Task force members
Members of the Mayor's Climate Protection Task Force: Mike Dever, mayor; Bridget Chapin, Haskell Indian Nations University; John Geist, Lawrence school district; Charles Gruber, Realty Executives Hedges Real Estate; Steve Hughes, Hughes Consulting Engineering; David Dunfield, architect; Jeff Novorr, Lawrence Memorial Hospital; Chad Luce, Westar Energy; Carey Maynard-Moody, environmental community; Simran Sethi, city's Sustainability Advisory Board; Jeffrey Severin, Kansas University Center for Stability; Susan Rodgers, Hallmark Cards; and Dan Simons, The World Company.
How can Lawrence become greener?
Thirteen community members have been assigned to a new city task force to figure out the answer.
They are expected to develop a climate protection plan within one year. The plan is expected to include a report on greenhouse gas emissions for city operations and the community and a recommendation on how to reduce those emissions.
Simran Sethi, a member of the city's Sustainability Advisory Board, serves on the Mayor's Task Force on Climate Protection. She has a master's degree in sustainable management and is an environmental journalist.
"I think the task force creates accountability and benchmarks around working to mitigate our greenhouse gas emissions here in Lawrence," she said. "It really shows that as a community we want to be part of the solution to this problem."
The task force is an offshoot of a 2006 decision by city commissioners to sign the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, which is a voluntary program under which cities commit to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 7 percent by 2012. Part of the agreement is to create a climate protection plan.
Cynthia Boecker, assistant city manager, serves as the liaison between the city and the task force, which had its first meeting March 25.
"It is exciting to be part of something that is good for the greater community and environment," she said.
Reducing energy consumption
Mayor Mike Dever, who owns an environmental consulting company and holds a degree in environmental studies from KU, is chairman of the task force. Dever hopes to create a greater awareness of energy consumption and reduce the community's reliance on fossil fuels.
"Some people have a hard time problem wrapping their heads around climate protection and global warming, but I look at it as everyone can do a little to reduce their energy consumption and everyone's going to win because we are going to have more of it when we need it for our kids and their kids," he said.
He also said becoming an environmentally friendly city would help attract businesses.
"Right now, green is where the opportunities are for the communities and municipalities to attract businesses, because as companies try to become more sustainable, they are looking for communities to be more sustainable in," Dever said.
Dever also thinks the task at hand is doable.
"This shouldn't really be a difficult process because many other cities have already done what we are in the process of doing and in some people's minds we are kind of late to the game," he said. "But I think if we go fast and do a good job, I think we'll catch up and be a leader in this area."
In fact, Lawrence is adopting a plan similar to one used in Kansas City, Mo. Dennis Murphey, chief environmental officer for the city, gave a presentation in August to Lawrence leaders, and they liked what they heard.
That's not surprising.
Before adopting a climate protection plan one year ago, Kansas City had already started to reduce its energy consumption to save money. Between 2000 and 2005, it reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 34,000 tons a year and saved $2 million a year. Murphey said three-quarters of the greenhouse gas emissions from city government operations was from electricity use for items such as traffic signals, streetlights and pumping water.
He added that it's important to look beyond city government operations because it only amounts to about 3 percent or 4 percent of a community's greenhouse gas emissions. To make meaningful reductions, Kansas City found that you have to engage the business community, faith-based organizations and residents.
"There's no one silver bullet," he said. "I've reviewed a lot of climate protection plans before we started, and there is no one big thing that you can do. It's a lot of activities being done by a lot people."
Murphey said reducing fuel and energy consumption are the two biggest opportunities to reduce greenhouse emissions. Kansas City is looking at placing wind turbines on city property to produce renewable energy. It also plans to use plug-in hybrids instead of its gas-guzzling fleet. The city also captures methane from wastewater treatment operations and uses that in lieu of natural gas part of the year.
Kansas City is working on implementing the 32 greenhouse measures that were recommended in Phase I of its climate protection plan. The city also is working on achieving its goal of reducing greenhouse emissions by city government by 30 percent by 2020.
"It is a significant task, but I think it is one of the most important things that local governments are doing right now because that is where the action is taking place in the United States on climate protection - in the business sector and at the local government level," Murphey said.
"It's a very important undertaking, and I really applaud the city of Lawrence for undertaking it because it's very clear - the evidence is compelling - that we need to take substantial action and we need to take it in the next few years to head off some fairly dramatic consequences that otherwise are going to occur."