While city officials say local government is making good strides toward the goals outlined in the national Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, a group of Columbia residents has submitted a petition urging a more concerted effort.
Monta Welch, founder of the Columbia Climate Change Coalition, told the City Council on Monday night that the time to act has arrived.
“Climate change is happening now. We must act now,” Welch said. She and Win Colwill, the energy chair for the League of Women Voters of Columbia-Boone County, presented the council with a petition bearing 700 signatures of Columbia residents encouraging more progress.
“It’s essential for all city departments and the entire community to be involved in the development and implementation of the multi-faceted action plan,” Colwill said. “We can all make a difference, even though we are a small city.”
Welch said residents “need the government to step in and guide us. That’s what government’s for.”
The petition requests that the City Council take concrete action to support the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement it signed in July 2006. Specifically, it asks that a timetable be set for reaching goals in the agreement, that the council create a commission of volunteers to oversee the effort and that the city publish its progress twice a year.
“We feel great to have the kind of government that adopts the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement,” Welch said. “But the citizens want to feel that they belong to the city and are a part of the agreement,” she said. She suggested that an increase in community involvement would also help to move up the timetable for reaching agreement goals.
The Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, now signed by more than 500 mayors nationwide, asks city leaders to adopt local environmental targets laid out in the international Kyoto Protocol.
“I’ve been in favor of (the agreement) all along,” Columbia Mayor Darwin Hindman said. “The problem is that it committed the city to take action, not just the mayor.” That’s why he made sure the entire council was on board as well, he said.
Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala, former vice chairman of the Environment and Energy Commission, was involved in the presentation of the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. “Our interest in this issue is aligned with the interest of the global warming debate,” he said.
Hindman said the city for quite some time has been taking environmentally responsible steps in its day-to-day operations.
“The city, without signing (the mayors agreement), was proceeding along the lines it is now,” Hindman said, adding that signing the pact was more of a “formal acknowledgement and public pledge” than a change in policy. For instance, even before Columbia signed on, he said, the city had a fleet of hybrid cars.
“The petition asked us to do what we’re doing anyway.”
Columbia voters also have passed a ballot issue requiring the city to increase its use of renewable energy, and it has long had a vibrant recycling program.
More recently, Columbia Water and Light spokeswoman Connie Kacprowicz said her department has been assigned to gather baseline emissions numbers for Columbia and to bring that report to the Water and Light Advisory Board in June.
Hindman also said the council is looking into many new opportunities to help protect the climate, including energy conservation efforts such as the PedNet project and new “green” building strategies. He hopes to “make a policy that all new city buildings are LEED certified,” he said. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a rating system that classifies environmentally sound buildings.
“We need to make sure that we as a city are leading the way in efficiency,” Hindman said.
Welch, Colwill and others will continue to collect signatures throughout the summer and early fall. Those interested in signing on can go to www.columbiaclimatechangecoalition.org.