To Go Far, Go Together

The King County-Cities Climate Collaboration (K4C) won the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2016 Climate Leadership Award for Innovative Partnerships on March 9, 2016 for creating a successful county-city collaboration for bold climate action.

Established in 2011, the K4C is a voluntary but formal partnership of King County and 13 cities forged with the idea that neighboring local governments can achieve deeper results on climate solutions by working together.

Representing 75 percent of the county’s 2 million residents, the K4C currently includes King County and the cities of Bellevue, Burien, Issaquah, Kirkland, Mercer Island, Normandy Park, Redmond, Renton, Sammamish, Seattle, Shoreline, Snoqualmie, and Tukwila.

To date, the K4C has worked together to:

  • Adopt formal, shared countywide carbon emissions reduction targets of 25 percent by 2020, 50 percent by 2030, and 80 percent by 2050 (compared to a 2007 base year).
  • Map out specific action commitments to reduce emissions that are tailored to King County’s emissions profile, city and county development patterns, and local government areas of influence.
  • Catalyze municipal policy and code changes, joint grant funding proposals, and increased influence among other stakeholders at the state level.
  • Advocate for state policy that enables local governments to achieve their clean energy goals.
  • Explore the potential to partner with local utilities and businesses to jointly invest in and develop a large-scale renewable energy project, such as wind or solar.
  • Share technical support and learning across K4C members.

As a result of the partnership, K4C staff and elected officials from cities large and small now have an extensive network of experts and peers on whom they can count for best practice information, lessons learned, tools, and resources.

Climate Solutions’ New Energy Cities program has been one of the K4C’s primary partners. In 2014, the K4C commissioned a carbon wedge analysis from New Energy Cities to depict what it would take for King County to cut its regional carbon emissions in half by 2030 (50x30).

This analysis formed the basis of the K4C’s joint county-city climate commitments, which are specific, time-based pathways that add up to the 50x30 goal—including a target of sourcing 90% of its electricity countywide from renewables by 2030. New Energy Cities has continued to work with the K4C on implementation of the commitments, including exploring a building energy benchmarking initiative, teeing up a countywide clean energy transition plan, and promoting electrified transportation.

The road of collaboration is neither easy nor fast, as the K4C, the San Diego Climate Collaborative (2015 winner of the EPA award), and Climate Solutions discussed at a roundtable of the national Climate Leadership Conference in Seattle on Tuesday, March 8.  But in the words of an old African proverb, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."

Author Bio

Elizabeth Willmott

former New Energy Cities Program Manager, Climate Solutions

Elizabeth served Climate Solutions as program manager for the New Energy Cities program, working with cities to help them meet their carbon reduction goals through innovative programs and policies. She most recently authored The Urban Clean Energy Revolution, a detailed compendium of urban climate solutions worldwide (also published in segments as the Low-Carbon Cities blog series), and Breaking Down Barriers to Deep Energy Efficiency in King County, a briefing paper on how to overcome obstacles to deep home energy efficiency. She also co-authored Powering the New Energy Future from the Ground Up, a July 2012 report on small and medium-sized cities around the U.S. that are demonstrating leadership in local clean energy innovation.

Elizabeth knows and loves local government. As lead author of the World Bank’s 2011 climate change adaptation guide for cities in developing countries, co-author of King County’s 2007 adaptation guidebook with ICLEI and the University of Washington, climate change aide to former King County Executive Ron Sims, and project manager of the first King County Climate Plan in 2007, Elizabeth brings a deep and wide background in community climate planning to the New Energy Cities team.

The program’s focus on "carbon math" also bears Elizabeth’s signature. She first found religion in Excel spreadsheets as the Recovery Act performance and accountability lead for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, overseeing the results of $13.6 billion in grants to cities and communities around the U.S.  Today her data-driven approach is most obvious in New Energy Cities’ energy maps and carbon wedge graphics.

Outside of work Elizabeth leaves ample time for gardening, biking, and movie-watching with her husband Andy. She holds a double degree in biology and Chinese language from Williams College and a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard Kennedy School.

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