After multiple months of consideration, the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly voted Monday to make a public commitment to its climate efforts.
The resolution, proposed by Assembly member Maria Gladziszewski, serves as a public reaffirmation of the city’s 2011 Juneau Climate Action and Implementation Plan that focuses on, among other measures, tracking and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Four members of the public weighed in on the resolution, with three of them speaking in favor of the city making a statement to stick to its climate goals. Gladziszewski was out of town for Monday’s meeting, but heard the members of the public and agreed with their sentiments.
“I do think, as some of the speakers have said, that it’s important to periodically recommit to this work,” Gladziszewski said.
The resolution passed by a vote of 6-3, with Deputy Mayor Jerry Nankervis and Assembly members Mary Becker and Debbie White in opposition. Gladziszewski’s original motion to pass a climate change-related resolution dates back to the June 26 Assembly meeting, when she wanted the city to pledge its support for the Paris Climate Agreement’s goals.
In its final form, the resolution did not include any mention of the Trump administration pulling the United States out of the Paris Agreement, an act that spurred the creation of the Climate Mayors group and the pledges of cities across the nation to the goals of the agreement. The final form of Gladziszewski’s resolution didn’t mention any national or global movement, as she retracted the mention of groups such as the Climate Mayors and the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy.
In the end, the resolution solely mentioned Juneau and Alaska issues.
Throughout the Assembly’s discussion of this topic, multiple members have expressed concern about the Assembly taking a stance on a national issue while spending time that could have been spent on local issues. Monday’s meeting was no different.
Both Deputy Mayor Jerry Nankervis and Assembly member Debbie White pointed out that even if the final resolution doesn’t specifically mention the Paris Agreement or other national issue, members of the public who spoke in support of the resolution said they were doing so in part due to the views and actions of the current presidential administration.
Nankervis, who wasn’t present but joined via telephone, reiterated that he believes the Assembly should be spending its time on local issues instead of larger ones.
“If this body thinks that this is the kind of thing that we should be doing, making statements about national politics, then I’ll keep that in mind,” Nankervis said. “When I’m not happy about things that are going on perhaps I will bring things in front of this body and we’ll take up our time doing this.”
Assembly member Jesse Kiehl disagreed, saying that the Assembly has never shied away from taking a stance on national and international issues, and that this one has a major effect on Juneau.
“This resolution is about Juneau, the effects of a bigger issue on Juneau and what we as the elected leaders in Juneau want to do about it,” Kiehl said. “That’s not anything particularly new for the Juneau Assembly.”
Polly Carr, the executive director of The Alaska Center (the state’s largest state-based conservation advocacy organization), said it was meaningful for the state’s capital city to make a statement and she hopes other communities follow suit.
“It is encouraging to see local leaders committing to address climate change,” Carr said in an email Tuesday. “I’d like to see more leaders, at both the local and state level, take action to address this critical issue that threatens the future of our fisheries, communities, cultures and economic livelihoods.”
Geron Bruce, a retiree who has worked in the fisheries business and for the Alaska Department of Fish & Game, testified Monday in support of the motion. Bruce has lived in Juneau since 1959 and is especially concerned about the state of the area’s salmon population.
After Monday’s meeting, Bruce echoed Kiehl’s sentiments, saying global climate change plays a major factor in Juneau’s economy.
“In Alaska, in Juneau, we’re on the front lines of climate change,” Bruce said. “Temperatures are rising faster in the north than they are other places. Our economy is fisheries, tourism, heavy importance on those industries, and those are directly affected by climate change.”
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