Amherst eyes climate action plan

  • Amherst Town Hall

Staff Writer
Published: 6/27/2021 6:53:34 PM

AMHERST — A roadmap for achieving significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in Amherst, through measures such as increasing renewable energy, promoting energy efficiency in buildings and reducing dependence on gas-powered vehicles, is in the hands of the Town Council.

Councilors last week received what is known as the Climate Action, Adaptation and Resilience Plan, or CAARP, a 173-page document that Sustainability Coordinator Stephanie Ciccarello said aims to achieve the council’s previously adopted goals related to confronting climate change.

Those goals include getting Amherst to 25% below 2016 baseline climate emissions inventory by 2025 and 50% below those emissions levels by 2030, with full carbon neutrality by 2050 — which Ciccarello calls “a very lofty goal.”

“These are bold initiatives that are important, but we can’t be afraid to make that commitment,” Ciccarello said, adding that the world may already be beyond the point of no return with climate change, pointing to the high temperatures being experienced in the western half of the United States this month. “We need to make sure these things happen within the community because if we keep putting it off, the problem just gets worse.”

“The implementation of this plan is going to require action and collaboration from all community members and all levels of government,” said Laura Draucker, chairwoman of the Energy and Climate Action Committee.

Ciccarello explained that the report was put together with assistance from the ECAC panel and consultant Linnean Solutions of Cambridge, and looked at best practices being used elsewhere. “There was a lot of input from a lot of people over quite a period of time,” Ciccarello said.

Both the initial part of the plan, Roadmap to 2025, and the Beyond 2025, cover five areas: governance and communications; buildings; renewable energy; land use and natural systems; and transportation and infrastructure.

In each area there are strategies that can be used, such as promoting equity through planning and decision making; encouraging energy efficiency by multifamily building energy retrofits, single-family deep energy retrofits and beneficial electrification; growing food locally and expanding the mobile food market; and decarbonizing vehicles and getting to zero waste

An introductory letter to the plan penned by Town Manager Paul Bockelman informs councilors of the rationale: “We are on the precipice of a very important time in history in which the decisions and actions we take now will determine the world we leave to our children in the future. We must acknowledge that our collective attempts at change have been inadequate to withstand the repercussions from delayed global action.”

A next step for the Town Council could include opting into the Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE program, which would allow Amherst to access a financing program for renewable energy and efficiency in commercial and industrial buildings, while Bockelman might be encouraged to implement greenhouse gas reductions in his decisions.

“To take climate action seriously it has to be integrated into all aspects of operations,” Draucker said.

Equity is also a main focus of the plan, Ciccarello said, with the idea that all residents should feel the plan belongs to them and can collaborate and work together to make it successful.

Ciccarello noted that renters make up 45% of town residents, and they are more likely to feel the impacts of a warming planet. “People that are disproportionately affected by climate change tend to be the rental community,” Ciccarello said.

The council at some point will begin taking actions on the plan.

“This is just the beginning of receiving this plan, it is not the end,” said Council President Lynn Griesemer.

District 2 Councilor Pat DeAngelis said she appreciates the way equity is integrated into the report, and is a lesson that councilors can use in how other decisions are made.

District 5 Councilor Darcy DuMont said the outreach that was done to the Black, Indigenous and people of color communities in Amherst was excellent. She said she is ready to get started on committing to staffing and funding and making decisions through a climate lens.

“This plan provides a lot of great actions that we can sink our teeth into right now,” DuMont said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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