FAIRBANKS - The Fairbanks North Star Borough will consider joining other Alaska communities reacting to climate change and taking steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
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Assemblyman Luke Hopkins is asking the borough to join ICLEI, an international group aimed at helping communities develop "sustainably." The group was founded in 1990 as the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives.
At a borough assembly work session Thursday, Hopkins expressed concerns about local effects of climate change: thawing permafrost, increased forest fires and changes in the boreal forest.
"We could have a much different makeup of our forest, and that could have an impact on our economy," he said.
Researchers have linked climate change to increased damage from insects such as spruce bark beetles, an increase in forest fires and a change in the kinds of trees that can live in the boreal forest.
Hopkins is sponsoring a resolution to partner with ICLEI under a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to develop a "Local Climate Change Impact Plan." The five-part plan would help the community adapt to warming and reduce the use of fossil fuels.
"If we sign onto this grant, they'll come and help us," he said.
Borough Mayor Jim Whitaker supports the proposal.
Anchorage, Juneau, Homer and Kodiak have already joined ICLEI under the NOAA grant or through a similar program.
Mayors in Anchorage, Juneau, North Pole and Shishmaref have signed onto the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, an initiative started in 2005 by Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels to reduce emissions at the local level.
Under the agreement, cities aim for the goal set for the United States under the Kyoto Protocol - reducing emissions to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.
They also commit to urging their state government to do the same.
State lawmakers and Gov. Sarah Palin have formed groups to address climate change, and 150 Alaska Native groups, including Native corporations, tribal governments and the Alaska Federation of Natives, have passed resolutions calling for action.
The Alaska Municipal League, which represents 140 communities, last year approved a policy statement saying the threat of climate change "is real and is accelerating at an alarming rate." The AML recently formed a working group on climate change. Hopkins is the co-chairman.