The Daily Tar Heel

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Saturday November 26th

Column: Orange County ramping up climate change actions

Mark Marcoplos, a member of the Board of County Commissioners for Orange County, discusses reasons for the failure of the light rail initiative at Graham Memorial on Wednesday, April 10, 2019. Marcoplos cites "high cost, bad faith partners... [and] outright animosity from the legislature that put all these hurdles" before the Board. He was hopeful that the light rail could generate tax revenue, help in subsidizing affordable housing, creating jobs, relieving congestion and help lower emissions to combat climate change. "A lot of people that didn't pay attention to what we could have had will never know what we missed."
Buy Photos Mark Marcoplos is an Orange County commissioner.

The OC Voice is a portion of the OC Report newsletter where local residents may have a platform to talk about local issues they care about. Orange County Commissioner Mark Marcoplos congratulates the county on its progress on green initiatives and gives residents a preview of what to expect in the future.

In December 2005, Orange County adopted an Environmental Responsibility Goal that has guided the county’s efforts in reducing its environmental impacts and reducing its carbon footprint.

As of 2017, the county had reduced its energy use by 22 percent from a 2010 baseline. Water savings measures exceeded expectations with a 39 percent reduction. Fuel use proved to be a bigger challenge as low-mileage vehicles, such as ambulances, doubled in number to meet county needs and experienced a higher call volume. On the bright side, the 2017 fleet-wide mileage was lower than the previous five years.

During this period, 22 electric vehicle charging stations were installed, a shared vehicle pool was instituted, and work on two fuel-saving technology grant projects decreased the emissions of 22 county vehicles, resulting in the avoidance of 130 tons of carbon dioxide and other emissions. This summer the county received an award from at the Sustainable Fleet Conference for its ground-breaking teleworking program which allows over a hundred employees to work remotely.

Great success was achieved in waste reduction. In 2017, the county registered a 62 percent waste reduction rate (.52 tons per person landfilled) over the base year of 1991 (1.36 tons per person landfilled). That was the fourth year in a row that this goal was met.

On June 6, 2017, the Board of Orange County Commissioners passed a resolution to uphold the Paris Climate Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions between 26 and 28 percent by 2025 as compared to 2005 levels.

On Sept. 5, 2017, the board adopted a resolution to transition to a 100 percent renewable energy-based economy by 2050.

On June 5, 2018, the board approved a request from the Commission for the Environment for Orange County to join the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy.

As a result of these resolutions, Orange County is nearing completion of our first annual community-scale greenhouse gas emission inventory and report, assessing climate hazards and vulnerabilities, and is in the process of identifying ambitious, measurable and time-bound targets to reduce/limit greenhouse gas emissions.

As an outgrowth of our commitment to renewable energy, the county is committed to installing a substantial solar array on every new building. We will have systems installed on our new Emergency Management Station in Efland, and each building on our new Northern Campus — a new detention center, agriculture and parks building and a maintenance building.

Soon we will unveil a no-idling initiative campaign to educate drivers that, if they will be stopped for more than seven seconds, it is cost-effective to turn off their engines. This will initially focus on school drop-off and pick-up times.

During last spring’s budget deliberations for the 2019-20 budget, the commissioners passed an unprecedented Climate Investment Tax to combat climate change. A modest quarter-cent tax increase will raise about $465,000 (a mere $7.50 on a $300,000 property) which will be spent in the first year on a mix of low-income weatherization and possibly renewable energy and/or energy efficiency projects.

We know this is a first in North Carolina and probably in the Southeast. It may be the first local initiative of its type in the nation. We are hopeful that other jurisdictions will follow our lead and amplify efforts to mitigate climate change.

If you live in Orange County and want to make your voice heard on something you care about locally, email 

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