By Hilary Corrigan

The Bulletin

Possible action on climate change

The Bend City Council is considering draft laws that would create a Climate Action Commission and a Climate Action Program. The proposed commission would craft plans laying out ways to reach targets and deadlines to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel use. The draft laws call for these deadlines:

2030

• for city government operations to reach a “carbon neutral” status, meaning that city operations would emit no greenhouse gases or obtain offsets — such as through tree plantings or buying renewable energy — for any emissions

• for city government to reduce its fossil fuel use by 40 percent of the level used in 2010 or in more recent years

• for all businesses and individuals in the city to collectively reduce the city’s per capita fossil fuel use by 40 percent of the level used in 2010 or in more recent years

2050

• for city government to reduce its fossil fuel use by 70 percent of the level used in 2010 or in more recent years

• for all businesses and individuals to collectively reduce the city’s per capita fossil fuel use by 70 percent of the level used in 2010 or in more recent years

The city of Bend will consider creating a commission and setting deadlines to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel use throughout the city.

The Bend City Council will take up two draft laws related to climate change during a work session Wednesday, but will not vote at that public meeting.

One proposal would create a Climate Action Commission and a Climate Action Program. The commission would advise the council and would craft plans laying out ways to reach overarching targets and deadlines to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel use. The other draft law would set specific deadlines for city government operations to reduce their greenhouse gas emission and fossil fuel use and for city residents and businesses to collectively reduce the city’s fossil fuel use.

“I think it makes sense,” city Councilor Nathan Boddie said Friday of the proposal, noting threats from climate change and Bend’s position as a mountain town that depends on winter tourism and water from the snowpack. “I think if we don’t do it, we’d be in trouble.”

The draft law calls for city government operations to reach a “carbon neutral” status by 2030, meaning that city operations would emit no greenhouse gases or would get offsets — such as through tree plantings or purchasing renewable energy — for any emissions. The law would set a 2030 deadline for city government to reduce its fossil fuel use by 40 percent of the level used in 2010, or in more recent years. It would set a 2050 deadline for the city government to reduce its fossil fuel use by 70 percent of that baseline.

The proposal also calls for a 2030 deadline for all businesses and individuals in the city to collectively reduce the city’s per capita fossil fuel use by 40 percent of the level used in 2010 or in more recent years. And it would set a 2050 deadline for businesses and residents to reduce the city’s per capita fossil fuel use by 70 percent.

Councilor Victor Chudowsky said he supports reviewing city operations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save energy, noting the chance to save money for the city. But he wants to hear more details about how the proposal might affect residents and businesses.

“There’s still a lot of work that has to be done,” Chudowsky said, questioning whether it’s a realistic goal to call for the city to reach a carbon-neutral status and whether such efforts would cost the city money. He also questioned part of the proposal that mentioned enforcement.

“We need a lot more clarity about that,” he said. “I’m open to listening, but these are my initial concerns.”

Councilor Casey Roats also had concerns, wondering about overall expenses and costs for the community. He questioned how to measure any improvements under the effort. And he wondered whether the city’s attention to the issue would pull its focus from core functions like transportation, water, sewer and planning for a “fairly nebulous pursuit of something that’s hard to measure.”

The effort came from community and environmental groups looking to do proactive planning on climate change, said Gillian Ockner, a senior policy analyst for the city. The commission would consider any possible ways to reach the targets the proposal calls for, and Ockner expects the effort would look at other cities that have already set similar plans, such as Ashland and Eugene.

She also expects the council to discuss questions such as the legality of making the city accountable for changes that residents may make.

“I haven’t seen it written this way in other cities,” Ockner said of language that calls for individuals to collectively reduce the city’s fuel use.

Boddie does not expect costs to businesses or any mandates, although there may be “small potatoes” costs in starting up the commission and the effort, he said.

Bend Mayor Jim Clinton said the city lacks the resources, staff and money for a big, serious effort and does not aim to create bureaucratic requirements. There are still many opportunities for conservation in every area of society and the city continues to try to make its operations more efficient, Clinton said.

But to address the residential and business sectors, “That gets a little — that gets a lot — trickier,” he said. The city can set goals, but how to translate those goals into policy and implement them — “That’s gonna be the rub,” Clinton said.

Clinton sees the commission exploring such areas as creating incentives for homebuilders and designers to create homes that use less energy; setting an energy rating system so that homebuyers could easily compare the costs of lighting, heating and cooling different homes; or offering to fast-track development plans or reduce related fees for development plans that incorporate energy efficiency in new homes.

Clinton expects to hear concerns from businesses about costs. But not everything has to be about making it easier for businesses to make more money, he said.

“That’s a decent goal, but it’s not the only goal. There’s something called the public interest,” he said, calling climate change “the ultimate public interest problem.”

Clinton supports coming up with a way to review effective and reasonable actions that the city can take.

“Taken as a whole, you have more thunderstorms, more tornadoes, more hurricanes, more giant cyclones,” Clinton said, noting melting glaciers and higher temperatures. “The magnitude of the problem requires serious action.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7812,

hcorrigan@bendbulletin.com

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