The end of one year often inspires resolutions and commitments for the next. For the City of Sammamish, the end of 2023 marks a commitment to the newly adopted Climate Action Plan (CAP), and the hope that residents will help make its goals a reality. Adopted on Dec. 5, 2023, the CAP outlines a series of goals and strategies for decreasing Sammamish’s carbon footprint.
The city council first proposed the CAP on March 14, 2022, after sustained pressure from community advocacy groups. The CAP’s Community Advisory Group helped create the plan from April 2023 to Aug. 2023. At the Dec. 5 city council meeting, the council unanimously approved the plan’s adoption.
The CAP’s key goals include a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 2030 and 96% by 2050, compared to a 2019 baseline, along with a 30% decrease in per capita vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by 2030 and 50% by 2050, as compared to a 2016 baseline. To help fund these goals, Sammamish has set aside $80,000 per year and plans to seek government grants and rebates as well.
The CAP outlines several ways to meet the City’s GHG and VMT targets. They include making Sammamish more walkable and increasing electric vehicle use. The plan also suggests shifting new construction to using all-electric equipment and appliances.
“The main goal is measuring and reducing Sammamish’s greenhouse gas emissions. The work of the past year has been focused on working with consultants to establish a baseline,” Sammamish City Councilmember Sid Gupta said in an interview with the Sammamish Independent.
Gupta and other city council members acknowledge that residents may view the plan as aggressive. For instance, nearby Kirkland only aims to reduce GHG 80% by 2050, despite having a two-year head start, versus Sammamish’s goal of 96%.
Sammamish will face several obstacles in executing the CAP. For example, Gupta explained that while a move from gas to electric heating may sound like a smart way to reduce GHG, the change comes with a downside.
“In the winter, storms often lead to power outages…Currently, power is still dependent on gas, so our homes still get heated. If we transition to an electric heating system and you lose power, it suddenly becomes a lot more challenging,” Gupta said.
Councilmember Karen Howe voiced similar concerns.
“Heat pumps are expensive… It could add an extra cost to affordable housing…Additionally, [heat pumps] have to plug into a grid that can accept it because this is an additional power strain that our grid may not be able to cope with,” Howe said.
To address these and other issues, the City will continue to research strategies and update the CAP accordingly.
However challenging the CAP may be, Howe and Gupta believe the biggest obstacle will be garnering support from residents. To help, the City will create opportunities for resident participation, including the current search for residents to serve on the City’s Sustainability Commission.
Although most components of the plan will not be legally mandatory, Howe and Gupta hope to encourage participation through education, transparency, and financial incentives. The City will educate residents on reducing their carbon footprint through guides and toolkits, such as those found in the current Sammamish Climate Challenge. The City will provide transparency through an online dashboard of CAP goals and progress. It plans to incentivize residents and commercial entities with the help of government grants and rebates.
Howe encourages residents to take advantage of these resources and participate.
“This is not meant to be a feel-good plan,” Howe said. “Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean we’re not currently in a climate crisis…I’m very optimistic that we can execute the plan.”
To learn more about the Climate Action Plan, visit the CAP homepage here.