Rocky Mountain summit provides ideas for Missoula climate goals
(Missoula Current) As the city of Missoula tries to meet some ambitious goals to help slow climate change, it’s good to learn what other cities and communities are doing. That’s what several mountain communities gathered to do at the MT2030 Climate Solutions Summit in September.
During Wednesday morning’s city Climate, Conservation and Parks committee meeting, Evora Glenn, city energy program specialist, gave a general summary of the things her team learned at the MT2030 summit, which met Sept. 20-22 in Breckenridge, Colo.
Climate advocates, elected officials and staff of Rocky Mountain towns from Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana attended the event.
“It offers the opportunity to talk about climate action goals and climate action implementation strategies with peer communities. These are communities that have similar economic challenges and face similar climate impacts. And we have similar resource capacity limitations,” Glenn said. “So, when we learn about what they are doing, we can apply that to our local contacts with fewer adjustments than if we’re looking at coastal communities or communities that have different experiences than our own.”
During the summit, Missoula’s team was most interested in the presentations on four main topics: electrification, renewable energy expansion, building code reform, and collaboration.
Missoula has a goal of using 100% clean energy by 2030. The summit workshops showed how other communities are working toward similar goals using large utility-level development but also using municipal operations to develop renewable energy and encouraging businesses and residents to do the same. For electrification, Glenn said the presentations dealt with using renewable energy in buildings but also transportation systems.
Missoula is considering its own code reform, so being able to see how other communities set energy performance standards was helpful, Glenn said. The state of Montana just passed new building codes, including state amendments to the International Energy Conservation Code, and Missoula has been looking at how that affects development.
“It was helpful to know what has been tried and hasn’t worked and where can we make a middle path that helps us achieve our goals taking in those best practices,” Glenn said.
Committee member Amber Sherrill said Missoula was limited by state codes – cities aren’t allowed to enact any codes more stringent than the state.
“One of the things we learned is that each state has their own challenges and some have more opportunities than we have,” Sherrill said. “But the creativeness of the partnerships was pretty impressive. Some were unlikely partners and so that gave us ideas, but it also gave us some hope that nontraditional partners are coming to the table around this.”
Partnerships are always important for getting enough funding and energy to achieve large community goals. In addition to local partners, Glenn said Missoula now has partners in Colorado and Utah that can help the team stay up on current efforts and possibilities.
This is the second MT2030 summit Missoula employees have attended and it comes at a critical time as far as city goals and federal funding.
The city of Missoula has five climate action goals that it can’t meet without concerted and perhaps creative effort. In particular, city operations are supposed to be carbon neutral within three years, and then both the city and the county are aiming to have 100% clean energy by 2030. Three other goals have deadlines of 2050: having zero waste; meeting the targets of the Climate Ready Missoula resiliency plan; and an informal goal of having the entire Missoula community be carbon neutral.
Committee member Gwen Jones said it’s important to achieve the city’s municipal goal, but she’s heard from people that they’re “hungry for more” at the community level.
“These are big goals. We’ve got to focus on our municipal goals, gotta get our house in order first. But there’s appetite to be doing a lot more,” Jones said.
Federal money may be able to help. Last year, Congress passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which could help upgrade transportation systems. This year, Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which set aside funding for projects that help reduce carbon emissions by 40% by 2030.
“There is a lot of interest in how to make the best of these funds. How do we stack incentives? How do we work with community partners to make sure nothing is wasted?” Glenn said.
Contact reporter Laura Lundquist at firstname.lastname@example.org.