Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) With a number of larger goals around climate change and carbon reduction in place, the City of Missoula plans to adopt a lens through which decisions will be focused to address Missoula's key climate initiatives.

On Wednesday, Mayor Jordan Hess said the climate lens could take any number of forms, though its end game is to implement and achieve the city's goals, including 100% clean electricity by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2035.

“These feed up and inform our strategic plan,” Hess said. “All these plans and policies work together to help us make decisions at the city.”

Along with Missoula County, the city has adopted a number of goals in recent years aimed at addressing climate change. The late Mayor John Engen also took steps to ensure the city was prepared for the changes climate change has or will bring to the region.

That includes longer and hotter summers, more fires and smoke, water scarcity and other challenges. Improving the city's resiliency to such outcomes is also part of the climate effort.

“This climate lens is intended to be one of the overlays regarding our decision making,” said Evora Glenn, the city's energy program specialist. “It's to ensure there are mechanisms in place to measure the goals embedded in the tools. It'll help us determine what progress we're making and where we're seeing challenges.”

Those measures could include financial metrics such as a cost-benefit analysis, and environmental metrics, including a reduction in the use of fossil fuels. Social metrics could also be used, along with governance.

The city's Climate Implementation team includes 23 members who began meeting earlier this year to craft the new policy. Glenn said the team will create guidelines unique to each department. The lens will guide decisions, from the type of vehicle to purchase to needed new policies.

“It's pretty monumental,” said Glenn. “It's intended to provide a set of evaluation tools departments can use – tools or decision-making specific to each department's needs.”

The climate lens will also serve as a guide for City Council, which has largely been supportive of Missoula's climate-related policies. The program currently carries no cost, though costs could become part of future decisions once the lens is implemented.

“I'm excited to see this coming forward,” said council member Amber Sherrill. “It takes us down to the daily decisions we're making in every department instead of these bigger overarching goals. The way we achieve those is through daily decisions and daily habits, and giving our departments the framework to make those decisions.”