Nine out of 10 people in Ashland support an 80 percent or greater greenhouse gas emissions reduction by the year 2030, according to a survey by Southern Oregon University Research Center and Geos Institute.

Ashland’s Climate and Energy Ad Hoc Committee is developing a Climate and Energy Action Plan to reduce our community’s climate pollution. However, our city will be held accountable to the goals in the plan only if an ordinance is passed. An ordinance ensures that our city does the most to tackle this issue.

Our city’s work on the CEAP is essential, but we need to ensure follow-through. In Eugene, a similar plan was adopted by the city but it sat on the shelf for two years. Only after the Eugene City Council adopted an ordinance — the result of a youth-led campaign supported by Our Children’s Trust — did implementation of its CEAP begin.

Ashland does not have two years to wait for climate action — we must pass an ordinance now. A group of local high school students, Ashland Youth Climate Action, have been working to pass a Climate Action Ordinance since the beginning of the CEAP process last spring.

Ashland’s current elected officials will not always be in office; without an ordinance there is no way to ensure future city governments will prioritize climate action. If a future administration decides to shelve the plan, our residents and our tourism-based economy will face “flooding, water shortages, reduced forest health, agricultural disruptions, increased insect infestations ... and increases in health impacts such as respiratory disease, asthma and heat stroke,” impacts identified by Marni Koopman, a climate scientist with the Geos Institute.

According to Dr. James Hansen, a former NASA climatologist, to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, global GHG emissions must be reduced by 8 percent per year. The city’s Climate and Energy Ad Hoc Committee agrees that Ashland must reduce emissions by the same or more to do its part. An ordinance mandating necessary GHG reductions would oblige our city officials to do what world-renowned scientists and our own CEAP ad hoc committee say is needed. Without an ordinance, no such obligation exists.

A recent article in Scientific American titled "Climate Change Hits Poor Hardest in U.S." charts recent research which shows climate change’s impacts will disproportionately affect those with low socioeconomic status in the United States. Until Ashland’s climate action is in line with the best available science, it is responsible for adding hardship to the lives most in need of our support. Adopting a Climate Recovery Ordinance is the clearest and most effective way Ashland can declare its support for our entire community.

A draft Climate Action Ordinance is currently being reviewed by the city attorney. The plan will be before the Ashland City Council next week. Demonstrate your support for science-based, socially equitable and accountable climate action by urging the council to approve the CEAP and support the ordinance at their meeting on Tuesday, March 7 at 7 pm.

— Isaac Bevers is an ex-officio member of the Climate and Energy Ad Hoc Committee and founder of Sustainability Club at Ashland High School. Mina DeVore is a sophomore and co-president of the Ashland High School Sustainability Club.