Jackson Joins Paris

By on June 6, 2017

Town pledges to support goals outlined in the Paris climate accord.

(NASA.gov)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – Seeds of change are often sown at the local level. During Monday’s town council meeting, the council reaffirmed its belief in this notion when it joined the growing list of more than 200 cities vowing to uphold the Paris climate accord.

The council unanimously approved a resolution that outlined three commitments: reducing greenhouse gas emissions through a climate action plan; joining other US cities in the Climate Mayors network to adopt and support the goals of the Paris agreement; and a vow to explore the benefits and costs of adopting policies and programs.

The key goal of the Paris accord is to slow the rate at which the earth warms to less than 2 degrees Celsius. But the ways this is reached are to be dictated by each country (and now, American cities).

The resolution is a landmark move for several reasons. Among them, it sends a message that local government condemns President Trump’s decision to pull out of Paris, and it underscores the climate legacy of former Jackson Mayor Mark Barron, who was the first Wyoming mayor to sign the US Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement in 2006. Several local environmental initiatives followed that agreement.

What’s more, the resolution is in stark contrast to the ideals vaunted by Wyoming’s congressional delegation. Both Sens. Barrasso and Enzi urged Trump to withdraw from Paris and Rep. Cheney, along with Barrasso and Enzi, extolled the president’s decision.

“I recognize the threat not just here but to other people less advantaged and less privileged around the world,” Mayor Pete Muldoon said. “There are 194 other countries in the world. Wyoming’s uniquely qualified to take advantage of [renewable energy]. To friends across the state, I hope we can move in a direction that we can take advantage of that.”

In good company

A national declaration released Monday titled “We Are Still In” represents the involvement of 120 million Americans and $6.2 trillion dollars of the U.S. economy. Jackson is now part of an effort that, so far, includes 13 states and territories, and 19 state attorney generals. It’s also joining the ranks of major U.S. cities from New York and Los Angeles to Atlanta and Honolulu. Other mountain communities analogous to Jackson Hole, like Park City, Utah, and Aspen, Colorado, have signed on, too.

In Aspen, it’s not just local government but also the ski industry pledging eco largesse. Auden Schendler, Aspen Skiing Company’s vice president of sustainability, said in the letter: “Aspen Skiing Company isn’t just opposing withdrawal from Paris. We’re going to fight it to the ground, and we’re going to implement the Paris accords ourselves, in our business, in Colorado, and as soon as possible, nationally.”

As of press time, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort had not replied to an email asking if it, too, planned to take similar steps.

Hundreds of businesses from Apple and Microsoft to Amazon and Target have also signed on and almost 200 universities and colleges have thrown their hats in the ring. One of the most integral actors in this effort, though, is former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He helped coordinate the letter, “We Are Still In,” along with Richard Branson of Virgin.

Committing $15 million dollars to the U.N. for climate efforts—promised from Washington under the accord—Bloomberg has already met with French President Emmanuel Macron to assure him the U.S. will do its part, and to propagate that message.

“Through a partnership among American cities, states, and businesses, we will seek to remain part of the Paris agreement process,” Bloomberg said in a statement after meeting with Macron. “The American government may have pulled out of the agreement, but the American people remain committed to it—and we will meet our targets. Through my role as the U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, I will notify the Secretary-General and Climate Change Secretariat that U.S. cities, states, businesses, and others will aim to meet the U.S. commitment to reduce our emissions 26 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.”

“We are already halfway there,” he continued, “and we can accelerate our progress further, even without any support from Washington.”

Local efforts underway and a few things you can do

Jackson and Teton County are part of conservation efforts already effecting demonstrable change in the valley.

The town is committed to a “40 x 20” goal. By the year 2020, it promises to increase energy efficiency and reduce waste and water usage in all town buildings and vehicles by 40 percent. The Energy Conservation Works joint powers board, comprised of representatives from the town and county, Lower Valley Energy, Energy Conservation Works, and the public, is helping facilitate this goal. It focuses on shrinking the carbon footprints of both town and county facilities and individual citizens.

According to the Department of Energy, cities consume 70 percent of energy globally and house 60 percent of the population. A quick look at some of the local numbers points to progress on this front.

The leading source of greenhouse gas in the U.S. comes from burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat and transportation, and buildings account for about 40 percent of all energy used. Town and county buildings have been operating on 100 percent renewable energy since 2007 and 2013 respectively, sourced from Lower Valley’s hydroelectric power. Through Conservation Works, many of these buildings, like the rec center, the library, the waste water treatment plant and town hall, have been converted to energy efficient facilities.

Phil Cameron, executive director of Conservation Works, said this is also “saving the community hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.”

One of the easiest things citizens can do right now, Cameron said, is switch to 100 percent renewable energy through Lower Valley. But there is a trade-off. Opting for renewable energy—in this area it’s wind and hydroelectric—will raise your power bill by 10 to 15 percent. Still, folks like Cameron say if you can afford it, make the switch. “It’s one action that is simple and contributes substantially [to shrinking your carbon footprint],” he said.

Indeed, locals have an appetite for clean energy. In 2016, the amount of renewable energy residents voluntarily purchased climbed 50 percent. This represents an average increase from about 1,200 to 1,800 households. However, these green power subscriptions were not limited to homes, Cameron said. “A significant portion of the increase were businesses opting into the green power program.”

While residents (much to their chagrin) cannot control the deluge of traffic pouring into Jackson, they can, at least sometimes, control how often they choose to get behind the wheel. It’s an obvious solution that now holds additional weight.

Cameron says this means riding START buses in both the winter and summer months, peddling on the new bikeshare bicycles and across the valley’s extensive pathway system, using the new rideshare app Duet, and investing in electric and fuel efficient vehicles.

“People are activated right now,” he said. “We just need to tap into that and let our [behaviors] reflect the values of the community.”

 

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About Robyn Vincent

Robyn is the editor of Jackson Hole Snowboarder Magazine and former editor of Planet Jackson Hole. When she's not sweating deadlines, she likes to travel the world with her notebook and camera in hand. Follow her on Twitter @TheNomadicHeart

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