The Ashland City Council adopted the goal of reducing carbon emissions, but declined to enact an ordinance requiring the city to meet that goal. That disappointed activists, including Ashland High School students, but it was the right decision.

The carbon reduction goal was among several in the city's Climate and Energy Action Plan, the product of more than a year of meetings. The plan also calls for the city to be carbon-neutral by 2030 and to reduce fossil fuel use 50 percent by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.

Even Councilor Rich Rosenthal, who supported an ordinance, called the plan a "moon shot."

It's one thing to set lofty goals and try to reach them. It's quite another to hold the city accountable for missing a mark that may not be realistic.

One high school student said middle-school students are more afraid of climate change than of cancer. That's an apt comparison. Both threaten the health and well-being of humanity; both are difficult to cure.

But imagine setting a goal of curing cancer by, say, 2050 — and then enacting a law holding medical researchers responsible if they fall short.

That's not saying we shouldn't pursue a cure, or work to reduce carbon emissions. But as Councilor Mike Morris noted, the city itself is responsible for only 2 percent of carbon emissions in Ashland. Should the city compel residents to stop driving cars so it can comply with an ordinance?

Pursue the goal; don't set the city up to fail.