When Global Goes Local: City and County Governments Tackle Climate Change
To many of us, climate change feels like an overwhelming, global issue. International organizations host world forums to determine what steps countries should take to help lessen what many consider to be the negative impacts of development on the earth and environment. The recent Paris agreement, for example, took years to plan and long, hard negotiations to finalize. So you may wonder: what can be done, or is being done, by local governments in terms of climate change?
Do local entities even consider items related to climate change, or do they look to state and national governments to determine policies?
A search of the Voterheads database shows that climate change does indeed fall on local agendas. Elected officials discussed topics, actions, and events related to climate change during public meetings throughout the country these past couple of months. What are some of the things they talked about? Let’s check it out.
The Chatham County, NC Board of Commissioners’ Climate Change Committee gave a presentation on the county’s Emissions Inventory Project. This project is a joint effort by the board and local college students from UNC-Chapel Hill. The board requested the project in an effort to assess the amount and rates of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions made within the county’s borders. After the presentation, the board voted to approve continued funding for the project for this year.
Honolulu’s City Council passed a motion requesting that the city administration report on its efforts to establish an Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency. The citizens of Oahu voted for the office’s creation during last November’s election. The report requested by the council will include the office’s first projects and its development of a resiliency strategy for the region.
Newton, MA’s Program & Services Committee considered a motion put forth by two council members that would require gas stations to place notices upon gas pumps that remind customers that the burning of gasoline contributes to the impacts of climate change. The notice will also provide a link to the city’s website that offers suggestions for alternative transportation options that do not require gasoline. The committee decided to wait to vote on the measure until more information on gas pump regulations and the stickers’ design is provided during future meetings.
Northampton, MA’s City Council considered a resolution calling on the state legislature of Massachusetts to create a carbon pollution pricing system for the state. The council affirmed its recognition of the detrimental effects of climate change generally and within its jurisdiction. Consequently, the resolution asked the legislature to act quickly to encourage the development of more environmentally conscious and friendly methods of production and services through higher prices for carbon emitting sources of energy.
The Oakland, CA City Council recently voted on a resolution that supports a state senate bill requiring state pension fund boards to consider the financial risks associated with climate change when determining the investments they will make for state employees. The bill also implements a reporting mechanism beginning in 2020, requiring the state to report on the risks associated with climate change and the carbon footprint attached to the state pensions’ investments. The committee voted for the resolution to be moved up to the city council for full consideration.
The four governments of Fayetteville, NC, Madison, WI, Maple Valley, WA and Santa Cruz, CA discussed comprehensive plans and strategies during public meetings over the past couple of months. These plans help local governments set up goals and objectives for the coming years, seeking to reduce the impact of various potential issues or problems by thinking ahead.
All four of these local entities considered the potential impacts of climate change in their plans.
Examples include ways to handle rising temperatures, methods for more environmentally friendly urban design including compact and mixed used building, approaches in dealing with the consequences of long-term drought, and the encouragement of applying new technologies for renewable and efficient energy sources.
How we think about issues often impacts the decisions we make and the methods we choose to deal with them. Thinking of climate change, or any other global concern, at only its highest level can make us feel detached from the issue. But when we begin to see the impacts on our own communities, it not only becomes something more tangible but also inspires hope that solutions can be found at every level of society. If you are interested in learning more about the local approach to climate change or any other environmental topic, be sure to add them to your interests on your Voterheads account!