Columbia Looks to Public for Help in Finalizing Climate Action Plan | KBIA

Columbia Looks to Public for Help in Finalizing Climate Action Plan

Apr 15, 2019

Members of the Mayor's Task Force on Climate Action and Adaptation Planning met Thursday, April 4, to review feedback on the climate plan.
Credit Sam Mosher/KBIA

By 2100, temperatures in Columbia are projected to rise by about 5 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit, according to a city report, and carbon emissions will be largely responsible. But the city has a plan to reduce its carbon emissions and prevent such a drastic rise in temperature.

The Columbia Climate Action and Adaptation Plan will take Columbia to 100 percent carbon reduction by 2060. The plan outlines steps to meet goals involving energy, transportation, building construction, food, water and waste.

The plan will be opened to the public April 22 at 7 p.m. at the Daniel Boone Regional Library. The task force will make changes based on public feedback and then present it to the Columbia City Council for more feedback on May 20. The council will then adopt the plan by resolution on June 17.

Barbara Buffaloe, sustainability manager for Columbia’s Office of Sustainability, said public feedback is essential to the plan. In fact, she said community feedback helped start the plan after President Donald Trump announced the nation’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.

“This was a lot of citizens contacting our city council members saying, 'Hey, this is important to us. We want you to take action,’” she said.

The council listened to the public and committed to making a plan in June 2017. In December 2017, the council formed the Mayor’s Task Force on Climate Action and Adaptation Planning, which meets monthly to help develop the plan.

Business analyst and task force member Ryan Kaufmann said he applied to join because he believes in climate action at the city level.

“That's probably the best way to go about it… a grassroots ability to make change,” he said.

The plan contains large priorities for the city like reducing coal contracts and investing in renewable energy. But Buffaloe said 100 percent carbon reduction will take more than just that.

“Everybody has their own assumption over what's that golden ticket, right? What's that one thing, that would actually work. And the thing that's really been great to see is everybody coming to terms with [it taking] a lot of little things too,” she said.

Buffaloe said the plan needs individual effort to succeed. Examples include taking public transportation or walking instead of driving, insulating homes to save energy or composting, the last of which she does to lower her waste footprint.

The plan includes ways for the city to teach residents about its goals and how they can help. Kaufmann said educating the public is necessary to counteract Columbia’s annual turnover in college-age students.

“It's going to be tough. We are a revolving city constantly because of the student population, and they have a huge impact,” he said.

The task force sought out community feedback in May and November 2018 at public workshops. It also issued a public survey in October which had 946 respondents, according to Buffaloe.

She said the workshops and survey helped the task force “take the temperature” of the community.

Kaufmann said the city will continue needing the public’s help in improving the plan, even after it’s adopted in June.

“I mean, this is not a ‘day one... fix everything’ kind of situation. This is a plan that has us going to 2060 with our carbon reduction, so there’s a lot that we can do, and there's a lot that we can still do,” he said.

Buffaloe said the plan, with continued help from the public, will make Columbia resilient for the future.

“We all love Columbia,” she said. “We want to make sure that people have clean air to breathe, that they have clean water to drink, and that when they turn on the lights, the lights come on, right? We want to all live in that world. And I think it's just making sure that we're holding ourselves accountable to providing those opportunities for our community members.”

Buffaloe said Columbia residents can help with the city’s climate action effort by making their voices heard April 22 when the plan is opened to the public.

Talking Politics is hosted by Jamie Hobbs.