Working towards peace and sustainability

Peaceworks to CoMo Council: Bold Climate Action Now--Zero Emissions by 2050

Peaceworks Sustainability Coordinator, Laura Wacker, addresses the City Council.

Peaceworks and our climate action allies scored a significant victory on June 19 when the Columbia City Council approved a resolution calling for the development of a Climate Action Plan (CAP). Columbia joined cities across the nation in embracing the Paris Accord and a resolution was unanimously adopted calling for a CAP, including a call for citizen input in the process.

Now we are working to make sure a strong CAP is adopted and implemented. As a first step, we’re asking Columbia citizens to please reach out to our City Council to urge them to support a Climate Action Plan that includes going to zero carbon fuel use by 2050. It would be very helpful if you could let your Councilperson and the Mayor know your support for bold climate action. You can contact Council members by clicking Here.

On September 7, 2017, Peaceworks activist Laura Wacker spoke before the City Council urging them to take strong action. Here is the text of her prepared remarks:

Good evening. My name is Laura Wacker. I am the Sustainability Coordinator for Peaceworks and am here to talk about development of the Climate Action Plan that the Council approved in June.

First of all, “THANK YOU” for the decision to create the Climate Action Plan and to the Mayor for joining the Mayors Climate Action Network.   We are excited you are willing to start following through on Columbia’s commitment to reduce our production of Greenhouse Gases.  As you know, the Council in 2006 voted to do that, but didn’t follow through with action.  This is obvious in the Emissions Inventory Report that was presented to Council at your last meeting. 

Our overall emissions have gone up.  Per capita emissions have gone down, but honestly, if it wasn’t for Water and Light’s energy efficiency programs and renewable energy programs (some of which are on the chopping block in the current budget plan), we probably would have seen the per capita emissions go up as well.  WE, as a community, need to do better.  When we compare our per capita Greenhouse Gas Emissions to Lawrence Kansas, Madison Wisconsin, Urbana Illinois, St Louis and Kansas City we score worse than all except St Louis.  

We can do better than that, but we need to act in a decisive and bold manner.  Climate Change is upon us and we need to reverse course.  Hurricane Harvey is the shape of things to come if we don’t take drastic measures to reduce our carbon emissions.  How will Columbia handle torrential downpours at increasing intervals?  If you are not paying attention, you may not realize that the American media is hardly mentioning the severe monsoon season in Asia with over1200 dead from flooding, or that the drought in Italy is crippling their food production, or that a half a million acres of trees have burned in Montana due to wildfires, or that more trees that have died in the Pacific Northwest due to climate induced plagues.  The recent epic flooding in Southern Missouri is an example of how climate change can affect our area. These changes require bold and swift action to protect our citizens from further climate chaos.

Prior to Columbia’s recent resolution, groups in Columbia were meeting on this very subject. We thought we had started down the right road in 2006 when that Council said they were going to create an action plan but we didn’t make sure it happened.  So, now, we intend to stay focused on this, and make sure that the follow-through occurs.   

We hope that you will agree with our vision of Columbia becoming a leader in the Midwest in carbon footprint reduction.  A city like Georgetown, TX, which already fully powers its municipal power plant from renewable sources, sees its energy policy as an economic development tool and I think Columbia could do the same.  Recently, even Kansas City resolved to procure 100% of the electricity for municipal operations from renewables within only three years!  Ten US states have set goals of 50-80% reduction of carbon emissions by 2050.  Those are entire states!  We have so many advantages in Columbia that can help us be better than that, be at the forefront of energy conservation – we would like to see this city commit to 100% reduction by 2050.  We have great minds at the University, we have a well-educated public and we have the benefit of having our own utilities at both the city and the university.  We really have the perfect scenario to make this thing work!

We also have a committed group of people who are members of organizations in the community who are willing to help you do the work.  I want to introduce some of the groups here tonight who are concerned about what Columbia is doing for Climate Change and I’ll ask them to stand as I acknowledge their affiliation.  Sierra Club, Renew Missouri, Citizens Climate Lobby, Show-Me Solar, Protectors of Water & Land, People’s Visioning and Peoples' Visioning lead co-sponsor: Columbia Climate Change Coalition, and Interfaith Care for Creation.  Among these groups there are several who would desire to be on the planning committee for this project who have been working or studying in the areas of energy efficiency for many years.

We stand together in expressing a deep desire to see the Climate Action Plan developed as expeditiously as possible.  We represent thousands of citizens in Columbia.  We are here tonight to express gratitude that you have started the ball rolling to move our city forward in Climate Action. And we are not going to go away. We expect, for instance, that the City will have a Consultant on-board by the end of October.   

As our elected council, you have the very important role of setting goals for this climate action plan.  We are hoping that you will be putting this goal setting on your October calendar.  We hope you set the goal of 100% reduction by 2050 and begin working toward this as we move forward.  Ways to get the ball rolling would be by setting new building codes that mandate efficiency, continuing the incentives for PV rebates (which could actually save the city money in the long run), creating electric car charging stations and getting all city energy use moving toward zero emissions.  It is a very exciting time to be working on projects that are not only good for the health of the planet, but good for the health, safety and sustainability of our city.  We are here to help you,  and we hope that this process can get moving as soon as possible.

Thank you, and I am happy to answer questions.