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Since coming here in 1964. I've been happy to be a Fayetteville citizen, but I'm happier still since scanning the city's new Energy Action Plan.

A search at the city's Web site (http://www.fayetteville-ar.gov) will find a description and the 88-page document. The plan is a model of rational forward-looking citizenship, so much so that it was a moving experience for me to read it. It's an example of the kind of work humankind needs to do. Our planet has the technical wherewithal and resources to give everyone a decent, fulfilling life. But irrational mistakes have created roadblocks that can spell disaster, such as climate change, terrorists and nuclear weapons. This plan works for energy solutions that will benefit Fayetteville while helping achieve decent lives for all people, and works against humankind's biggest long-term roadblock: climate change.

The Energy Action Plan is a "citizen's science" gem. It's clear, understandable and, crucially, it provides evidence. The City Council authorized the plan's development last February, introduced the completed plan on Dec. 19, and wisely put off formal adoption to give citizens more time to study it.

The plan's central theme, climate change, shows up throughout. Mayor Lioneld Jordan: "Fayetteville is committed to working with leaders of other cities, states, universities and businesses to combat climate change by supporting a low-carbon economy."

The plan's goals derive from the 1992 Kyoto Protocol and 2015 Paris Agreement committing global leaders to reducing carbon emissions. It refers extensively to the Paris Agreement to hold the global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius. Essentially all 197 nations signed it. But in 2017 President Trump pulled the United States out of the agreement. America's response was a heartwarming groundswell of sensible thinking: 2,500 American governors, businesses, investors, universities, and mayors, including Mayor Jordan, joined the "We Are Still In" movement, pledging to achieve the agreement's goals. The movement represents 127 million Americans and $6.2 trillion of the U.S. economy.

The plan aims to reduce city greenhouse emissions by 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050, when the city should run entirely on renewable sources. The main emission sources, in order of importance, are electricity production, vehicles, non-electrical natural gas burning, and waste and landfill emissions. The city will meet its goals by embracing four specific healthy practices: transportation modes other than automobiles, energy sources other than oil, energy-efficient buildings, and waste reduction.

Fayetteville Sustainability Director Peter Nierengarten and four city associates developed the plan with input from a stakeholder group that included engineers, energy utilities, environmental lawyers, economists and city councilors, plus a spectrum of city staff members.

Fayettevillers are ready and eager for this kind of action. A community survey last January concluded 70 percent want the city to prioritize climate change planning. Emission reductions are certainly possible: The city reduced per capita emissions by 10 percent from 2010 through 2016 even without this plan. But reaching the desired 80 percent reduction by 2050 will be hard, especially if we maintain our 2 to 3 percent population growth rate that will more than double our population by then. The plan displays a revealing graph showing Fayetteville's projected emissions would nearly double by 2050 under the status quo, but would drop by 80 percent under the plan.

Even though citizens are overwhelmingly positive about this plan's goals, those goals won't come easily. Individual efforts to install renewable energy, drive less, etc., will certainly help and are certainly welcome, but as City Council member Matt Petty perceptively mentioned, they won't suffice. Large institutional and social reforms are required. For example, we must be serious about: mass transit, recycling more and trashing less, stopping sprawl while promoting infill, walking and bicycling, energy efficiency codes for buildings, and our ultimate sources of energy.

This would all be much easier if America would adopt the rational solution to carbon emissions, namely a price on emissions such as the "carbon fee and dividend" program advocated by the Citizens Climate Lobby. A fee that would eventually surpass $100 per ton of emitted carbon dioxide, and whose proceeds would be returned equally to all Americans, would immediately yield major emission reductions.

This plan will have a long-lasting effect on our city, the way the 2004 Downtown Master Plan and 2006 City Plan has a long-lasting effect in increasing infill, promoting walkability and much more. Adoption should be further delayed to bring it to more people's attention.

Kudos to Peter Nierengarten, Mayor Jordan, the City Council and many others for their road map to a better city and a better world.

Commentary on 01/02/2018

Print Headline: City eyes energy action plan

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