Flagstaff City Council

Pictured from left to right are Councilmembers Eva Putzova, Scott Overton, Mayor Coral Evans, Councilmember Celia Barotz, Vice-Mayor Jamie Whelan, Councilmembers Charlie Odegaard and Jim McCarthy.

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun

City staff have begun the search for a consultant to create the city’s first climate action plan, which will be centered on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and identifying and mitigating effects of climate change on vulnerable communities identified within the city.

The planning process came as a result of the city council’s goal to take meaningful action against climate change, and the council allocated $100,000 to hiring a consultant in its budget for the 2018 fiscal year, which began in July.

Jenny Niemann, the city’s climate and energy specialist, said the plan will set a goal to reduce Flagstaff’s greenhouse gas emissions and specific steps for reducing emissions, outline actions to prepare for climate change and actions that can be taken to adapt to changing climate.

“It’s more cost-effective to be prepared for climate change rather than to try to respond to effects,” Niemann said, citing the Schultz Fire and flood, which cost $130 million in response, as compared to the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project, which costs $10 million, which could avoid a similar situation that could cost $500 million in damages.

Greenhouse gas emissions per Flagstaff resident have increased in most years since 2009, Niemann said in her presentation to the council, decreasing only in 2010 and 2015. In 2016, the city’s per capita emission of carbon dioxide equivalents increased to its highest point in the seven years listed.

Fort Collins, Colo., Phoenix and Salt Lake City can all be used as models to create the plan, Neimann said. Phoenix, which created a municipal plan similar to what Flagstaff’s plan would be, exceeded the goals set in the plan three years early, Niemann said.

So far in her conversations with citizens, Niemann said it became clear people would like to see a plan specific to Flagstaff, which would do vulnerability assessment to identify neighborhoods and populations most susceptible to the effects of climate change, as well as mitigation strategies and analysis on return on investment.

The council will award a contract to a consultant in September, Niemann said. After the contract is awarded, the consultant and the city will spend the next eight months doing community outreach, technical analysis, developing the plan and completing the plan. By the end of summer 2018, the plan is expected to be ready for public comment and approval by the city council.

Three community members addressed the council to voice their support for the plan, and said some citizens had recently formed a group called the Flagstaff Climate Action Council, which they said they hoped would serve as a resource for the city as the plan is created.

The reporter can be reached at cvanek@azdailysun.com or 556-2249.

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Corina Vanek covers city government, city growth and development for the Arizona Daily Sun.

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