Council considers 2040 Environmental Action Plan

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By Arya Hodjat | ahodjat@alextimes.com

Council discussed the city’s updated Environmental Action Plan, which includes a targeted 50 percent reduction of city greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, and an 80 percent reduction by 2050, at its meeting Tuesday evening.

Earlier this year, the city began the update process for its Environmental Action Plan 2040, which council adopted in 2009. Council adopted the phase one update of the EAP in October of 2018.

The phase one update established short term goals for five areas: energy, climate change, green building, land use and open space and solid waste. Council is slated to adopt the phase two update of the EAP in the next month.

Phase two establishes action items and goals for five additional areas: transportation; air quality; water resources; environment and health; and implementation, outreach and education.

The city’s Environmental Policy Commission presented council with an overview of the update at Tuesday’s meeting. Councilor Del Pepper called the plan “aspirational,” but added such lofty goals were necessary, given the severity of the problem.

“If there’s gonna be any change, it’s gonna come from communities like ours figuring out what they can do for their little bit,” Pepper said.

The city’s targeted emission reduction rate by 2030 that is outlined in the plan matches recommendations provided by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2018, which warned that “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” would be needed by 2030 to avoid global catastrophe.

The EPC also detailed environmental accomplishments the city has achieved since 2009. These included closing the GenOn power plant and achieving 95 percent compliance with the city’s Green Building Policy, according to the EPC presentation.

Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker asked if the city had the infrastructure to implement the changes outlined in the plan, and whether the plan was up to par with the actions of neighboring jurisdiction, such as Arlington.

“It’s hard to compare, apples to apples, about different municipalities,” City Sustainability Coordinator Ellen Eggerton said. “But looking at other regional plans, ours is particularly aspirational… we have a comparable plan to Arlington.”

Councilor Mo Sefieldein said he was a fan of the proposal to have more of the city’s vehicle fleet – including DASH buses – run on electricity, but remained pessimistic overall.

“I think we’re already doomed,” he said with a laugh.

Praveen Kathpal, the chair of the environmental policy commission, proposed that the city implement an annual “carbon budget” to go along with its fiscal budget.

More information on the EAP update is available at www.alexandriava.gov/ecocity.

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