainable use of resources. These actions have increased in intensity and frequency as the science around climate change has coalesced on the man-made nature of climate change, and the impacts to the County and the world if actions are not implemented to reduce the creation of greenhouse gas emissions to prevent the warming of the planet.  

Board Resolutions include: 

  • 17-100: Intent to take action in accordance with the goals of the Paris Climate Accord 
  • 18-187 (2019-22 Quadrennial Budget): Setting a goal of net zero-carbon County Operations by 2035 
  • 18-191: Establishing the Environmental Council 
  • 19-050: Directing the development of an Energy and Environmental Infrastructure Policy 
  • 19-165: Declaration of a Climate Emergency, restating goal of carbon neutrality by 2035 
  • 19-201: $30k allocated to fund development of a climate action plan 
  • 20-122: Setting a carbon neutrality goal of 2030 
  • 20-153: Exploration of close collaboration with the City of Ann Arbor to address the climate emergency 

Other related actions include: 

  • Environmental Council –Discussions and Planning Around Community Engagement for Climate Action Plan 
  • Millage and Funding 
  • 20-026: Establishing a Natural Areas Perpetual Maintenance Fund 
  • 20-073: Authorizing the Conservation District Millage be placed on the ballot 
  • 20-082: Authorizing the renewal of the NAPP millage be placed on the ballot 

Board Priority Documents: 

  • 19-047: 2019 Calendar of Deliverables included Roadmap for Carbon Neutral County Government 
  • 21-037: 2021 Project Priorities expanded on this to include broader sustainability and environmental goals. 

What are the County’s climate goals? 

Given the urgency of climate change and the need for broad action, the Board of Commissioners has set a goal of carbon neutral county operations by 2030 and carbon neutral county-wide emissions by 2035.  While the County has taken steps to reduce the organizational footprint, these step are not sufficient to meet this goal by this timeframe. 


Is this plan for just county operations or is this plan for county-wide recommendations? 

YES!  This plan covers both county municipal operations “the organization” and county-wide emissions “the whole county”.  


What has the County done to date to reduce emissions from County Operations? 

Over the past decade the County has made significant efforts to reduce the footprint of the County’s operations. These efforts greatly accelerated with the creating and hiring of an Energy Coordinator position in 2012. Efforts to date have been largely focused on reducing the energy usage of County owned and operated buildings through the upgrading and replacement of fixtures and equipment with higher efficiency and newer equipment. This has been largely an incremental approach, balancing the lifespan and cost of the replacement of major systems against the numerous buildings and usages that county space provides against a limited budget. Occasionally, the county has looked to install renewables when the usage and finances allowed. This has led to a small number of solar installations, and multiple buildings with auxiliary solar water heating, however these installations and usages are the exceptions. In 2020, the Board of Commissioners approved a significant energy efficiency project, approving a $2.5m plan to replace all interior light fixtures in County space with high efficiency LED units, inclusive of controls and occupancy monitors. This project is expected to be concluded by mid-2022, and to reduce the county’s usage of electricity by 1/3d when complete. Also in 2020, Washtenaw County completed its first ever greenhouse gas inventory, estimating the emissions generated during the 2019 calendar year. While the county had previously been measuring and tracking the emissions related to utility usage, the 2020 effort was the first that looked comprehensively at all activity directly attributable to county operations, as well as some emissions indirectly created by the county through induced activities. This inventory was completed using the ICLEI ClearPath tool, and estimated the County’s 2019 organizational emissions at 13,661 metric tons of CO2e. 

What has the County done to date to understand community-wide emissions from all residents, businesses, governments, and institutions? 

A community wide assessment was also started at this time and also used the ICLEI ClearPath tool. This assessment included detailed analysis of some sectors, however the community wide estimates were ultimately generated using data from the Google Environmental Insights Explorer. This data source does give a good idea of what happens across the county as a community, but is not believed by the County to provide actionable information with regards to reducing emissions. The 2019 community wide emissions estimate is 6.7 million metric tons of CO2e. In late 2018 the Board of Commissioners established the Washtenaw County Environmental Council. This group is an advisory subcommittee of the Board of Commissioners, and is charged with guiding and integrating the work of the County with regards to protecting the environment and reducing the environmental impact of the County. This group will be involved through the plans requested through this RFP as the County’s steering committee on this planning activity.  

What’s the difference between climate mitigation and climate adaptation? 

Social vulnerability refers to the geographic and socio-economic influences on the chance of harm to humans and the capacity of people to prepare and respond. Adaptations are strategies undertaken by individuals, societies, or governments, in response to or anticipation of environmental changes and climate threats. 

What is energy burden? 

The US Energy Information Administration estimates that one in three US households experience some form of energy poverty. Similarly, it also is important to further understand how this particular type of relative resource availability is connected to public health. Energy burden is one measure of energy poverty and a potentially important addition to the determinants of public health. Energy burden reflects household expenditure on energy utilities relative to the household’s gross income capacity. Disproportionate distributions of energy burden (both positive and negative) are evident in particular positions in social and economic systems, such as wealth, education, race or ethnic origin.