In the next weeks, Ashland is finalizing the city’s two-year budget. One of the decisions is whether to fund a dedicated staff person to reach Ashland’s climate goals, including reducing our climate pollution by 8 percent per year. This is an aggressive target, but scientists say we need to hit it to have a chance of avoiding the worst impacts of climate change and transition to clean energy in a way that creates jobs and keeps long-term energy costs low.
A dedicated staff person is recommended in the Climate and Energy Action Plan our City Council passed unanimously in March. A staff person would help coordinate efforts to reduce emissions and support and integrate other pressing issues — such as affordable power, water, transportation and affordable housing — with our response to climate change. The Climate Ordinance the city will be voting on will legally commit the city to tracking our progress toward these crucial climate action goals, empowering residents and city staff with data needed for informed problem-solving.
Writing from the perspective of a father of two young adults and an Ashland High School senior, we both relate to the fear of a world of climate chaos as well as the excitement of shaping our community as we take on this issue. Our reasons for wanting the city to take action are different, since we come from different generations, have different hopes and aspirations and possibly even different political perspectives. One of us is looking at retirement, the other at joining the workforce for the first time. Yet can’t we all relate to a desire to inherit a healthy world of opportunity? And don’t we all want to pass along such a world to our children and grandchildren?
We hear many young adults say, “climate change is the most personal issue ever. It affects if I can feel safe about having a family.” As a community, we are being called to take positive action. Ashland has the opportunity to create a model for climate action for cities everywhere. Rather than waiting for state or federal leadership, isn’t it time to take action locally?
The best way to take on climate change is to create sustainable communities. To be successful, our city governments must be willing to help change our infrastructure so the path to dealing with climate change is fully integrated with other important issues. For example, creating more energy-efficient housing and implementing smart grid technology in our utility system will not only lower emissions but also the cost of energy over the long term. However, these are not actions Ashland residents can do alone. A qualified city staff member is required to coordinate and organize these efforts.
If we continue with a business-as-usual approach and simply add climate action as one more thing the city needs to work on, we will fail. Not just in our goals to reduce our footprint by 8 percent per year, but also in our responsibility to support our youth.
We urge the City Council to 1) allocate money to hire a full-time person to oversee climate action immediately, 2) pass the ordinance requiring the city to meet the goals laid out in the Climate Action Plan, and 3) change the culture of how our city government works so that climate action is integrated into all planning decisions.
We have the opportunity to drive a strategic process that supports our entire community, our local economy, and each one of us as we turn the challenge of addressing climate change into an opportunity to create a thriving sustainable community, create jobs and save money in the long term. The Ashland Budget Committee will be voting on whether to fund this position at 6 p.m. May 25. Please join us, wearing blue, to show your support for climate action in Ashland and contact your City Council members to urge them to take these actions without delay!
— Chris Buckley is a senior at Ashland High School and a member of Ashland Youth Climate Action. Ken Crocker is the father of two daughters, a retired computer engineer at Intel Corp., a volunteer with Rogue Climate, and the board chairman of the Geos Institute.