Council adopts Environmental Action Plan 2040

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By Arya Hodjat | ahodjat@alextimes.com

Council voted unanimously to adopt the city’s updated Environmental Action Plan 2040 at its July 9 public hearing, pledging a 50 percent reduction of the city’s carbon output by 2030.

The city’s targeted emission reductions match those outlined by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which warned in 2018 that “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” would be required to prevent catastrophe as a result of global warming.

The city passed its first EAP in 2009. The process to update that plan began in 2017. Council voted unanimously to adopt the first part of EAP2040 — concerning energy, climate change, green buildings, land use and open space and waste — in October 2018.

The section of the EAP update council adopted on July 9 concerned five other focus areas for the environment, according to a city news release: transportation, air quality, water, health and outreach.

“It is a well written document with every word carefully chosen and is the product of much community input and collaboration,” Councilor Del Pepper said in her newsletter. “Earlier, Alexandria was the leader in the region with its environmental initiatives. This document is the map that guides our way to again being that leader.”

Brendan Owens, a member of the city’s Environmental Policy Commission, told council that the plan would help the city enact its updated Green Building Policy, which council adopted on June 22. The new policy sets stricter environmental standards for new public and private developments in the city.

“The EAP updates … should increase the positive impacts of the 2019 Green Building Policy by prioritizing legislative action that will allow Alexandria to leverage public and private infrastructure to deliver green buildings more efficiently,” Owens said at the meeting.

Owens also said that the EAP could “expand our aspirations” beyond new development.

“Alexandria is not going to build its way out of the climate crisis,” Owens said. “Addressing the buildings we already have is critical.”

Other policy goals outlined in the EAP dealt with the city’s infrastructure, including fully replacing the city’s municipal vehicle fleet with electric vehicles by 2040 and converting 95 percent of the city’s street lights to LED lighting by 2021.

Councilor Mo Seifeldein asked the committee how the updated EAP would affect the city’s affordable housing stock, which has steadily decreased in the past two decades.

Stephanie Free, an urban planner with the Department of Planning and Zoning, said it was not the staff’s goal to prioritize one over the other.

“Rather than creating a competitive environment between where a developer would have to choose between green building or affordable housing, we’re prioritizing the affordable housing component of the bonus density,” Free said.

Seifeldein said that while he “wanted some more on some things,” he appreciated the thoroughness of the plan.

Mayor Justin Wilson said the passage of the EAP was “a long time coming.” “

This is the city’s acknowledgement that there is a great and dire urgency to address the climate crisis,” Wilson said. “It touches so many areas of city policy, and really the only way we’re gonna do this is with a comprehensive approach.

(City sells $5.3 million worth of Old Town public property)

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