Everett sets climate plan,
pledging carbon neutrality by 2050
EVERETT — The City Council voted unanimously Jan. 29 to adopt the city’s first-ever Climate Action Plan, with the stated goal that Everett city operations become carbon-neutral by 2050.
The plan lays out a long-term vision the city will use as a framework to develop environmental policies and practices in Everett over the coming decades.
The city of Everett is targeting a community-wide 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050. The city government will follow an accelerated version of this goal, pledging full carbon neutrality by 2050.
“We have been talking for many years, at least a decade, about a climate action plan and this is really the first step in what we need to be thinking about doing,” City Council member Brenda Stonecipher said during the council meeting. “This outlines some broad measures that we need to focus on, but really the hard work happens following our action tonight, we hope that our citizens will stay engaged and help us do that work.”
Key plan supporter and City Council member Paul Roberts acknowledged that the Climate Action Plan is symbolic, and only the first step in a long process of achieving carbon neutrality as no funding has been allocated in 2020 for new projects.
Roberts called it a “menu.”
“It provides for us a set of options to look at towards our future, and that means that many of those actions we will have to take up individually and bring back to this council before they’re actually implemented,” Roberts said.
In conjunction with approving the plan, the City Council also declared a climate crisis at its Jan. 29 meeting. Council members Scott Murphy and Jeff Moore were absent from the meeting.
Climate change is expected to raise the average temperature in Snohomish County by 4.4 to 5 degrees by 2050, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports, which will cause an increase in illness related to heat-stress and air pollution, among other health problems.
Local climate advocacy group 350 Everett supports the Climate Action Plan. Members are optimistic that having a framework in place at a government level will lead to productive climate conversations and address community needs when implementing policies.
“The fact that the City Council has recognized and made a formal resolution, recognizing a climate crisis really adds a lot more weight, you know, to the position the city will be taking as we go forward into the climate action plan,” 350 Everett member Pam Kepford said.
Climate projects will focus on five main categories: governance, transportation, electrification, green economy and compact, multimodal land use.
Some ideas the plan proposes include further evaluating the public health impact of climate change on local communities, incentivizing the use of public transportation with corporate pre-tax transit programs, and partnering regionally to revise building codes to disincentivize the use of natural gas for heating.
Everett’s transit development plan has already replaced seven buses in its fleet with electric vehicles and placed a heavy focus on transit oriented development, adding bike lanes in its downtown and incentivizing the use of public transportation. Half of Everett’s fleet will be electric by 2022, according to the city’s Executive of State, Regional and Military Affairs Bob Bolerjack, who also said that in 2014 almost half of Everett’s greenhouse gas emissions came from transportation and natural gas consumption.
Bolerjack also said the city is working with the Snohomish Public Utility District to install electric vehicle charging stations.
Natural gas industry representatives are concerned that part of its plan calls to eliminate natural gas from new and existing buildings. They say it will damage the local economy.
“Many Everett businesses rely and depend on an affordable industry to meet payroll,” Puget Sound Energy representative Robert Knoll said.
City officials say they are pledged to working with community stakeholders to come up with solutions that benefit everyone and that in the long term, eliminating the use of natural gas is a low priority.
“Natural gas is a very, very low emitter here in Everett. So in the short term that’s not going to be a top priority,” Bolerjack said. “It would be to encourage new buildings, especially new multifamily buildings, to be heated with electricity rather than natural gas.”
In a statement, PSE expressed support for Everett’s goal to become carbon neutral and minimize the effects of climate change on the community, but reiterated that all stakeholders, including those that rely on natural gas, be included in future emissions decisions.
Bolerjack recognized that low income residents and people of color have been and will continue to be disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis, due to access to resources, jobs and other factors.
These residents are also impacted by the solutions that cities like Everett are using to address climate change, like transitioning away from cheap natural gas.
“We’re going to be really careful about not mandating things that cost too much money,” Bolerjack said. “And that has a disproportionate impact on low-income folks.”
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