All hands on deck
by Mark Reaman
The unveiling of the draft Crested Butte Climate Action Plan (CAP) was met with enthusiasm Monday evening by about 40 people who essentially told the council the plan was a good step that needed to be carried into perpetuity and not just become a plan that sits on a shelf.
Crested Butte community development director Michael Yerman said that given the current state of the federal government’s position on climate change, “Locally is where the action will need to happen. We have the opportunity to lead on this issue.”
“Why should the town care?” added Mel Yemma of the town planning department. “We’re a blip on the radar with a small carbon footprint. But we can make a difference.”
“Local actions can have global impacts,” said Patrick Church, who sat on the CAP committee. “You start where you live. It might seem to some as a waste of time and effort but it is a tremendous challenge and a tremendous opportunity. We can stand up and make something happen.”
Crested Butte Community School student Nola Hadley also was a committee member. “I have friends who smoke and vape and drink and when you point out the danger of that they say there isn’t much of a future for them anyway, given the climate situation,” she told the council. “We don’t have time to wait for other places to do something. We need the people in power now to give us hope for the future. We need climate action. At this point we need to do something radical. We still have a chance to turn this around. Crested Butte is not some small, off-the-radar town. People will come here and see what we’ve done and take our ideas home with them.”
Some of the ideas in the draft plan include significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions in town in the next five years and achieving net-zero emissions by 2030. Strategies include adopting consistent countywide building guidelines that are more stringent than current building codes and mandating building automation technology for commercial and residential buildings in the town. Finding ways to subsidize deep retrofits of existing buildings is on the list, as is installing significant solar energy opportunities in Crested Butte. Increasing electric vehicle use and discouraging single-occupancy vehicle use is also likely in the future. Waste reduction is part of the plan, to include things such as installing an industrial-scale composting facility.
“This is an all-hands-on-deck approach,” said councilman Will Dujardin. “I am happy we are doing our part but we also need to keep supporting state and federal action.”
“We all have a moral obligation to do whatever we can to save the planet,” added councilwoman Mallika Magner.
Councilman Paul Merck said he appreciated the crowd turnout. “We need to make a paradigm shift and do something locally,” he said.
“This is the community to do it,” agreed councilman Chris Haver. “It is hard for places to pull together to make something happen but this community is our biggest hope.”
“This isn’t a liberal or conservative issue, it’s a human issue,” said mayor Jim Schmidt, who had also noted that the meeting was taking place the same day the Trump administration officially started pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement.
Yerman said getting the town to be net-zero by 2030 is a major step. “It will take money and policy decision by the council,” he said.
Yemma said the draft plan deliberately advocated items that “are achievable goals that can really be done.”
The plan was put together by Navigant Consulting. Nichole DelSasso was the project manager and she said based on a 2017 greenhouse gas emissions survey conducted in town, the first steps in lowering emissions would be focused on the “low-hanging fruit” of building and transportation inside of Crested Butte. “Building and travel make up the majority of greenhouse gas emissions in Crested Butte. That is pretty normal for a town like this.”
“Tonight is meant to be a high-level overview of the plan,” explained Yemma. “We are looking for feedback and thoughts from the community. The draft is on the town’s website but we want to have a final plan to consider by early December so we are looking for public feedback by November 22.”
Futurist Zenia Tata, who lives in Crested Butte, works around the globe on such endeavors. “It really holds true that this is everyone’s problem,” she said. “There is nothing too big or too small to do. One thing to think about is offsets and also consider the full life cycle of actions.”
Yemma said carbon sequestration is something the town would delve into in the future.
Local builder and Gunnison County Electric Association board member Bart Laemmel said he has been to similar presentations by town councils in the past. “When the rubber hits the road I hope you are actually willing to dedicate a full-time department through the town or the county to address this need,” he said. “You need a funded organization staffed to address this when the economy fluctuates. Big change won’t happen without commitment. It’s a really good idea but dedication is necessary.”
Dujardin agreed and noted that Yemma’s duties within town staff had shifted to this issue.
Mark Tardiff said for the plan to work it can’t simply be a government office; most issues are intertwined, whether it be affordable housing, a living wage and climate action. “I love the plan but it is something we all need to buy into,” he said.
Schmidt noted the cost of implementing some of the ideas would not be cheap. “We don’t have to be perfect but we need to try,” he said.
GCEA board member Greg Wiggins said climate change had become a huge topic of discussion in the energy sector. “We talk about this a lot. And it really does have to be from everybody and not just the government,” he said. “It has to be forever. All the talk is good but it affects all of us as humans, no matter what your politics.”
Tata said a list of 100 potential solutions was available through Project Drawdown (www.drawdown.org) and local individuals could determine the 10 best things they could do in their lives to work for them and the town.
Church again emphasized the need for community feedback and involvement. He said the GCEA would be holding a question-and-answer meeting over the issue at the Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum on Tuesday, November 19. “We really want public comment, input and effort,” he said.