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Eight climate questions for Ashlanders

The city of Ashland's Climate Action and Energy Plan Ad-Hoc Committee has begun its work, and here is a progress report since the well-attended Ashland Climate Challenge kickoff event last October.

The city's greenhouse gas inventory was completed this month. The 36-page report assembled by Good Company quantified Ashland's carbon footprint, a data-driven prerequisite for assembly of a broad action plan. The study revealed community carbon emissions declined 6 percent during the 2011-15 reporting period, and Ashland's per capita emission is approximately 20 percent lower than the statewide average. However, the report outlines a plethora of opportunities for reductions that needs to be considered.

With assistance from city staff, the committee spent multiple meetings developing and refining the solicitation materials and criteria necessary to attract industry experts to assist in developing a community Climate and Energy Action Plan over the next several months. Following detailed analysis and scoring of seven proposals by a screening committee comprised of citizens and staff, the City Council approved a services contract with Cascadia Consulting Group on Feb. 16.

Cascadia, which helped Eugene and Tacoma with similar community efforts, is partnering with the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute at Oregon State University on the Ashland action plan. Cascadia outlined a robust public engagement strategy, starting in April, consisting of open houses, workshops, surveys, social media and community ambassadors, with help from local facilitator Jeff Golden.

An impressive element of Cascadia's proposal is how well it crystallized the key questions the plan will need to address through robust community input and focused research:

  • What emissions reduction target should Ashland adopt as a goal?

  • What policies, programs and actions should be taken to reduce emissions in what time frame?

  • What will be the likely impacts of climate change be on the city and region?

  • How can and should the city adapt to become more resilient in the face of these likely impacts?

  • What synergies and efficiencies are possible through addressing mitigation and adaptation needs?

  • How can the city's Climate and Energy Action Plan best be integrated with and leverage community plans, strategies, programs, policies, goals and actions?

  • How can residents and businesses best be engaged in this effort?

  • What is the most effective way to monitor, measure and report progress along the way?

How do you answer these questions? How can the public engagement process produce the best possible Climate and Energy Action Plan?

If you'd like to be on the frontlines of the action, I encourage you to attend the initial planning meeting between the Committee and Cascadia Consulting Group at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 16. Check the city website for location and agenda details.

Rich Rosenthal is a member of the Ashland City Council. He chairs the city's Climate Action and Energy Plan Ad-Hoc Committee.