Ann Arbor's City Council has declared a "climate emergency." That includes the aggressive goal of reaching carbon neutrality for all of Ann Arbor by 2030.
The declaration is in line with a consensus among climate scientists: that humans need to move much faster in reducing carbon emissions if they wish to avoid the worst effects of a rapidly warming globe.
Carbon neutrality means making major cuts in carbon dioxide emissions combined with efforts to offset the emissions that remain, to reach zero overall.
Missy Stults is the city's sustainability and innovations manager. Stults says this an "all-hands-on-deck" moment, and responding to the climate crisis will require businesses, the city, residents and nonprofits to work together.
She says carbon neutrality for an entire community means examining every aspect of life, and changing it, from transportation, to food and product waste, to building norms and ordinances.
One idea is to have Ann Arbor cut red tape and provide expert advice to make it easier for companies and residents to afford and install solar panels or energy efficiency measures; help people secure low or zero-interest loans; and cut deals with solar and energy efficiency companies.
"If we help get people interested in energy efficiency improvements, let's say, will you (business owner) agree to reduce the cost for everybody by x percent," says Stulz.
Other ideas include ordinances that require businesses in the city to identify energy waste, and homeowners to get an energy-efficiency "grade" prior to listing a home.
"Folks who have a lot of energy waste - that's where we want to start," she says.
Stulz says the city will need to improve public transportation, encourage electric vehicle adoption, reduce food and product waste, as well as focus on lower-income residents who might otherwise be left out of the energy transformation, which will be costly.
The city will hold a carbon neutrality town hall on November 13th at Cobblestone Farm to kick off the initiative and gather ideas from the public.
City council has directed City Administrator Howard Lazarus to draft a 2030 carbon-neutrality plan for the city prior to the 50th anniversary of Earth Day next April.
Stults says Ann Arbor will also ask nearby towns and counties to join the effort.