Council Approves Mayor’s Climate Action Plan

Lincoln, NE (March 22, 2021)  The City Council has approved a resolution adding the Mayor’s Climate Action Plan to Lincoln’s Comprehensive Plan.  The 180 page plan lays out broad concepts for cutting the City’s Carbon Footprint and hardening utilities against expected climate change.

In a three hour Public Hearing, the Council heard numerous shades of support and opposition. Those who testified in favor generally agreed that climate change is real and that each City needs to do its part to address it.  Many of those who testified against it pointed out that the plan has no estimated cost of implementation.

The Mayor’s Representative, Miki Esposito, told Council members the plan came about because of a recognition for the need to significantly reduce greenhouse gases.  “What we’re learning about climate change is that it impacts us locally, and requires us to develop a system, policies and infrastructure to handle a wide range of severe conditions, including wild, unpredictable, extreme weather events.”

As to the complaints about no cost estimate, Esposito said the Council first needs to adopt a general strategy in order to allow her to develop cost estimates.  She added that having a general strategy in place would also help in asking for financial help from the State and Federal Governments.

Consultant Kim Morrow, who helped develop the plan, said Lincoln is not alone.  “Around the Country and around the Globe, Cities, States, Corporations and Counties are making commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, transition to renewable energy, and increase their resilience to climate change.”

After numerous members of the Public appeared before the Council, both criticizing the praising the plan, Council members discussed and rejected a motion to delay action on the plan for one more week.  Councilman Roy Christensen proposed the delay, saying a major amendment had been handed to council members shortly before the meeting began.  Christensen said he wanted to give the public the chance to read through the amendment and comment to individual Council members before the vote.  His motion was rejected 5-1.

During comments before the vote, Christensen said he believes that climate change is real and needs action.  His was the lone “no” vote.  “Some of the aspects of this plan, I believe, go too far and some do not go far enough.  I believe this plan could be made better by being narrowed, by being cost defined, and ultimately being affordable to all Lincoln citizens.”

Council Member Jayne Raybould said the plan makes sense because it requires a cost benefit analysis whenever future improvements are voted on.  “I’m excited about this climate action plan and for our community’s future that we as businesses and community members can work together on and continue to build on.”

Council member Tammy Ward said she, like many who testified at Monday’s Public Hearing, is concerned about complete lack of any estimate of the future cost of implementing the plan. She agreed with the Mayor’s office, however, in saying that passing a general plan is required before asking the federal and state governments for help.  “We do have to have an action plan so we can leverage some State and Federal dollars so we can implement the plan, and that’s important.”

Council member Sandra Washington said she supported the plan because it looks ahead.  “This plan has a lot of different initiatives and strategies that suggest ways we might go about being more prepared, better prepared.”

Council Chair Richard Meginnis said he agreed with many of those who testified in opposition, expressing doubts about the plan because it contains no cost estimates, and provides no way to gauge its effect on Lincoln’s economy. He made it clear his “yes” vote is conditional.  “There’s going to be canaries in the mine for me.  If one starts to drop, and they start to drop, this plan had better be adaptable and be able to move.”