Columbia climate plan re-do

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COLUMBIA - The city of Columbia is working with a recently hired consultant this month who would help the city with its latest attempt to address climate change.

It's the next step in the formation of Columbia's climate action plan.

Mayor Brian Treece pledged last June the city would create the plan with his commitment to the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy.

The city council approved Treece's measure the same month.

The move was in response to President Donald Trump's decision to pull the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accords, an international agreement to address climate change that former President Barack Obama had signed.

A similar set of circumstances led to Columbia's attempt to address climate change in 2006.

The Kyoto Protocol, another international agreement on climate change, was entered into force by the international community in 2005. The United States did not participate because President George W. Bush opposed it.

Public records show the Kyoto Protocol was brought to the city council's attention in May 2006 by a concerned citizen. 

Two months later, then-mayor Darwin Hindman and the city council approved measures to "meet or exceed Kyoto Protocol targets for reducing global warming pollution."

The city said it would create an action plan to reduce emissions.

"It became apparent we needed to have a concerted effort," Hindman said.

When the Kyoto protocol was originally adopted in 1997, the U.S. was tasked with reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 7 percent from 1990 levels by 2012.

The city took steps to make its buildings energy efficient, but emissions still rose.  

A green house gas report, given to the city council by the office of sustainability in August, shows carbon dioxide emissions in Columbia have gone up since 2005 by more than 36 thousand metric tons, or 1.5 percent. Emissions went down briefly in 2010 but have since rebounded.

Hindman said the city lacked a clear department to take the lead on the plan. 

The office of sustainability was created in 2010 for that purpose. Barbara Buffaloe is the coordinator and one of her jobs is implementing the city's new climate action plan. 

"That was about the time when we actually started then really measuring our green house gas emissions and looking at what opportunities we had to go forward," Buffaloe said.

She hopes the city council gives her an emissions reduction goal by December.

Laura Wacker, the sustainability coordinator of the environmental non-profit Peaceworks, has called on the city council for 100 percent emissions reduction by 2050.

"We want them to be sure to follow through this time," Wacker said. 

Buffaloe said she can't begin creating or implementing a climate plan until the emissions goal is in place. In the interim, she is working with members of the community to come up with solutions.  

Buffaloe contacted EARTH (the Environmental Authority on Rehabilitation Treatment and Health). It's a capstone class for a group of MU student engineers led by professor, John Bowders.

"They've picked several parts of the project they thought they could contribute to, and help the city in that way," Bowders said. 

The students are working with Buffaloe on how MU could contribute to the climate action plan, as well as researching ideas for increased energy efficiency in the city.

EARTH Project Manager Nick Eschbacher said increased energy efficiency isn't just a technological issue, but a social one as well.

"Some of the ideas with businesses is to offer incentives for certain ideas, so if there's like electric powered cars, having charging stations in front of their businesses might be advantageous," Eschbacher said. 

Buffaloe said she will continue to engage the community for solutions until the climate action plan is finalized.