As the growing consequences of climate change loom over the world and mountain towns in particular, officials in Park City, Utah, have organized a summit to bring together leaders from more than 30 peer communities.
On that list is the town of Jackson, and at least three officials plan to attend the summit in October. The goal of “Mountain Towns 2030,” as the conference has been dubbed, is to create ambitious plans for reaching carbon neutrality within the next decade.
“We want to go down there to learn,” said Councilor Jonathan Schechter. “Maybe it’ll help us catalyze the next wave of environmental sustainability-related activities.”
The most authoritative research on the subject, reported a year ago by United Nations scientists, revealed that to avoid the most severe effects of climate change, the world has only until 2030 to drastically reduce carbon emissions.
“That is a huge goal,” said Town Manager Larry Pardee, who is also going to the summit. “It’ll be interesting to see the vision that they’re going to lay out.”
Mountain towns, and their economies, are uniquely susceptible to climate change. In an invitation to the summit, Andy Beerman, the mayor of Park City, noted that higher wildfire rates, unreliable snowpack and declining forest health all take a toll on locales deeply connected to the natural environment.
“The places we love are under attack,” he wrote. “It might feel like we’re too small to have [an] impact, but in the face of inaction, we have a unique opportunity to lead.”
Pardee attended a similar conference in Aspen in 2006, and said the Jackson representatives came back inspired to pursue sustainability measures. That motivation led to the creation of the joint powers board Energy Conservation Works and an initiative to cut energy usage.
Above municipalities like Jackson in the governmental chain, both the state and federal levels sport a questionable record on addressing climate change. Under the circumstances, Schechter said, local solutions are an important avenue for change.
“My motivation to be part of this is a concern that if we can’t look to the feds and we can’t look to the state, what can we do as a locality or a region?” he said. “That’s what I would like to get ideas about. It’s a vexing issue.”
But with many towns organizing to address carbon emissions and climate change in a unified way, the hope is also that the effort will motivate other policymakers around the country and the world to follow suit.
As the summit’s website states, the goal is to “create commitments to aggressive goals that will amplify our collective voice to compel our national and global leaders to commit to ‘zero.’ ”
The summit will feature a series of speakers, including acclaimed environmentalists such as Jane Goodall and Paul Hawken, as well as researchers, business representatives and Mayor Beerman.
Throughout the three-day event, on Oct. 2-4, attendees will participate in panels and workshops focused on strategies mountain town leaders can adopt to promote sustainability in their communities.
Contact Cody Cottier at 732-5911 or firstname.lastname@example.org.