City continues to weigh options on climate stance

Mayor votes against considering joining Climate Mayors network

Mayor Ken Koelsch speaks during Monday night’s City and Borough of Juneau Assembly meeting. Koelsch was the only member to vote against considering a document that would have Juneau join the Climate Mayors network and reaffirm Juneau’s commitment to reducing emissions. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly’s discussion about whether the city should take a stance on climate change will continue into a third meeting.

 

Assembly member Maria Gladziszewski proposed at a June 26 Committee of the Whole meeting that Mayor Ken Koelsch join the Climate Mayors network that supports the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. Presently, 364 American mayors have joined in response to President Donald Trump pulling the United States out of the Paris Agreement, which sets nonbinding goals for countries to reduce emissions.

Joining means that a city is setting emissions goals and actively pursuing them, and cities are also asked to have a representative who regularly communicates with other cities in the network. There’s nothing binding about joining the Climate Mayors network.

At the June 26 meeting, the Assembly voted for Koelsch to join the other mayors in their pact, but there was confusion at the meeting about what exactly the body was voting on, so Koelsch called for a motion of reconsideration at Monday’s meeting.

At Monday’s meeting, the Assembly agreed to re-vote on the topic. Gladziszewski then withdrew her original motion, choosing instead to introduce a new document for CBJ to issue.

This document, which she entitled, “A Resolution Affirming Juneau’s Commitment to Climate Action,” is meant to have the city state its support for its climate-related goals without getting tangled in an international issue.

“I believe our community has a broad agreement on these things,” Gladziszewski said, “and apparently the word Paris Accord sets people off. What it is is continuing to commit to climate action. I would just ask that this would be introduced for the next Assembly meeting.”

By an 8-1 vote — Koelsch being the only vote against — the Assembly voted to consider the document at its next meeting, Aug. 21. The document stipulates three actions for the city to take. The first is publicly reaffirming its commitment to the 2011 Juneau Climate Action and Implementation Plan, which sets a goal of reducing Juneau’s emissions by 25 percent by 2032.

Secondly, the document would state that Juneau is committed to exploring policies that promote the long-term reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Gladziszewski pointed out that the city has set goals and made statements in the past about its commitments to reducing emissions, but those goals sometimes fall by the wayside as other priorities pop up.

The third item on the list is for the city to join the Climate Mayors network, which was the main sticking point at the meeting. Koelsch has said in interviews, at meetings and in a recent My Turn in the Empire that he doesn’t want Juneau to get involved in national political issues.

He asked Gladziszewski multiple times if this document would require the city to take a stance on the Paris Agreement, wary of attaching his and Juneau’s name to the hot-button issue. The Climate Mayors website writes that cities involved with the network adopt “the spirit and goals of the (Paris) Agreement.”

Anchorage is the only Alaska city to have joined the network, though the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska pledged its support for the goals of the Paris Agreement earlier this year.

Assembly member Jesse Kiehl said that the Assembly should at least consider the resolution and open it up for public comment. Assembly member and Deputy Mayor Jerry Nankervis agreed.

“I have some concerns about some of the things in here,” Nankervis said, “but I would agree with Mr. Kiehl that I’m fine with this being introduced and we’ll debate it once we’ve had the chance to chew on it a little bit further.”


• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at alex.mccarthy@juneauempire.com.


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