City leaders along the Front Range, including Fort Collins and Boulder are the latest communities asked by constituents to declare a “climate emergency,” and KGNU’s Roz Brown says if they do, they’ll join more than 700 other jurisdictions.
Within a matters of hours yesterday, Paris officially declared that a climate emergency exists on the planet, and in Washington, Congress was asked to support a joint resolution calling for the U.S. to do the same. Coincidentally, Boulder City Council met for a study session on whether Boulder should follow suit. But before beginning the meeting, city presenters acknowledged a groundswell of concern about climate change among youth and introduced the Boulder’s Young Women’s Voices for Climate who shared songs and personal statements. including a proposal to ask young people for solutions.
Solutions are the goal, as council works on the 2030 Climate Mobilization Action Plan – a 10-year document that would replace the city’s 2016 plan. In the staff presentation, Jonathan Koehn Senior Sustainability Policy Director, said it was almost exactly six years ago that he made his first presentation to council about climate action.
“And just six years ago we were still having a conversation about whether climate change was really happening,” said Koehn. “So much has changed in just that period of time.”
Koehn added that council thought it was adopting a very ambitious climate action plan in 2016. But since the United Nations 2018 landmark report that paints a far direr picture of the immediate consequences of climate change, it’s clear the goals have been insufficient.
“And we know that we’re not seeing the spread of climate action into other cities,” said Koehn. “There are 17,000 municipalities in the U.S., and less than 5% are actively engaged in climate action and that number is not rapidly growing.”
It was that lack of buy-in from other communities and countries that worried Councilman Bob Yates. He warned that Boulder won’t be a leader on climate if people don’t follow.
“We’re a wealthy community ¬– we have the opportunity to be innovative and experiment with things but we have to make sure that what we’re trying to do is not just ‘feel good’, things” said Yates.
“Boulder is less than 1000th of one-percent of the population of the Earth. We can do all sorts of things, but Mumbai is still polluting, so we have to do things that people in other places find impactful, effective, economic replicable around the country and around the world.
Some big picture ideas Council discussed included what collaborations the city could form around climate action; how to accelerate de-carbonization of the electricity supply; how to hold financial institutions accountable – concepts Boulder Mayor Suzanne Jones described as adaptive management, or decision making in the face of uncertainty.
“We’re trying things, we’re seeing what works,” said Jones. “It’s not enough. but it’s building momentum and I think this is the right work to be doing.”
If council declares a climate emergency, it would join 740 other jurisdictions that have already done so. And there was general support to consider such a resolution in the fall. That’s also when city staff expects to launch community engagement and strategy development of the climate action plan before returning to council for direction next spring. Until then, the Boulder Young Women’s Voices for Climate will sing the praises of wind turbines.