Goshen to vote on carbon neutral resolution

Young trees grow in Goshen’s municipal nursery. Increased tree cover would be part of a plan to make the city carbon neutral by 2035.

GOSHEN — Goshen City Council is expected to vote on a goal to become carbon neutral by 2035.

The resolution on Tuesday’s agenda makes a number of proposals, including reducing carbon emissions while increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy use. The aim is to “create a climate change-resilient City of Goshen that will protect the future members of our community.”

It’s the result of cooperation between the mayor, city council, the Goshen High School youth caucus and the youth adviser on city council, Felix Perez Diener.

Mayor Jeremy Stutsman announced the plan March 22 when he gave the keynote address at the Environmental, Energy and Natural Resources Law Symposium at the IU Robert H. McKinney School of Law. He told attendees there’s little doubt that extreme weather associated with climate change is already accelerating damage to Goshen’s infrastructure, according to the law school’s account of the event.

Flood and frost

As examples of the damage caused by extreme weather, the resolution cites the February 2018 flooding of the Elkhart River and the record cold of this past February.

The 12-1/2 foot water level that the river reached affected more than 250 structures, forced evacuations and resulted in a state of emergency being declared. The extreme low temperature, which reached -58 degrees with wind chill, was potentially deadly to the homeless population, caused water pipes to burst and forced businesses, schools and the city government to close.

“(E)xtreme weather and temperature changes associated with climate change cause accelerated damage to Goshen’s infrastructure of roads and paths and to our water utilities,” the resolution states. “(T)he greatest burden resulting from an inadequate response to address climate change will be carried by the youngest generation, and all who follow.”

It notes that the American Meteorological Society has declared that there is unequivocal evidence of a changing climate since the 1950s. The AMS says the dominant cause of warming is the burning of fossil fuels.

It also cites the prediction of the Purdue Climate Change Research Center. Under the current level of carbon emissions, the center says, the Midwest can expect increased risks to public health, infrastructure and agriculture due to heat waves, droughts, rain and degrading air and water quality.

Goshen is already on the right path, the resolution indicates, since it’s working to improve the environment through stormwater management, brownfield cleanup, reducing utility costs, setting internal policies on fossil fuel usage and lining up several environmental assessments this year. The city also sees almost $1.5 million in annual benefits from its 13,500 public trees.

Those benefits include $409,000 in energy savings, $438,000 in storm water mitigation, $45,000 in carbon dioxide sequestration and $509,000 added to private property values, according to the resolution. City officials are considering adopting a goal of 45 percent tree coverage by 2045.

The city’s efforts have been recognized with Solsmart designation, a Green Community of the Year Award in 2010 and Green Project of the Year in 2018, the resolution notes. The city has also been recognized for its tree and bicycle promotion.

The city would see a number of benefits from further increasing the efficiency of its buildings, vehicles and electrical usage, including financial savings, waste reduction and promoting jobs in the green energy sector, the measure states. The effects of a healthier environment would also reduce health care costs, especially for those suffering from breathing difficulties.

Carbon neutrality

The resolution proposes taking a number of actions to achieve carbon neutrality in the next 16 years. Those include taking a baseline measurement of current emissions, writing an emissions management plan, and setting short-term benchmarks as well as measures to ensure the plan is being implemented.

It also proposes incorporating energy efficiency and renewable energy standards where possible and endorses the goal of 45 percent tree canopy. Goshen will also promote initiatives throughout the county to reduce carbon footprint and waste reduction, ensure water and air quality standards and encourage transportation strategies like walking, biking, carpooling and using mass transit.

Goshen would move forward with initiatives like the Indiana University Greenhouse Gas Assessment Program and the stormwater management assessment of Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessment.

The resolution would also commit Goshen to creating and implementing a Climate Action Plan by 2021 and investigating the viability of creating an Office of Sustainability. The city would also engage business leaders, faith, youth and community leaders in long-term planning.

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