Columbia’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan won the approval of the Columbia City Council on Monday night after more than an hour of public comment in a nearly full Council Chamber.
Last year, the city formed the Mayor’s Task Force on Climate Action and Adaptation Planning to address ways it can mitigate the effects of climate change and to find ways the city can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The report established a goal of reducing Columbia’s greenhouse emissions 80% from 2015 levels by 2050. The city aims to reduce emissions from its own operations 50% by 2035 and 100% by 2050.
The plan doesn’t have regulations and requirements. Instead, it has 150 recommendations for Columbia to follow in order to curtail climate change. Members of the task force described the plan as a strategy for action.
“A lot of the priority actions stated in the plan are really encouraging more incentives for businesses and residents to actually contribute to local climate action themselves,” said Barbara Buffaloe, the city’s sustainability manager. “So, one of the things that businesses should pay attention to is … the status of those.”
The plan outlines specific goals organized into six categories: natural resources; waste; transportation; energy; health and safety; and housing, building and development.
One of the plan’s main goals is to reduce car usage by expanding bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, establishing a bike-share program and building more sidewalks in addition to encouraging the community to use electric cars.
The main goal in this category is to increase local renewable energy generation by installing solar panels on city buildings and offering community solar subscription or lease programs. Creating a resilient energy grid and incentivizing lower electricity use at peak hours are other priorities mentioned in the plan.
The plan aims to decrease the community’s water usage per capita and prepare the city for future flood and stormwater impacts.
The plan proposes encouraging reuse, incentivizing recycling and offering a collection of food waste and other compostable material at businesses.
Housing, building and development
To reduce housing- and building-related greenhouse gas emissions, the plan proposes requiring rental properties to meet basic energy efficiency standards.
Last fall and this spring, over 1,900 people responded to a survey asking for input on the plan. Residents said they wanted streets designed to increase walkability and lower vehicle emissions with more hybrid and electric city-owned vehicles. Energy efficiency, solar power and water efficiency incentives were also favored, the report said.
According to the plan, climate change may lead to more intense rain events and flooding, and summer droughts may become more common with the addition of 50 days per year above 95 degrees.
The Task Force didn’t undertake the financial analysis for the specific projects in the plan.
“There is not an overall ‘This is how much the plan costs,’” said Kim Wade, a member of the task force. “It’s kind of item by item as we undergo the implementation process.”