Ann Arbor Says “High Priority” to Act on Climate

Responding to community proposals to “act on climate,” the Ann Arbor City Council declared that climate action was a top City priority during their December 12 annual retreat, the first step in its regular budget process.  This was the first time that Council had put climate or energy on the City’s priority list.

Four years ago, though, the City of Ann Arbor had put itself on the map by adopting one of the country’s first community climate plans – committing itself to a 90% reduction in the community’s carbon emissions by 2050.  Ann Arbor has some things to show for what it’s done since – a major transit expansion, a commercial energy efficiency program, several other initiatives under development – but the pace of progress isn’t close to matching the ambition of the plan.

With the incoming Trump Administration pledging to block or roll back federal solutions to climate change, the focus for action in the United States moves to states and cities. Almost on a weekly basis now, top scientists report new findings on the extent of current climate impacts and on the narrowing window of time to take meaningful action to prevent the worst outcomes.  In Ann Arbor and throughout much of Michigan, we’ve already seen dramatic increases in precipitation, extreme storms, and flooding problems.  Ann Arbor suffers from 41% more extreme storms than it did 30 years ago. 

In response, community climate advocates – led by the Ecology Center, Huron River Watershed Council, Ann Arbor Climate Partnership, and leaders of the City’s Environmental Commission and Energy Commission – proposed a $1.2-million annual investment in clean energy and climate adaptation programs.  If fully implemented, the initiative would reduce climate emissions by more than half of the City’s goal for 2025.  The full plan can be found here.

There are five components to the Ann Arbor Climate Proposal – flood prevention, energy efficiency, solar energy, electric vehicles, and neighborhood-based initiative:

Rain Ready Ann Arbor.  Using a program developed by the Chicago-based Center for Neighborhood Technology, the City would offer practical and affordable improvements to minimize flood losses for residents and neighborhoods.  The emphasis is on neighborhood-risk mapping and the implementation of low-cost flood reduction and mitigation solutions.

EnergySmart Ann Arbor.  Based on a very successful four-year-old program in Boulder County, Colorado, the City would provide subsidized energy audits in residential and commercial buildings.  Energy advisor would guide owners through the results, and help them navigate available tax credit and state/local incentives.  A number of related services and local policies would multiply the program’s benefits.

A2 Solar for All. The City would sustain and expand two programs that are currently under development – a Group Solar Purchase program that gives residents and businesses cheaper and easier access to installing solar on their properties, and a Community Solar program that lets people purchase affordable shares in third-party solar arrays.  Both programs are modeled on successful efforts around the country.

Charge Up Ann Arbor!   Adopting practices that have worked in Portland, Indianapolis, and elsewhere, the City of Ann Arbor would gradually convert its city vehicle fleet to electric, covering the cost differential with new city capital funds.  It would develop the community’s EV infrastructure by providing matching grants to property owners to install charging stations, and by continuing to install stations at public facilities.

A2 Green Grants.  Modeled on long-standing programs in Seattle and Indianapolis, the City would provide grants – up to $5,000 per ward – for community-driven projects that enhance and strengthen neighborhoods, including ideas like community rain gardens, neighborhood-based emergency preparedness, or many other ideas.

The City Administrator and City staff will be working over the coming months to develop the City’s 2017-19 budget, which gets submitted to the Ann Arbor City Council for adoption in May.  We’ll be watching the process to make sure climate action moves forward, and to make sure the City backs up its strong words with real action, and real money.

Published on December 27, 2016