Questions and Answers about Funding the Ann Arbor Climate Action Plan

City Council Vote Scheduled for November 19

Q: What is the Ann Arbor City Council being asked to vote for on November 19?

A: The City Administrator is requesting a $313,000 budget amendment to expedite some of the provisions of Ann Arbor’s Climate Action Plan.  City staff developed a larger package of high-impact policies and programs that were unanimously endorsed by both Ann Arbor’s Environmental and Energy Commissions.  The original plan was pared down at the request of some City Councilpersons, and at a meeting in October, the full Council postponed action until November 19. The remaining budget request would fund a major clean energy initiative at one of the City’s public housing complexes, and the purchase of three electric vehicle chargers for the City’s new fleet.


Q: What is the Ann Arbor Climate Action Plan?

A: In December 2012, the Ann Arbor City Council passed the Climate Action Plan (CAP), an ambitious multi-strategy vision to reduce our community-wide emissions 90% by 2050, intermediate goals to be achieved in the short- and medium-term. The Climate Plan was developed by City of Ann Arbor staff in cooperation with a broad-range of local stakeholders and leaders, including local NGOs, DTE, and representatives of the University of Michigan.  The CAP identified 84 “Actions” - almost all major projects or programs, not simple tasks - to help achieve the plan’s targets.


Q: Has the City included funding to implement the CAP since its approval?

A: Since was passed, excluding city staff compensation, no more than $100,000 has been allocated to climate action-related programs or projects.  As a result, few of the CAP’s Actions have been implemented.


Q: Where do the proposed climate funds come from?

A: Starting in early 2019, the City will be receiving approximately $2.3 million per year from Washtenaw County as a rebate from the County’s public safety and mental health millage because the City has its own police force.  The City is permitted to use its rebate as it sees fit, and the City Council voted in August 2017 to devote the funds to climate action, affordable housing, and pedestrian safety.


Q: Why do some people object to using the County rebate funds for climate action?

A: It’s been argued that millage voters weren’t aware how the rebate funds would be applied, since the County ballot language did not dictate those terms to local municipalities.  However, the City of Ann Arbor was the only local government that adopted a formal resolution explaining how it intended to use its rebate.


Q: Why should the City spend resources on climate action?  Isn’t this a federal and international issue?

A: Climate change is an issue that every level of government needs to address. Even if the federal government were enacting bold policies to reduce the United States’ climate emissions, local governments -- where decision-making authority rests for land use, housing, roads, and many other key climate factors -- would have to take bold steps forward too.  Unfortunately, the Trump Administration is doing everything in its power to roll back climate protections, so it’s absolutely critical that Ann Arbor and other progressive jurisdictions act on climate now.


Q: It was suggested at the October 15 Council meeting that local climate policy is unnecessary, and that if Ann Arbor residents care so much about addressing the climate crisis, then individuals should all reduce their own carbon footprint by driving less, and by changing other personal behaviors.  Does this mean that local government action is unnecessary?

A: No doubt, personal climate action is very important.  Just last month, the world’s preeminent climate science body, the International Panel on Climate Change, concluded that avoiding the most dire damage of climate change will require a transformation of “the global economy at a speed and scale that has no documented historic precedent.” In other words, the world now needs all of us to take action -- in our homes, in the country’s small and large businesses, and at every level of government.


Q: How much does the City of Ann Arbor spend on climate action?

A: Approximately $560,000 per year -- less than 0.2% of its total annual operating budget of approximately $400,000,000.


Q: Why is consistent, sustained climate action funding necessary in order to make progress against A2’s CAP targets?

A: Climate change is the most important issue of our time - it will impact our health, economy, natural systems, and every other thing we depend on. Climate action isn't a luxury, it's a necessity. No community could make a serious effort to accomplish anything significant without a dedicated and ongoing funding source.  Moreover, in order for projects and community-facing programs to be cost efficient and effective, they need to receive consistent funding. The allocation of the County rebate has not yet been formally appropriated, and is in danger of being revoked.


Published on November 15, 2018