It was inspiring to see local high school students make their voices heard in calling for the city to commit to reducing its carbon footprint. Along the way, they learned some valuable lessons about government.

The students were advocating for the city's Climate and Energy Action Plan. The plan, which was the result of more than a year of meetings, calls on the city to be carbon-neutral by 2030 and to reduce fossil fuel use 50 percent by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.

Last spring, the City Council approved the goals, but stopped short of enacting an ordinance requiring the city to meet them. This frustrated not only the students but plenty of adults as well.

Over the summer, they kept up the pressure, attending council meetings and writing letters to the editor and guest opinions that were published on these pages.

Council members were sympathetic, but understandably reluctant to commit the city to specific reductions it might not be able to meet, which could expose it to the possibility of lawsuits for failing to comply with its own ordinance.

In the end, the council approved an ordinance rewritten to make the carbon reduction goals aspirational rather than mandatory. That's less than activists wanted, but more than they initially got.

Their work didn't stop with Tuesday's vote. In the end, it won't be what's in the ordinance that matters, but what the city accomplishes, and that will depend on continued vigilance from the students and their fellow activists.