Sustainable Missoula: From Missoula to Chicago and back, #WeAreStillIn

Chase Jones, left, and Missoula Mayor John Engen

Local government has long played a vital role in leadership on climate action and serves as a venue for citizens and groups to convene, innovate and execute.

In the absence of federal leadership, Missoula is more energized than ever, and remains committed. There may be no time where the role of cities has been more crucial.

Recognizing this, over 50 mayors from across the U.S. and around the world gathered in Chicago in December to make a powerful and hopeful statement and commitment by signing the Chicago Climate Charter.

Our Mayor, John Engen, was there and signed as the sole representative from the state of Montana, and I accompanied him as the Missoula’s energy conservation and climate action coordinator.

Mayor Engen’s leadership and the city’s climate action work is inspired and emboldened by the Missoula community, and a reflection of the values and vision of our citizens. The work is almost always carried out in collaboration with our community nonprofit partners, which is why we’re excited to announce this latest commitment here.

So, what does signing the Chicago Climate Charter mean? At its highest level, it elevates the importance of addressing climate change and upholding the Paris Climate Agreement at the local level in the absence of federal leadership.

By signing the Chicago Climate Charter, cities are pledging to:

Achieve a percent reduction in carbon emissions in line with the Paris Agreement; for the US that is 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025

Quantify, track and publicly report city emissions, consistent with standards and best practices of measurement and transparency;

Advocate alongside other mayors for greater local authority and flexibility to develop policies and local laws that empower cities to take aggressive action on climate;

Recognize and include groups traditionally underrepresented in climate policy;

Incorporate the realities of climate change and its impacts into local infrastructure and emergency planning through strategies of adaptation and resilience;

Support strong regional, state and federal policies and partnerships, as well as private sector initiatives that incentivize the transition to a new climate economy; and

Partner with experts, communities, businesses, environmental justice groups, advocates and other allies to develop holistic climate mitigation and resilience solutions.

The Chicago Climate Charter goes further with a framework that articulates specific actions in sectors from renewable energy to transportation to waste. The framework is inclusive enough that cities from Pittsboro, North Carolina to Knoxville, Tennessee to Los Angeles to Missoula are equal partners, and it allows for each city to craft their own path toward the same goals.

These efforts in Missoula are not new. We charted a path to carbon neutrality for municipal operations by 2025 with our Conservation and Climate Action Plan. We achieved our first goal of an 11 percent reduction in greenhouse emissions and will soon report on progress toward our 2017 goal.

We don’t just stop at City operations however. We partner at the community level, supporting Climate Smart Missoula and the Community Climate Smart Action plan.

With this new commitment, though, we not only tip our hat to that good work, but also raise the ante. In Chicago, common themes of that arc in cities like Missoula are a deeper dive into developing 100 percent renewable energy for our community, and accelerated implementation of ZERO by FIFTY: Missoula’s Pathway to Zero Waste.

 

In addition, we have a renewed incentive to revisit existing policies and plans through a lens of climate action and sustainability. Finally, we see new opportunities to align our values and goals with our service at Missoula Water, Fort Missoula Regional Park and Garden City Compost.

What that means for all is safer, more walkable streets, less pollution in our air, cleaner water and streams restored to their natural state. It means healthier people, a vibrant economy, an unbeatable quality of life and a community prepared to thrive.

Back in Chicago last month, we were surprised when a “guest speaker” on the agenda turned out to be former President Barack Obama. He recalled that during his time in the White House, climate considerations were viewed as central to U.S. interests, from national security to economic policy and our children’s future.

I can’t paraphrase Obama well, so I’ll quote from his remarks: “There was not one aspect of policy that we were concerned about that was not touched, profoundly by this issue. But this, this is something we can do something about. And I’m hoping, as a consequence of you seeing meaningful impacts in your own cities, and you realizing that you’re part of a broader movement, that that inspires you to bolder and bolder work and that, in turn, I think, can inspire a country, and that will inspire the world.”

Bold action has been a big topic of conversation in this community, and I know those conversations and our collective momentum can translate to big things in 2018. I encourage you to engage with us so together we can live up to the Chicago Climate Charter pledge and the vision and future of Missoula that our citizens deserve, and as our former president remarked, inspire each other, a country and the world.

Feb. 1: Climate Smart Missoula’s “Monthly Meetup” at Imagine Nation Brewing, where energy efficiency and energy conservation is the topic at 5 – 7 p.m.

Feb. 7: Solar-Ease workshop at the Missoula Federal Credit Union’s Brooks St. Center from 6 -8 p.m.

Feb 8: To the Ends of the Earth documentary screening at the Roxy Theater at 7 p.m.

Chase Jones is the Energy Conservation Coordinator for the City of Missoula.