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Environmental sustainability committee created

By Grace Lovins


Birmingham city commissioners voted on Monday, January 23, to declare a climate emergency and establish an ad hoc environmental sustainability committee to formulate goals for a sustainability plan.


The formation of the committee is one of many steps in shifting the city’s focus toward sustainability and reducing emissions.


Birmingham has been looking at environmental sustainability as a future goal for the last few years. The draft of the city’s 2040 master plan includes a chapter on sustainability which makes the recommendation to enact a sustainability board. One of the top tier goals of the strategic plan that was adopted by the commission in November 2022 was environmental sustainability.


In June of 2022, the commission passed a resolution which directed city staff to bring a resolution to create a sustainability board. Several neighboring communities, including Royal Oak and Ferndale, have enacted sustainability and climate efforts over the past three years, similar to what Birmingham staff proposed. Both Royal Oak and Ferndale declared climate emergencies in 2020, have completed greenhouse gas inventories and enacted some type of sustainability plan.


Creating an ad hoc environmental sustainability committee is intended to jumpstart sustainability planning in the city and act as a sounding board for formulating goals and objectives for a formal sustainability plan, as per the report in the commission packet. City manager Tom Markus noted that beginning with an ad hoc committee gives the city more flexibility to address all the different issues that might be raised regarding sustainability.


“I think the ad hoc approach is a more stepped process rather than leaping into something that’s probably beyond our capacity to accomplish right away,” Markus said.


The committee, being ad hoc, would be a temporary committee initially intended to stand for about 18 months, said planning director Nick Dupuis. He noted that over the 18-month period the city is hoping to accomplish two main tasks: a greenhouse gas emissions inventory to set a baseline for developing reduction goals and the creation of a sustainability plan.


Included in the commission packet is an outline detailing the desired composition of the new committee, aiming for nine regular members. Preferred expertise includes energy, electric vehicles, waste, stormwater, and environmental law or environmental consulting.


The commission voted 7-0 to declare a climate emergency and establish the ad hoc environmental sustainability committee. Planning staff was also directed to facilitate the development of a greenhouse gas inventory to develop emission reduction targets for 2030 and 2050.

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