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U.N. Climate Report Raises Stakes For Columbus Sustainability Efforts

Columbus, Ohio skyline
Wikimedia Commons

Columbus City leaders say the latest U.N. climate report bolsters the case for local efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

The report, from the intergovernmental panel on climate change, paints a bleak portrait for the coming decades, with extreme weather events like heatwaves and rain growing in frequency and intensity. But the researchers also insist we can avoid the worst outcomes by moving to net zero emissions by 2050.

That’s the benchmark Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther set in his Columbus Climate Action Plan. The proposal has been out in draft form since last September, and city leaders plan to finalize the plan later this year.

Erin Beck helps lead local sustainability efforts, and in a statement she said the report, “made it clear that action on climate change can’t wait, and that our future right here in Columbus depends on it.”

The Columbus plan would set goals to push the city to net-zero by shifting to renewable sources to power homes, buildings and cars, among other policy moves.

One significant portion of that transition has already begun, with the city’s clean energy aggregation program. Under that program, city residents default to a clean energy provider. For the first year, the city will rely on renewable energy credits, but officials plan to have new, clean energy generation plants up and running by next summer.

The goals are ambitious, but some environmentalists worry they aren’t aggressive enough early on. The plan sets targets for 2030 and 2050, with the bulk of the transition happening after 2030. Still, the city received plaudits for investing in clean infrastructure rather than relying on credits to provide clean power. A planned workforce development partnership between the city and its energy supplier, AEP Energy, got high marks, too.

In Beck’s description, the climate plan takes on a foundational role in how the city will plan its future. She describes it as a “living document,” that will, “ensure our community is doing its part to combat global climate change and provide for environmental justice.”

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.