Homer, AK Climate Action Plan

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Homer, AK, US

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Type: Policy

Status: Released in December 2007

Source File: http://www.ci.homer.ak.us/CLPL.pdf


(The plan is housed in a 50-page document. To view or print it, refer to the source file.)

The idea for a local “climate action plan” for Homer began when Mayor Jim Hornaday attended a national climate change conference in Girdwood, Alaska in September 2006. The Homer City Council supported the Mayor’s request to establish a local Global Warming Task Force through approval of Resolution 06-141(A) in January 2007. The 12-member task force began work immediately to solicit ideas and information from the public and other sources and prepare recommendations to forward to the Mayor and Council by the end of the year. In March, Homer joined the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), as one of more than 700 local governments participating in the Cities for Climate Protection Campaign. Later, Homer accepted an invitation to participate in the pilot phase of ICLEI’s Climate Resilient Communities program, which focuses on adaptation to climate change.

The impetus for action by the City of Homer was the growing recognition that global climate change is real, it is due primarily to human activities, and it will have catastrophic consequences if immediate action is not taken to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Soon after the task force began its work, the urgency of the situation was highlighted by the release of the fourth assessment report (AR4) by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s most expert body on global climate change. In May 2007, the IPCC released a draft Summary Report for Policy Makers that presents compelling evidence to indicate that global greenhouse gas emissions must peak no later than 2015, be 50-85% less in 2050 than they were in 2000, and remain below a concentration of approximately 450 parts per million (CO2- equivalent) to prevent a global mean temperature increase greater than 2.0 to 2.4 degrees C. Beyond this threshold, “serious or catastrophic” impacts can be expected. (These include sea level rise, widespread flooding, crop failures, water shortages, extreme weather events, and loss of biodiversity.)

On 16 November 2007, just as this Climate Action Plan was being finalized, the IPCC released its “Summary for Policymakers of the Synthesis Report of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report” in which it concluded with unprecedented language the urgency to initiate meaningful measures within the next two to three years to combat global climate change.

Because high latitude regions of the planet are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of global climate change, Alaska has been described as “ground zero” for global warming. Melting sea ice is one of the most visible changes and one which is threatening northern coastal communities as well as marine mammals that depend on the ice for survival. In addition, Alaska’s forests and fisheries are at high risk from global climate change.

Local governments throughout the United States have also been motivated to address climate change at the local level in part because state governments and the federal government have simply failed to do so. It is hoped that action at the local level will not only have a significant direct effect on CO2 emissions, it will also help create pressure for meaningful action at the state and federal level, which will in turn help spur the economic and technological changes needed worldwide.

In keeping with the science as presented by the IPCC and other sources and following the example of many other governments, this Climate Action Plan recommends a greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of 12 percent by 2012 and 20 percent by 2020, using 2000 levels as a baseline. Utilizing software tools provided by ICLEI, the task force estimated Year 2000 emissions (using actual data from 2006) and established “business as usual” forecasts through the year 2020 for both local government and the Homer community as a whole (within city limits).

At the same time, the task force began researching possible interventions that could be undertaken by the City of Homer to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These “mitigation” recommendations are grouped in this plan under the headings of Energy Management (which primarily looks at improving energy efficiency in buildings and developing sources of renewable energy to power City facilities); Transportation (in relation to the City vehicle fleet, employee driving, and support for non-motorized and public transportation in the community); Purchasing & Waste Reduction (includes “thoughtful purchasing” and recycling strategies); and Land Use (e.g., “smart growth” strategies that support compact, mixed-use development and thus reduce the need to drive). Outreach & Advocacy was included as a separate category in recognition that 1) public education will help bring about community-wide reductions in greenhouse gas emissions; 2) efforts in Homer will be greatly assisted by policy changes at the borough, state, and federal levels and within Homer Electric Association; and 3) action at higher levels of government is urgently needed as part of a global response to mitigate climate change.

Adaptation to global climate change is addressed separately in the plan, to focus attention on the fact that Homer’s climate is changing and will continue to change even if global greenhouse gas reduction goals are met. Recommendations are aimed at creating a resilient local economy, protecting existing infrastructure, being prepared for extreme weather events and wildfires, and adopting wise policies for future development.

Finally, the Climate Action Plan addresses implementation as a separate chapter and proposes the establishment of a “Sustainability Fund” to serve as a repository for money from various sources that would be used to implement the measures recommended in the plan. Implementation strategies reflect concerns heard from many members of the public that the plan must not be allowed to “sit on a shelf.” If Homer’s Climate Action Plan is used as intended, the community will see immediate local benefits and perhaps make a contribution to the global effort to combat climate change far beyond what most small towns have achieved.