Columbia’s response to climate change will be discussed at forum

Tuesday, February 12, 2008 | 9:46 p.m. CST; updated 12:48 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

COLUMBIA — An upcoming forum will allow the public to ask Mayor Darwin Hindman about his energy policy and lowering the city’s carbon footprint.

The League of Women Voters will host the forum, “Climate Challenge: Columbia’s Response” at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Friends Room of the Columbia Regional Library.

It’s the first meeting of its kind since the mayor signed Columbia into the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement in July 2006.

The MCPA holds the city to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol standards of reducing the emissions that cause climate change to their relative 1990 levels.

According to the 2006 council resolution, this includes purchasing only ENERGY STAR equipment for municipal use, enforcing land-use policies that reduce sprawl and increasing the efficiency of the city vehicle fleet.

It also calls for an inventory of the city’s greenhouse emissions, which was accomplished by the Columbia Water and Light earlier this year and presented to council in June 2007.

“That is an important first step, that was the central first step before anything could be done, to know where we are, and I laud them for that,” said Win Colwill, the League of Women Voters Energy Chair. “But now the real task comes, the nitty gritty, because the city already has been a leader in conservation and panning renewables in Missouri, so its going to take some real digging to find a good opportunity to reduce, to cut some more, I think. We’re going to have to buy more renewable power. We have the ordinance that requires the city to do that, but is it enough?”

The report indicates that Columbia released 3 million tons of greenhouse gases in 2005. The number was up 9.5 percent from 2000, the baseline comparison year of the study.

The meeting will bring together prominent Columbia officials as well as Frank Cunningham, an energy engineer from the Department of Natural Resources, and Barbara Buffaloe, an Environmental Design Specialist with the MU Architecture Extension Program.

“For me, my main focus is on how to educate people on what their options are, and since my focus is sustainable building design, I’ll be talking about new construction, the impacts it has on greenhouse gas emissions, what we can do in our design process and in the city’s viewpoint to ... encourage sustainable design, think about what we’re doing, and what the impacts are,” Buffaloe said.

City officials intend to ask for the voters’ ideas on the action plan to be developed.

“One of the things I’m going to talk specifically about has to do with building construction,” Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine said. He said the Water and Light department is proactive in reducing electricity use in the community as a whole.

Jan Weaver, director of MU environmental studies, will moderate the forum and says that it should be clear that climate change and related policies will have an effect on mid-Missouri.

“It’s a chance for people to see who else is interested or concerned about the issue,” Weaver said. “Climate change and our policy responses to climate change could have an impact on mid-Missourians, so if we are prepared we will be better able to deal with the changes that are coming.”

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