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City sets lofty goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% over next 30 years

Published: Mar. 24, 2021 at 5:40 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - If significant steps aren’t taken to reduce carbon emissions down the line, the city and UNL experts said Lincoln will be dealing with more extreme weather conditions which will present a number of problems.

But they have a Climate Action Plan, newly approved by the Lincoln City Council, to reduce emissions and address climate change.

The plan includes 120 action plans, including one main one to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

10/11 NOW spoke to the director of UNL’s Environmental Sciences department, Dave Gosselin, about the plan.

“It’s huge,” Gosselin said. “It’s a big undertaking because it requires humans to change their behaviors and that’s the biggest challenge.”

Gosselin said greenhouse gases are necessary in the environment, but right now, humans are creating too much of them through behaviors like driving vehicles, using electricity and more.

“Therefore the concentration of greenhouse gases increases in the atmosphere and it turns out as a result, the atmosphere is holding more energy,” Gosselin said. “Variations in energy is what drives weather conditions and climate trends.”

The city’s Climate Action Plan estimates that by 2050, Lincoln’s average daily temperature will rise five degrees, from 52 to 57. The city will see 340 percent more days with the heat index over 100 degrees and significant increases in rain and snow.

“This is how climate change is showing up in our region,” said Miki Esposito, who worked with the mayor’s office to create the report. “Ultimately the climate action plan proposes to do what we have always done: plan for the weather.

The plan lays out 120 different actions, meant to both reduce emissions but also to handle those extreme weather events should they happen.

Those 120 plans are broken into eight categories: transition to low-carbon energy, build a decarbonized and efficient transportation system, align economic development goals with climate realities to ensure a thriving economy, improve protections for and with Lincoln residents, build a resilient local food system, maximize natural climate solutions, reduce waste and engage residents in co-creating a climate smart future.

Some of the key strategies to reduce emissions in those eight categories are incentivizing building energy efficient homes and buildings, transitioning city vehicles to energy efficient vehicles, investing in renewable energy instead of fossil fuel and encouraging LES to meet their goal of having a zero net carbon dioxide by 2040.

Some strategies that impact the daily Lincoln resident would be improving public transit, using city land to grow food, reducing waste, reducing use of single-use plastics and reduce energy and water consumption.

“It’s not about us,” Gosselin said. “I’d encourage people to step outside themselves and look at what they want to leave in the future and what they’re doing right now that will impact that.”

There are also several measures in the plan meant to handle and reduce the impact of extreme weather events. Like seeking a second water source, stabilizing Salt Creek to reduce flooding potential and creating an emergency plan for downed tree limbs.

Esposito said she doesn’t have cost estimates for these actions yet, but she said not taking action has already and will continue to cost the city when extreme weather hits, like the flooding the state saw in 2019.

“Climate change is happening,” Esposito said. “It’s dangerous and costly and we know with our sustainability efforts climate action works.”

Of these 120 actions, 54 are already underway and 20 would require new policy and funding.

See the full report here.

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