Cville Voice for Bold Action is Heeded
A Collective Voice for Bold Commitment
There was standing room only on Monday night, June 24th, 2019, as Charlottesville’s City Council unanimously voted to pass the state’s first carbon neutrality goal.
Many local residents appeared at the meeting to offer public comments of support and request an additional emissions measurement every two years. This, they say, will help the community be sure we’re headed in the right direction with the City’s climate action plan. Corporate leaders, community members, students, and local businesses submitted public comments and addressed City counselors leading up the City Council meeting on this particular Monday night, many of whom were there to support the vote to adopt this ambitious goal. Gudrun Campbell (shown above), co-leader of the climate strike this past spring and Martin Chapman, owner of Indoor Biotechnologies were among those who applauded the vote.
The Charlottesville Climate Collaborative has been closely following the City and County processes to promote and support community engagement. We started a campaign in February 2019 by soliciting signatures from citizens and simultaneously worked with businesses in the community. We gathered over 900 citizen signatures, support from 7 local schools, and over 40 businesses signed a letter endorsing this ambitious goal. Thanks to Charlottesville’s climate action community, the stage was set for City Council to adopt a carbon neutral goal when the meeting was called to order.
Charlottesville’s Process for Climate Action
Since Charlottesville is committed to the Compact of Mayors, the City’s climate action planning process takes place in three phases. First, Charlottesville conducted a Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory in 2018 to measure our community-wide emissions, using data from 2016. Then, specific targets are set for reducing emissions, which is what City Council adopted on June 24th: Reducing emissions 45% by 2030 and reaching carbon neutrality by 2050. Next, City staff will develop a climate action plan that identifies specific strategies to help Charlottesville reach this newly set goal.
What Might We Expect in the Plan?
City staff is going to be working hard over the next year or so to develop specific plans and strategies for supporting community-wide efforts to reach carbon neutrality. In order to reach net-zero emissions, the City will likely develop plans for reducing community-wide emissions and include strategies to invest in methods for offsetting emissions that linger in our community’s emissions inventory. Some current ideas involve additional loan programs for energy reducing practices, zero-emission City vehicles, and more green infrastructure.
In terms of equity, the City’s climate action plan recognizes that climate change disproportionately affects some of the most vulnerable members of our community. As much as climate policy is about saving the Earth, it is also about protecting the citizens who often have more to lose in the face of a changing climate.
Taking the Lead in Virginia
This is a landmark event for the Commonwealth of Virginia, given that no other city has passed such an ambitious goal. In fact, outside of Virginia, only nine U.S. cities have reported community-wide carbon-neutrality goals and the Charlottesville community is eager to take on the challenge. However, to climate activists, politicians, and residents alike, the passage means a lot more than that.
It is a sign of Charlottesville’s commitment to mitigating climate change: something that affects each and every one of us. It is an indication of the severity and urgency of climate change, and also a demonstration that we can take action to address it, together.
“The Charlottesville Climate Collaborative looks forward to collaborating with community partners and City staff to develop comprehensive plans to reach these ambitious goals, as well as with individual households and businesses,” said Susan Kruse, Executive Director of the Charlottesville Climate Collaborative.
“There is a tremendous opportunity for cities to lead the way on climate. As Charlottesville embraces community-wide climate action, we hope that other localities in Virginia and across the nation will join us in making their own bold commitments.”
We know this is going to take an “all hands on deck” community-wide effort -- and we don’t want to leave anyone behind! For now, though, hats off and high fives on this important first step!
Check out the great media coverage on this story in wake of Council’s vote: