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Here's what you need to know about the new collaborative Orange County Climate Council


Chapel Hill citizen Kim Piracci delivers a passionate call for climate action on behalf of the town council, regardless of financial concerns, at the Town Council meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 25th, 2019.

The newly formed Orange County Climate Council, which serves as a joint effort by municipal governments, groups and organizations across Orange County to address climate change concerns, held its first meeting on Tuesday afternoon.

Orange County, Chapel Hill, Hillsborough and Carrboro governments formed the council as a product of combined efforts from local governments, the school systems, UNC and local residents to accelerate collective action to fight climate change. According to Carrboro’s town website, the council will be sharing opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect county residents from the effects of climate change.

Jenifer Della Valle, assistant to the town manager and deputy budget director for the Town of Hillsborough, represents the town on the climate council. 

“This first meeting was setting the foundation,” Della Valle said. “There was definitely a collective sense of urgency around the table and some really positive energy around these topics.”

Council members have said that they plan on meeting monthly until the end of the year. Starting in January, their goal is to meet every other month, with subcommittees that meet more frequently. All of the meetings will be open to the public. The council will provide a streamlined way to share information and collaboratively act on climate change within the county.

“It’s an opportunity for having the county to support other jurisdictions,” said Sammy Slade, a member of the Carrboro Board of Alderman who will be representing Carrboro on the climate council.  “Carrboro and Hillsborough are smaller jurisdictions. We could benefit from staff resources, developing our inventories and fleshing out how the projects that we have identified in our climate action plan will impact our emissions.”

The climate council also includes representatives from local nongovernmental organizations, such as the Sierra Club and the NAACP. Melissa McCullough, vice chairperson for the executive committee of the Sierra Club's Orange-Chatham Group, will be representing the organization on the climate council. 

“There are a significant number of things that not only can be done at the local level, but must be done at the local level,” McCullough said.

She said that climate policies can have a direct effect on local communities and that the goal is to set an example of how other communities can act on climate change.

Mark Marcoplos, Orange County commissioner, spearheaded the formation of the council. His motivation to do something about climate change came from the impacts of Hurricane Florence.

“It was last fall, right as we were reeling in North Carolina from the hurricanes that were flooding the eastern part of North Carolina, that I, personally, was feeling a more profound commitment to dealing with climate,” he said. 

Marcoplos said that he reached out to Slade, Mayor Pro Tem of Hillsborough Jenn Weaver and Chapel Hill Town Council member Rachel Shaevitz to begin a climate group dedicated to accelerating the process of combating climate change. 

So far, the group has documented the things being done across the county to fight climate change and attended an Orange County General Assembly of Governments meeting in January to successfully request the formation of the county climate council.


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