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Council Corner: Ashland’s climate plan

The city of Ashland will start on a climate and energy plan in the very near future in support of one of the City Council goals. The plan, developed by the Ashland Conservation Commission, will provide a framework to follow to address climate and energy changes for city facilities and operations as well as for the community. The planning will start this spring, with the implementation of the initial actions in the spring of 2016. The initial cost is estimated to be $60,000 per year in staff/contract time for the first two years, and additional costs in the subsequent years.

In short, the steps in the plan currently proposed are as follows;

1. Identify local sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

2. Appoint a city/citizen oversight group, which will interface with the community as well as create a technical advisory group.

3. Set appropriate emissions reduction targets.

4. Inform and engage the public. Take public input.

5. Develop strategies and prioritize with local experts.

6. With City Council members and city staff, refine and prioritize emissions-reduction strategies and climate change preparedness strategies. Identify actions for immediate implementation.

7. Finalize the plan: emissions targets, timeline, goals, actions and responsible parties and a monitoring plan.

Get feedback:

  • Implement strategies.
  • Assess how we are doing — measure and document.
  • Reassess — revise and update.
  • Engage in public outreach and education.

The plan has a very aggressive schedule as far as city programs go (implementation of initial actions in 2016), and hopes for some very aggressive targeted reductions. In order for this to work, just a few things need to happen.

The City Council needs to put aside the politics of the past and look with a common vision to the future. It can be difficult at times, but has been done in the past and I am certain it can be done again in the future.

Staffing of the oversight group is critical to the projects success; the group should be populated with people respected in their fields and not polarizing in their actions.

The community needs to to be focused on the necessity of the project and its importance. We can’t save the world, but looking at the choices we make can make it just a little bit better (or less worse), and locally we may feel/see the difference in city operations costs, air pollution, energy and water supply.

The resources must be available when they are needed. Having to wait for staffing and information can slow the process to the extent that interest wanes and the plan stalls.

We must maintain respect for the process and the people/institutions involved. Not everyone is going to agree on every issue, but letting the process run its course without unnecessary road blocks should give us a very good product.

I am pretty new to this process, I am in my fifth year on the council after 13 years on the Ashland Planning Commission and have lived in Ashland off and on since 1955. I have seen a lot of city plans come and go; some successful, some not. This plan, I believe,is very necessary and will work. Lets make it happen.

 Michael Morris is a member of the Ashland City Council.