New Easton Climate Action Plan to explore residents' needs amid global warming
EASTON, Pa. — Easton’s Environmental Advisory Council is preparing for a substantial presentation that will help discuss the work needed to continue carbon offsets, even after potentially reaching a net zero future.
It also could involve a cost to taxpayers, which might raise concerns among Easton City Council members, officials said.
In anticipation of a presentation set for Easton City Council’s meeting on Feb. 28, the EAC met Tuesday to discuss presentation of its Climate Adaptation Plan, an addendum of sorts to the city's existing Climate Action Plan.
“It's kind of like the actions that aren't necessarily directly lowering the city's carbon but that we might need to protect the health of residents due to flooding and other weather impacts.”Easton Environmental Advisory Council Chair Ian Kindle
Details still are under wraps, but the EAC is honing the presentation, with hopes council will adopt the plan next month.
While the Climate Action Plan sets targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other projects aimed at reducing the impact of climate change, the Climate Adaptation Plan looks to the future to improve a city’s resiliency to the impacts of climate change already here, EAC Chairman Ian Kindle said.
As Kindle puts it, even if Easton was to achieve carbon neutrality — where there is no net release of carbon dioxide through man-made means, predominantly through initiatives such as offsetting emissions by planting trees — “there’s still going to be the downstream impacts of all the carbon pollution that’s out there already."
“And that will continue to go into the atmosphere, from everywhere," he said. "So we anticipate that we'll have bigger storm events, we'll have bigger heat waves, all of the weather and climate impacts from climate change.
“So this plan, it's kind of a supplement to the Climate Action Plan. It’s more about what actions should the city take to address the consequences of global warming and climate change, whether that's setting up warming centers, or cooling centers at different locations in the city, or helping people to get low-cost heating and cooling for their homes to mitigate bad problems.
"It's kind of like the actions that aren't necessarily directly lowering the city's carbon but that we might need to protect the health of residents due to flooding and other weather impacts.”
'Might have an impact on taxes'
The potential cost of enacting a net zero plan for the city by 2050 could involve a cost to taxpayers, which might raise concerns among Easton City Council members, EAC member Paul Schalow said.
“I think that could be concerning for city council, because it might have an impact on taxes," Schalow said. "And then everybody's going to be interested in that.”
“A majority of the adults in the ABE metro area, over 50 percent, believe that the local officials should do more to address global warming. And an even higher percent, about 78 percent, support policies that would reduce carbon emissions."Easton Environmental Advisory Council member Kathryn Semmens
Member Kathryn Semmens, who will helm the presentation, said she will focus on a science-based target derived from the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy and the CDP, a not-for-profit charity that runs the global disclosure system for investors, companies, cities, states and regions to manage their environmental impacts.
“To achieve net zero, we would reduce the emissions as much as possible and then reabsorb the remaining unavoidable emissions by purchasing carbon credits and saying that the scientific targets are in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement to limit warming to 1.5 degrees,” Semmens said.
Semmens also said that to get a rating higher than a “B,” Easton would require that science-based target. Cities including Philadelphia, Baltimore, Hartford, Cincinnati, Columbus and Providence have made policies or pledges to attain a net-zero goal, she said.
“A majority of the adults in the ABE metro area, over 50 percent, believe that the local officials should do more to address global warming," she said.
"And an even higher percent, about 78 percent, support policies that would reduce carbon emissions,” Semmons said.
A return on investment
Other panel members encouraged Semmens to focus on a return-on-investment strategy, showing a net zero initiative could result in financial savings or gains for a metropolitan area.
“They're going to make people think differently. They're going to wonder if we can do this on the scale it's at, if we could do it in a smaller scale. They're going to want to bring up questions regarding that. So we have to be as prepared for this, and be as honest when it comes to this."Easton Environmental Advisory Councilmember Robert MacDonald
“I think there's always an initial investment piece when we're working on this," Kindle said.
"But I think the hope is that, in between that initial investment and the point where we've gotten to the lowest carbon emissions that we can, some of those investments will start to pay dividends, which will help to offset down the road costs to offset the risks."
Member Robert MacDonald also stressed the importance of transparency when presenting the plan, as anything to do with “budgets, money, anything having to do with finances” can cause unrest.
“They're going to make people think differently," MacDonald said. "They're going to wonder if we can do this on the scale it's at, if we could do it in a smaller scale. They're going to want to bring up questions regarding that.
"So we have to be as prepared for this, and be as honest when it comes to this."
MacDonald also said discussing the potential for dividends and grants to offset costs could be beneficial.