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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.

In 2016, the city of Flagstaff produced about 20.7 metric tons of greenhouse gases per person, up from 19.9 metric tons per person in 2015.

In an effort to reduce the city’s carbon footprint and take action against climate change, the city is working to create a climate action plan, which will list steps the city can take to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for climate changes.

The process for creating the plan began in October, when the city awarded a consulting contract to Cascadia Consulting and began the technical analysis, which included validation of the city’s greenhouse gas inventories and analyzing trends and creating projection modeling, Jenny Niemann, the city’s climate and energy specialist, told the Flagstaff City Council at a meeting Tuesday night.

The average temperature in Coconino County is around 52 degrees, Neimann said in her presentation, which displayed data of the average temperature every year since 1895. The data showed the average fluctuating, at times, dipping lower than 50 degrees and peaking at nearly 55 degrees twice during the recording period. However, the data also showed an increase in the county’s average temperature since about 1980, and since 1995, the average temperature for the year only dipped below 52 degrees twice.

“We see a pretty clear upward trend since 1980,” Niemann said in her presentation.

Part of the research is trying to mesh personal experiences about the climate in Flagstaff with the historical data.

“We know there are a lot of anecdotal stories, so we will match data with what the residents see,” Neimann said.

The city is seeking the community’s input before the first draft of the plan is created, and it will host a series of open houses. The first open house, scheduled for January 24, will talk about climate change basics and Flagstaff's carbon emissions and projections. The public will hen be asked for suggestions for possible climate actions.

“A lot of people seem excited about the plan,” Niemann told the council.

She has been hosting monthly “coffee and climate” meetings where citizens can chat with her about their concerns and thoughts about the climate and the city’s approach. Her last meeting had about 10 attendees, she said.

So far, much of the effort is focused on public outreach.

“We want everyone in the city to have heard that there is a climate plan, we don’t want anyone to be surprised,” she said.

Along with the plan, the city also will hold a “Student Climate Action Challenge.” Any student, school or group can participate, and students will create a climate action project focused on either water, energy, food or biodiversity.

At the end of the challenge, there will be a “Flagstaff Youth Climate Summit,” and the top three projects will receive an award, Niemann said.

Niemann also included a list of possible projects the city could decide to easily implement that would help further the council’s goal of meaningful climate action. Among the projects listed were expanding the city’s energy efficiency rebate program, creating public electric vehicle charging stations, and a city facility energy audit and lighting upgrade.

However, the projects listed are only possibilities, and the council will decide what funds to allocate for projects through its budget process, Niemann said.

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

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City Government and Development Reporter

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

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