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Climate Change Discussion Gets Heated 

Bend City Council to continue fine-tuning climate action plan

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At last week's City Council meeting, Mayor Jim Clinton asked his fellow council members, "Do you think city government facilities and operations should have a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?" They all said yes. Then he asked, "Do you think the community, at large, should have a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emission?" The answer was again yes, but with concerns raised by council member Victor Chudowsky that led to a heated exchange between Chudowsky and councilor Barb Campbell.

Chudowsky suggested that the city focus on specific actions rather than goals that may not be achievable due to circumstances that the city can't control, including economic fluctuations that consume more fossil fuels when the economy is hot and less when it is not.

"Rather than focusing on community goals and percentage reductions, focus on actually doing things," he suggested.

"I don't understand what you are saying," Campbell responded, and charged, "You don't want to have a plan."

Chudowsky replied, "You are putting words in my mouth."

The city's draft resolution for its climate action plan states: "By the year 2030 the city will make all City of Bend owned facilities and city operations carbon neutral, defined as zero net emissions of greenhouse gases." The resolution also states that by 2030, "The City of Bend organization will reduce its fossil fuel use by 40 ­percent and 70 percent by 2050."

The council stopped short of suggesting those same standards be extended to the private sector, but Mayor Clinton told the Source Weekly that he believes a majority of the council wants to extend the same goals community wide and he expects that discussion to occur at the next Council meeting, slated for Sept. 7. He says extending the 40/70 reduction goals is in keeping with the Paris Climate Change Agreement negotiated by 195 nations and adopted by consensus on Dec. 12, 2015.

The city resolution under consideration addresses the private sector. "Community wide (including businesses, governmental and non-governmental organizations, and individuals that live and/or work in Bend) fossil fuel reduction targets will be set through a collaborative process." Fossil fuel usage from 2010, or more recent years, will be used to establish a baseline for setting community-wide targets. Timelines would mirror City of Bend government targets. Mayor Clinton says nearly 200 businesses in Bend have signed on in support of the resolution.

Councilor Chudowsky, who says he will not run for re-election, also expressed concerns that a climate action plan should not address personal behavior such as food consumption and diet. Councilor Doug Knight responded, "This resolution in no way contemplates dietary direction. We're not going to tell people what to eat, how to wash their clothes or flush their toilets." Knight said the plan is an extension of what Bend represents. Mayor Clinton labels Chudowsky's concerns as "strawman arguments."

The Council also debated using softer language for its 2030 and 2050 goals. Rather than stating that the city will achieve a 40 percent reduction by 2030 and a 70 percent reduction of fossil fuels by 2050, Knight suggested less rigid language. "We will seek to achieve these goals by 2030 and 2050," he suggested.

The Council also agreed that a steering committee should be established in the 2017 budget cycle that would be staffed by a member of the City Manager's office. The Climate Action Steering Committee would be composed of 11 members from business, environmental agencies, local government, and institutions like OSU Cascades. At least one member will be 18 years old or younger at the time of initial appointment. The steering committee would help the city develop the overall city climate action plan for city operations and facilities. It would also provide the city with guidance and advice on whether to establish and adopt community and business targets for reduction of fossil fuels, including what those targets should be and how they should be implemented.

Councilor Campbell suggested that the city's climate action plan is "The patriotic thing to do," and follows the Paris Accords on climate change. Mayor Clinton agreed. "We're just joining the rest of the world to reduce carbon fossil fuels. We're going to be part of the leadership and do our part as a city." Addressing those who deny climate change, Clinton says, "There is plenty to worry about. Deniers shouldn't be so confident they are right. What if they aren't?" Using Bend as an example, Clinton told the Source Weekly that, "Bend is more vulnerable than other cities. We need snow and that won't happen if the climate continues to warm."


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