Salt Lake City is taking big steps to make sure its carbon footprint continues to get smaller.

New goals outlined in a resolution adopted by the City Council on Tuesday night call for the city to reduce its carbon footprint 20 percent by 2020, 50 percent by 2040 and 80 percent by 2050.

"We need to look at (climate change) as a crisis that's facing our globe and our environment," Mayor Ralph Becker said during a press conference Tuesday morning to announce the goals. "We need to take bold action to address what may be the defining issue of our era."

Between 2000 and 2005, Salt Lake City government reduced its carbon emissions by 34.6 percent, Becker said. That reduction largely was achieved by collecting methane gas at the landfill, and capturing digester gas at the reclamation plant and converting it into energy, he said.

"Today we're taking the next step," Becker said.

The city's reduction goals are based on its 2005 levels, estimated at 106,600 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. A 20 percent decrease would reduce that number to 85,000 tons.

The city's goals exceed that of the Western Climate Initiative, a collaboration of governors of Western states and portions of Canada. The WCI, of which Utah is a member, is calling for a 15 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020.

"We're hoping the actions we are taking will serve as a model that our residents and others can look to," Becker said.

Vicki Bennett, director of the city's office of sustainability and the environment, has been heading up an analysis of Salt Lake City's carbon footprint since Becker appointed her to the post in March.

Use of electricity accounts for 54 percent of the city's total carbon emissions, Bennett said. The city already has cut down on its consumption of electricity by using LED lights in traffic signals and energy-efficient light bulbs in city buildings.

Becker also has initiated a no-idling policy, requiring employees to turn off city vehicles if they're idle more than 10 seconds.

"The goal is to save money," Bennett said. "If we can save energy, that reduces our emissions. ... What we're doing is simply good management."


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