Missoula leaders affirm city’s commitment to climate goals

Last month was 0.88 degrees Celsius warmer than the mean May temperature from 1951-1980. The two top May temperature anomalies have occurred during the past two years. 2016 was the hottest on record, at 0.93 degrees Celsius warmer than the May mean temperature. (NASA graphic)

The Missoula City Council on Wednesday unanimously adopted a resolution reaffirming the city’s goals in addressing climate change, pushing back against President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord.

“This is a clear illustration to the community that we care,” said Ward 4 Councilman John DiBari, who wrote the resolution. “Local action is an important thing.”

The resolution also acknowledged and supported Mayor John Engen’s recent signing of a letter pledging to work with mayors nationwide to implement the Paris Accord. As of Wednesday, that letter has been signed by 323 mayors nationwide, including the mayors of Whitefish and Bozeman in Montana.

The two-page resolution approved by City Council members during their Committee of the Whole meeting outlines a number of acknowledgments about climate change, including human causality and disproportionate consequences for certain populations around the world. It also recognizes a market shift toward more sustainable and low-carbon energy sources.

The resolution includes these points:

“There is scientific consensus regarding the reality of climate change and the recognition that human activity, especially the combustion of fossil fuels that create greenhouse gases, is an important driver of climate change.”

“Taking steps to increase energy efficiency and resilience can attract jobs and economic development opportunities to our community and increase long-term economic competitiveness and prosperity.”

Debari drafted the measure following Trump’s June 1 announcement that the U.S. will back out of the international agreement dedicated to slowing global warming. Only Syria and Nicaragua have not signed the Paris Accord; the U.S. is the first nation to renege on its participation.

Ward 4 Councilman John DiBari describes a resolution affirming Mayor John Engen’s decision to sign with the “climate mayors,” as well as restating the city of Missoula’s own climate goals. (Katy Spence/Missoula Current)

At Wednesday’s committee meeting, Ward 2 Councilwoman Ruth Ann Swaney requested two amendments that incorporate indigenous populations, including one about the National Congress of American Indians’ own resolution in support of the Paris Climate Agreement.

“I believe that it’s important to acknowledge indigenous and tribal peoples in this resolution that we’re putting forward,” Swaney said. DiBari “happily” accepted the amendments.

DiBari also amended the resolution on the suggestion of another council member, adding a point about the United States’ original pledge in signing the Paris Climate Agreement to reduce carbon emissions by 2025.

The resolution restates the city of Missoula’s 2013 Conservation and Climate Action Plan and reaffirms the council’s commitment to the goal of carbon neutrality by 2025.

Several members of the council expressed strong support for the resolution. Ward 4 Councilman Jon Wilkins said that despite the large number of resolutions that come of out City Council Chambers, this one made a difference.

“This one’s very important, not only that we put a resolution out, but that the city of Missoula actually work on climate control and they keep on doing it,” Wilkins said.

The city’s goal of carbon neutrality requires a 30 percent reduction from the 2008 baseline by the end of this year, and a 50 percent reduction by 2020.

In addition, the city of Missoula’s energy conservation and climate action goals include:

  • Reduction of energy and fuel consumption
  • Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions
  • Reduction of building operating costs
  • Promoting public and environmental health
  • Promoting green jobs and green economy
  • Providing community leadership by example
  • Partnering with others to enhance opportunities for community-wide energy conservation and climate resiliency planning.

Katy Spence is a journalism graduate student at the University of Montana, working this summer for Missoula Current.