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The upcoming school year is taking new shapes and structures amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, the city of Charlottesville is set to embark on its own (virtual) schooling concerning carbon capture and planting. 

Next month, Charlottesville is set to join a six-month training cohort that focuses on forest and trees carbon accounting hosted through Local Governments for Sustainability, otherwise known as ICLEI. 

With the ongoing climate action planning, Charlottesville and Albemarle County, along with the University of Virginia, will participate in the cohort. As local emissions goals are set, forestry and urban tree management can help capture greenhouse gas emissions.

Susan Elliott, climate protection program manager for Charlottesville, said she’s excited for the “snapshots of a baseline” that will come out of participation in the training cohort and discussing things as a region. 

“The type of land spaces that we have in our region that are most available for that sort of large-scale area are spaces that are available within the county or within some of the parcels that UVA controls,” Elliott explained. “If you think about the city, we don’t really have large scale agricultural plots that are even available for that sort of carbon farming.” 

With climate action planning underway, green infrastructure will factor into it, as one of many facets to combating climate change. 

“It’s something we can then build upon, whether we’re looking at regional economic development activities or things that can feed into zoning and land use and planning,” Elliott said. 

A recent report by Community Climate Collaborative indicated which areas of the city carry the most energy burdens — meaning a household spends a higher percentage of its income on utility bills  — burdens experienced more keenly in the summer and winter months. 

 

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Credit: City of Charlottesville

Throughout the course of the training program, participants will learn about the various emission removal factors through forestry, what factors can negatively impact forestry, and how land use impacts urban and forest trees. 

Charlottesville has created an interactive online mapping tool called the City Green Map to keep track of climate resiliency measures it has already implemented, like stormwater infrastructure, certified sustainable buildings and those that use solar, along with protected trees and stream improvements.

The city has also recently released an infrastructure guide which includes tree canopy information.

According to Kristel Riddervold, Environmental Sustainability and Facilities Development Manager, the mapping project began in 2015 and involved analyzing urban tree canopies to a variety of conflicts with planting spots like utilities or offsets from buildings to “narrow down the universe, not as prescriptive places to put trees, but to do some ground truthing and see what options there are.”

She said the report is also helpful in taking an overall look at how green infrastructure factors into community planning to achieve multiple goals, like where planting can protect water quality or planting in areas where ground surface levels are warmer from lack of shade from tree canopies. 

“What we are trying to do is put everyone on a similar knowledge base in terms of what information we have,” Riddervold said. “Are we planting trees because we want to be appealing to visitors, or are we wanting to plant trees in neighborhoods that have disproportionately lacked them? It depends on what the community said and what values it wants in place.”