Columbia Climate Goal

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COLUMBIA – Peaceworks, the Sierra Club and other climate activists urged the Columbia City Council Tuesday to create a climate action goal of Columbia being powered by 100 percent  renewable energy by 2050.

Mayor Brian Treece signed the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, and the council approved the move in June. As a result, the city must create a climate action plan, including an emissions reduction goal. 

Treece committed Columbia to a climate action plan in response to President Donald Trump’s announcement the U.S. would exit the Paris Climate Accords.

Laura Wacker, Peaceworks sustainability coordinator, represented the organizations in a speech at the City Council meeting Tuesday.

She said Peaceworks and its allies are pleased with the direction the city is heading, but drastic action is needed to prevent future natural disasters.

“All the flooding that we had in the spring down in south Missouri, the wildfires that are taking over Montana, the drought in Italy that are harming their food supplies," Wacker said. "These are the kinds of things we can expect to happen more and more with the climate changing.”

Ward 3 Councilman Karl Skala said he would be aggressive with the goal but other council issues could get in the way of its finalization. 

"I'm a realist as well and a pragmatist. You have to consider budgetary considerations and so on and public input," Skala said. "When all of those are kind of mixed all in together, that's when the council can achieve some kind of consensus." 

Skala said it could be June of 2018 before a goal is determined, but that date is part of the 2-year plan the council laid out earlier this summer. 

Ward 5 Councilman Matt Pitzer said the city needs to analyze the costs of action and inaction before deciding on a goal.

"One of things I really want to focus on as we develop this plan is having some real concrete numbers behind this information, specifically the economic impact," Pitzer said. 

The full plan is set to be finalized and implemented in June 2019.

Columbia Sustainability Manager Barbara Buffaloe is helping oversee the creation and implementation of the climate plan, and is currently looking to hire a consultant to help with public outreach.

Buffaloe said, for her and the consultant to be effective, a goal needs to be set.

"Council set up 'we want you to reduce emissions,' that's great. I need to know by how much,” Buffaloe said.

She said the city is now pinpointing where emissions are coming from and considering the best ways to reduce them. 

In the interim, Buffaloe said, locals can help reduce emissions with turning up thermostats when it's hot and down when it's cold.