Looking at both the equity and environmental lens
By Kendra Walker
During a work session on September 5, the Mt. Crested Butte town council discussed a high-level overarching vision for the town and began its first steps toward creating a sustainability and climate action plan.
Town planner Shannon Hessler led the information session and reviewed the town’s current sustainability and climate action goals. She worked with the council to identify priorities and walked them through next steps for creating an action plan.
Hessler clarified the difference between sustainability and climate action, as the two terms are often combined. Sustainability planning includes many metrics of impact measurement, such as planning for the environment, economy and social equity of a community. “Sustainability planning can include a climate action plan,” she said. Conversely, climate action planning specifically targets greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions and is measured only in emissions reductions.
When looking specifically at climate action goals, Hessler said that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommends targeting at least a 50% reduction in emissions by 2030, compared to the year 2019 as the base year. Colorado’s 2021 Greenhouse Pollution reduction Roadmap also requires reducing statewide greenhouse gas pollution by 50% by 2030 and the Mountain Towns 2030 Collaborative Net Zero Pact is committed to a net zero carbon emissions by 2030.
Regionally, Gunnison Valley Climate Action Report, City of Gunnison Climate Action, Resiliency and Environmental Sustainability Plan and the Crested Butte Climate Action plan have goals for reducing emissions by 50% by 2030.
The town of Mt. Crested Butte has identified a mission to engage in collaborative climate action planning and has already created a 2021 climate action strategy and incorporated climate language in the Mt. CB Master Plan.
“We already have identified the values, it’s what we want to do with them. It’s much more specific than a Master Plan,” said Hessler. “Part of this is significantly acting on already established goals.” She said ideally the plan would come in the form of a dashboard that gets updated more frequently than a 100-page document that just sits on a shelf.
Hessler also explained the importance of identifying an action plan with goals and policies that are sustainably equitable for the town of Mt. Crested Butte. “What can we do that’s the most bang for our buck? We’re looking at both the equity and environmental lens. We want equal access to sustainability solutions that are good for the environment but also for citizens.” She used the example that transitioning every single building in the town to renewable energy is not realistically or financially feasible. “Not all the strategies make sense for us economically, don’t make sense geographically and are not going to be the most equitable, so we want to weigh everything against our solutions.”
Hessler reminded the council of their current areas of priority based on the climate action strategic plan and master plan. From the climate action strategic plan, the priorities include: renewable energy; built environment; transportation; landfill diversion; and environmental stewardship. The Master Plan priorities include: land use; housing, parks, recreation, open space and trails; community services; and water. She noted other general priorities, including: resilience and hazard mitigation; adapting to climate change; equity and justice; food; and products and consumption.
The council noted areas in which they would like to have more data and understanding, including natural gas, the town’s largest forms of emissions, the impacts of construction costs and how to close the town’s recycling gap. Mayor Nicholas Kempin suggested that the town of Mt. CB help facilitate a hard-to-recycle items event.
“I would love to know the emissions effects of using a snowblower at my house and how that compares to Lacy driving their front loader in my driveway compared to a heated driveway,” said Kempin.
Hessler recommended the town take immediate steps to join the Mountain Towns 2030 Net Zero Pact and the Colorado Communities for Climate Action, renew its membership with Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) and adopt Resolution 15: Adopting Gunnison Valley GHG Mitigation Plan.
Hessler also noted there will be climate action related items and requirements coming from the state in the next 10 years. “One of the ways we can grapple with that increasing cost is to leverage as much money as we can from the state.”
Phase 1 will include data collection by staff, such as completing GHG emissions inventory, adopting the 50% emissions reduction by 2030 target, forecast emissions and other sustainability metrics like water use, energy cost burden, noxious weeds, etc.
Phase 2 will include strategy development through workshops with key town stakeholders, community open houses and public comment. The council and staff will then refine the strategies and draft the action plan. Phase 3 will include implementation of the plan and Phase 4 will monitor and track its progress.
“When the time comes, let’s do the outreach part right away,” said Kempin. “Not all the municipalities are the same. Hearing what our actual constituents think about this would be helpful for me to hear.”