UPDATE: Columbia compiles its first climate change report

Wednesday, April 18, 2012 | 6:20 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Although pleased with Monday's report card grading Columbia's various climate initiatives, the city's sustainability manager said there's still work to be done.

The Office of Sustainability and a city staff group working to reduce energy use compiled the scores, which are included in the city's 2012 Mayors Climate Protection Agreement Progress Report. Twelve action items received a rating, including creating a climate action plan, increasing average fuel efficiency of municipal vehicles and helping educate the public about global warming pollution.

"It inspires us to continue to make improvements, even in the areas we have an A — let's make it an A-plus," Columbia Sustainability Manager Barbara Buffaloe said.

Buffaloe's office worked with public information officers, project managers and supervisors from various city departments to compile the report, which Buffaloe hopes to create annually.

The city gave itself three A's, seven B's and two C's. The categories receiving a C — or "satisfactory" — rating included the goal of creating an inventory of city global warming emissions, setting reduction targets and developing an action plan.

Although the city does not yet have a climate action plan, Columbia is not without a plan for the future — one that includes having various sustainability programs and aspects the city is trying to achieve, Buffaloe said.

After reinventorying greenhouse gases this summer, the office will collaborate with the Columbia City Council and stakeholders to update reduction targets and implement an action plan.

The goal is to complete the plan by Earth Day 2013, Buffaloe said.

Columbia originally recorded carbon dioxide and methane — the two most prevalent greenhouse gases — emissions in 2007, and the council recommended creating an action plan after viewing the results but never made a motion to do so, and the issue fell off the radar, Buffaloe said.

Created in 2010 with a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy using funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the Office of Sustainability was specifically tasked with furthering goals outlined in the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, which the council endorsed in July 2006. The agreement set goals for participating cities to meet or exceed the Kyoto Protocol targets for the reduction of greenhouse gases. The United Nations ratified the protocol, which set targets to reduce global emissions, in 1997.

As of March 2012, according to the full report, 1,054 mayors from every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico had signed the agreement, representing a total population of 88,499,854 citizens.

Monta Welch, who organizes Earth Hour events in Columbia, said it's important Columbia seeks and makes use of public input for the action plan it creates.

"There are a lot of positive things the community can bring into this process," Welch said. "We have a very educated, creative and talented citizenry here, and we should take advantage of that and appreciate one another and learn the different things we can bring to the table." 

Residents can contribute to sustainability efforts through the city's recycling program and by engaging in home energy-saving tips. Columbia provides educational programs to students and offers community events, including Cleanup Columbia, so that people can learn more about reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

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