Joyce Grinczel, of Goshen, rides her bike Friday afternoon through the intersection of North Main Street and West Clinton Street in Goshen. The city government is working on a climate action plan to reduce carbon emissions. Staff photo by Joseph Weiser
Joyce Grinczel, of Goshen, rides her bike Friday afternoon through the intersection of North Main Street and West Clinton Street in Goshen. The city government is working on a climate action plan to reduce carbon emissions. Staff photo by Joseph Weiser
GOSHEN — A plan to make city government operations more environmentally friendly is taking shape and may be done by the end of the year.

Goshen City Council members Monday received an update on the status of the Goshen Climate Action Plan, which is being created by the new Goshen Department of Environmental Resilience.

According to Aaron Sawatsky-Kingsley, city forester and director of the department, he and his staff have been working on the plan since June, utilizing as a resource the Youth Environmental Resolution passed by the council in the spring of 2019. He indicated that his hope is to have the plan completed by the end of the year.

“This summer’s work has focused on creating a Climate Action Plan focused only on local government operations,” Sawatsky-Kingsley said of the plan. “The 2019 Youth Environmental Resolution specified that local government operations target net-zero greenhouse emissions by 2035. This goal provides the overarching framework for the local government Climate Action Plan.”

PRIMARY COMPONENTS

At present, Sawatsky-Kingsley noted that there are three primary components to the plan. They include: a 2019 emissions inventory update; emissions projections up to 2035; and a compilation of emissions reduction strategies.

“Projections for future emissions to 2035 are based on ClearPath software from Local Governments for Sustainability, the industry standard for GHG inventory, projection, and planning,” Sawatsky-Kingsley said. “The software uses current and past emissions data, population data, and energy consumption and production data to project a business-as-usual forecast, and to generate emissions scenarios that reflect adoptions of energy reduction strategies.”

According to Sawatsky-Kingsley, Goshen’s business-as-usual emissions are projected to roughly halve by 2035 due in large part to planned efforts by NIPSCO, the principle supplier of the city’s energy, to eliminate the use of coal by 2028.

“This means that energy reduction strategies will be responsible for eliminating the second half of Goshen’s emissions by 2035,” Sawatsky-Kingsley said. “DER staff have compiled a list of 45 potential strategies — in part, a reflection of an employee survey — and have spent time vetting them with three focus groups of city employees, as well as with the Mayor’s Environmental Advisory Committee. There remains a large amount of input on and analysis of these strategies.”

PLANNED STRATEGIES

Of those 45 potential energy reduction strategies, two of the more prominent strategies were presented to the council in detail Tuesday, with the first being the plan’s Active Transportation strategy.

“The Active Transportation strategy proposes options for reducing travel-related emissions 25% by 2030,” Sawatsky-Kingsley said. “Employee commute to work and work-related travel comprise 18% of total municipal emissions. Among the suggested actions for achieving this 25% reduction goal are promoting employee bicycle commute to work, and encouragement of work-site to work-site bike commute when appropriate.”

Next to be presented was the Building Efficiency Standards and Techniques strategy.

“The Building Efficiency Standards and Techniques strategy is targeted at municipal buildings and facilities, and is designed to audit each building for energy inefficiencies and to create a plan for implementing efficiencies,” Sawatsky-Kingsley said. “It suggests energy reductions of at least 30%, which can result in savings of more than $100,000 annually, and a total emissions drop of 4%.”

Viewed another way, he noted that a 4% drop in emissions represents the equivalent of eliminating roughly 422 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.

“It is exciting to note that modifications happening at the Goshen Waste Water Treatment Plant through next year will result in a reduction of over 1.3 million kWh per year,” he added of the city’s ongoing energy efficiency work. “These kinds of creative operational remodels can have long-term financial and emissions impacts — a savings of $111,000 annually and reduction of roughly 900 metric tons of CO2 equivalents per year, or about 10% of the 2019 total.”

A LIVING DOCUMENT

While confident that his department will have at least an initial draft of the Climate Action Plan ready for the council’s review by the end of the year, Sawatsky-Kingsley was quick to note that even with such a plan in-hand, it will likely continue to change and evolve well into the future.

“When this document is finished, and is brought to you for approval, it needs to be understood that this will be a living document that will have the capacity to breath, and to go, and to evolve into the future toward 2035 as new technologies become available, as new data collection capacities become available, as we become aware of new data sets that we need to understand and take advantage of,” Sawatsky-Kingsley said. “So, we are, right now, here at the outset, trying to understand what it means for us to attempt a Climate Action Plan, and to take responsibility for the emissions that we are creating, and also capture the savings and the efficiencies that can come to us by doing so.

“Facing into climate change, regardless of how you think about it, is typically an overwhelming kind of prospect. For an individual, it’s pretty impossible to think of meaningful action,” he added. “But here we are as city employees, and our work is showing that there is meaningful action that together we can actually take on behalf of the people that we serve. And that’s the reason I feel excited about this.”

Mayor Jeremy Stutsman took a moment to thank Sawatsky-Kingsley and his team for their ongoing work on the plan.

“I just applaud you for all the hard work, and where you’re at. I think you’re doing great work, and I’m really excited to keep working with you to see what we can create,” Stutsman said. “I love that you talk about this document being a living document, and it’s going to continue to change over the next several years. So, thank you all. I look forward to hearing more from you in the future.”

Council member Julia King offered a similar sentiment.

“I just appreciate the energy and enthusiasm that you bring to this. It’s contagious,” she said. “I think it is an exciting undertaking.”

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