An update on the Town of Chapel Hill’s plan for climate action was presented to the Chapel Hill Town Council last week.
The draft plan, presented by Town Community Resilience Officer John Richardson, outlines Chapel Hill’s proposed actions to help mitigate climate change. Its initiatives include replacing non–LED lighting at Town-owned facilities and athletic fields, increasing composting opportunities, reducing use of single-use plastics and creating new policies for development and redevelopment projects.
The Town’s current goal is to adopt an official plan by June 2020.
Richardson said in an email the framework’s purpose is to create a course of action for the Town to follow in fiscal year 2019-20, while also working to build an official climate action plan.
“In 2017, the Town Council made a commitment to uphold the Paris Climate accord,” he said. “As part of this, the council expressed the importance of local government action, both in reducing carbon emissions and preparing for the impacts of climate change.”
Richardson said the Town plans to work on reducing its own carbon footprint in accordance with the framework.
“We know that the Town’s carbon footprint from local government operations is an important but relatively small piece of the pie,” he said. “So it will be exciting to see how the Town and the community can work together in order to make significant reductions to Chapel Hill’s overall carbon footprint.”
Nancy Oates, a Town Council member, said she supports the plan but expressed concerns about funding its many goals.
“We need to be aware of the costs,” she said. “We can put all these things down on paper, but in order for them to actually happen, somebody’s got to pay for them.”
Oates said the Town’s limited budget may require careful consideration of which projects can and cannot be pursued.
“We need to be very intentional about our choices and how we’re going to spend taxpayer money,” she said.
Though she hesitated to say one project was the most important, she said she wants to prioritize preservation of green spaces.
Richardson said funding for climate change mitigation will be evaluated in the same way as other council projects.
“Like other council priorities, we expect these costs to be considered as part of the annual budgeting process,” he said.
An exact timeline has not been established yet, but Richardson said it will be created as part of the plan.
“We also anticipate that these goals will be informed, in part, by updated emissions inventories for both local government operations and the community at large,” he said.
Richardson said the plan’s next steps are to continue getting input from advisory boards and proceed with the planning process.
“We expect official council priorities to be established as part of the climate action planning process,” he said. “There will be several opportunities for community engagement with residents, our boards and commissions, and the Town Council to help set community priorities through our planning process.”
Oates said the plan was generally well-received by the council.
“I think council members realize we have to get serious about doing something for our environment because climate change is real,” she said. “We can’t change the world, but we can make changes in our community.”
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