Dear Mayor Stewart and Councilmembers,
We applaud the City Council for its 2019 resolution recognizing that the world is in a climate emergency. We applaud the Council for directing city staff to identify the most ambitious local actions possible based on city authority and resources. Those proposed strategies from staff, now in hand, cover buildings, transportation, renewable energy, and more – with near-term and longer-term implementation. The effectiveness and equity responsibilities associated with each of these ideas must be further discussed and improved in the coming months and years.
However, three key commitments must be added right now to the City Council’s draft “Climate Change Emergency Response” resolution. A vote on a final resolution is scheduled for March 4th. Here are the three commitments:
1. Energy efficiency: The Council must explicitly commit to putting in place in 2020 a structure, policy, and ambitious timetable for achieving energy efficiency assessments for Takoma Park buildings over the next decade. Buildings account for more than 53% percent of our city’s emissions. The data gleaned from initial building surveys would be used to establish energy efficiency benchmarks for single-family homes, multi-family buildings, and commercial buildings moving forward. This data will help motivate improvements while identifying buildings with the highest-priority efficiency needs. A failure to explicitly commit to citywide building efficiency assessments will dilute the very core of our emissions reduction initiative.
2. “Net zero” greenhouse gas emissions by 2035. The Council must commit to achieving the objective of net zero status by 2035 – not just “moving toward” that objective. The city’s current draft climate resolution states that the city “will continue to move aggressively toward” net zero status. This is just an aspirational goal on paper that is no different than thousands of other US cities that are not making enough progress on climate. Our resolution must be improved to say we will achieve this status by 2035. The term “net zero” simply means that our emissions from fossil fuels in 2035 will be no greater than our “carbon offsets” through tree planting and other means. Carbon fuels will still be combusted in our city in 2035, but at such a low level that we can “offset” those emissions through low-cost carbon “sequestration” efforts and measures like joining initiatives to incentivize regional farmers to employ no-till agriculture. With the state of Maryland on a policy trajectory toward 100% carbon free electricity within a generation, and with electric vehicles expected to dominate global markets by 2035 or sooner, and with heat pump technology advancing now for space and water heating through electricity, it should be an explicit goal of Takoma Park to achieve net zero status by 2035.
3. The Council must commit our city to being free of all fossil fuel sales by 2045. The original draft of the “Climate Change Emergency Response” resolution called for “eliminating all fossil fuel sales within the City of Takoma Park no later than December 31, 2045.” Unfortunately, the current draft resolution says the City should “move to a fossil fuel-free community by 2045, assuming that technologies and policies make renewably produced energy readily available.” The latter, again, is an aspirational goal that does not explicitly commit our city to the sort of ambitious actions climate scientists say we need before mid-century. Renewable energy WILL be readily available for all people by 2045 if cities like Takoma Park commit to more than just words and we make this status our explicit objective by 2045. Some European car makers have already pledged to stop producing gas-powered cars by 2035 and our own state of Maryland is on a policy course toward 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040. Takoma Park must commit to a fossil-free status by 2045 as a new standard to inspire and help move other cities, counties, and our nation toward the pollution-free world that we owe to our children.
Residents of Takoma Park, Maryland