SITKA, Alaska (AP) — Elected officials and residents in an Alaska city have revived a decade-old task force to tackle climate change in the community.
The Sitka Assembly approved a new Climate Action Task Force in November, Alaska’s Energy Desk reported Wednesday.
The group’s job is to develop a plan to address Sitka’s climate impact with affordable solutions that will inspire community involvement.
Darby Osborne, 17, co-created a group called Youth for Sustainable Futures that advocated for the task force.
“It really does mean a lot to people my age just because we’re seeing the decades stretch in front of us and we really don’t know what things are going to look like in the coming years, what the world is going to be like, even when we’re 60 or 70 years old,” Osborne said.
Sitka could inspire others by becoming a regional or even national leader in tackling impact and promoting renewable technology, local climate activist Leah Mason said.
“Not just a positive move to save our own skins, but a positive move to put Sitka on the map,” Mason said.
The task force is a revival of a group that created a climate action plan for the city about 10 years ago. The group identified climate threats to Sitka and proposed actions the municipal government could take to reduce its carbon footprint.
As a result, the city converted several buildings to run on renewable hydro power, while a subsidy program incentivized residents to convert to electric heat and more efficient appliances.
Other ideas about converting to electric vehicles or addressing waste did not come to fruition.
“A lot of it got done, a lot of it didn’t,” said Michelle Putz, who led the previous effort.
Public Works Director Michael Harmon said the goal of reducing city emissions by 934 tons (847 metric tons) annually by 2020 may have been achieved, but no concrete assessment has been done.
Assembly Member Kevin Knox sponsored a resolution last year to declare a climate emergency in Sitka, along with sustainability goals, but the measure was defeated by fellow members who found it too drastic.
Knox said the task force is a step in the right direction, but the effort may not go far enough.
“I’m hopeful that they work as quickly as they can because I think we are way behind the ball at this point,” Knox said.