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Climate Strategies for Sustainable Communities – GreenTown

September 11, 2010

(This article is part of a series based on our reporting at the GreenTown conference in Grand Rapids on September 10.)

The afternoon portion of the conference was divided into four separate tracks with 3 sessions in each track. This writer attended the Climate Strategies for Sustainable Communities track.

The first part of this track was entitled “Future of Greenhouse Gar Emission and Management Strategies,” consisting of a panel of four.

The first speaker was Norm Christopher with the GVSU center for sustainability. Christopher says that there are three main ways to move toward climate change actions: doing nothing/denial, a regulatory approach or what he called a voluntary approach.

The GVSU representative said that before any action can take place you have to determine where you are and what your current levels of carbon emissions are. Once you have determined where your organization/community is you need to devise a strategy on how to reduce these emissions.

Christopher says that the state of Michigan has signed on to a commitment to reduce carbon emissions 80% by 2050. GVSU, according to the speaker, will be carbon neutral by 2036, even though how that is defined and how it will be achieved were never stated.

The next speaker was Michael Davidson, the Mid-West regional Director of ICLEI. Davidson said his presentation would be how local governments can manage carbon emissions.

Davidson spent too much time describing the mission of ICLEI with a powerpoint presentation with information that anyone with access to the web could obtain. Focusing so much time on what ICLEI does and other data did not allow for enough time to address concrete strategies for climate action.

Following Davidson was another ICLEI staff member, BritaPagels. Like, Christopher, this presenter felt it was important for local governments to be able to measure carbon emissions. ICLEI has developed a protocol for this kind of measuring with their Clean Air & Climate Protection Software. This software tracks fuel usage, solid waste, electricity use and other indicators.

Brita then presented software to develop a climate & air pollution planning strategy, a software that currently contains 120 different strategies that are being used around the country.

Brita also presented yet another tool she called the Municipal Clean Energy toolkit. Again, the speaker emphasized what others on the panel addressed was that “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” It was painfully clear that this was the point that the panel wanted to drive home, but it was essentially overkill and avoided the opportunity for looking at best-practices and concrete strategies that communities could implement.

The last presenter, from the Michigan Municipal League, addressed what is called the Michigan Green Communities Challenge. So far there are 70 communities throughout the state.

The Challenge involves providing communities with tools to incorporate energy efficiency and sustainable strategies.

There are 6 steps in this Challenge:

  • Obtain organizational support
  • Assign responsibility
  • Collect energy data
  • Assess situation and identify gaps
  • Develop goals and activities
  • Measure performance and quantify results

Ultimately, the message that the last presenter wanted to communicate was that Green saves money, it is smart economic development and it makes businesses and people want to live and raise their families in such a community.

Again, because of “time constraints” there was only enough time allotted to field two questions, thus minimizing the amount of feedback and engagement from those in attendance.

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