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Issues Of The Environment: Ann Arbor Aims For Carbon Neutrality After Declaring Climate Emergency

Missy Stults
Planet Blue-University of Michigan

Last year, the City of Ann Arbor declared a "climate emergency."  Now, the city aims to be carbon neutral by the year 2030.  Missy Stults, City of Ann Arbor's Sustainability and Innovations Manager, provides further details on the plan with WEMU's David Fair in this week's "Issues of the Environment."


  • Ann Arbor has decided to amend their previous goal of powering 100% of the city’s municipal operations with clean and renewable energy by 2035, setting a new goal to make the community carbon-neutral by 2030.  In late 2019, City Council officially declared a climate emergency by a unanimous vote.
  • With these goals in mind, the city will prioritize decisions that will take Ann Arbor to “net zero” in fifteen years.  Renewable energy will replace fossil fuels wherever possible, and carbon offsetting measures, like planting more trees, will make up the balance.
  • Ann Arbor has been working with varying success on a Climate Action Plan to address climate change since 2012.  The plan’s goals were to reduce community greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2025 and by 90% by 2050.
  • Missy Stults, Sustainability and Innovations Manager for the City of Ann Arbor, explained in a memo, “In Ann Arbor alone, over the last 30 years the city has experienced a nearly 1-degree Fahrenheit increase in annual temperature, an increase of over 44% in annual precipitation and a 37% increase in the total volume of precipitation falling during extreme events,” she wrote.  Forecasts show the city is likely to experience a 3- to 7-degree increase in temperature, 12 to 36 more days per year over 90 degrees Fahrenheit and a continued trend of increased annual and extreme precipitation by the end of the century if significant actions aren’t taken immediately to reduce emissions.” 
  • Ann Arbor’s new sustainability office has a five-year work plan and will launch new programs.  Recently the city created new policies to make rental housing and other buildings greener, and plans being developed to create similar policies that address transportation and mobility, waste reduction, and “community resilience,” per www.a2zero.org.  (Source: https://www.a2zero.org/about/).  Through the end of 2019 and early 2020, the city is focused on community input, and an initial draft of an action plan will be made in the spring. 
  • Washtenaw County has also declared a climate emergency, and the University of Michigan and the Ann Arbor Public Schools are exploring options for decreasing their carbon footprint more significantly.  Meanwhile, the federal government has withdrawn from the Paris climate agreement.
  • Climate action has been criticized as being costly.  CouncilmemberJane Lumm points out, “We’ve significantly ramped up spending and resources for the sustainability office and climate action programs the past couple of years,” she said.  “What was an expenditure budget of roughly $400,000 or so three years ago is now a $1.8 million spending budget and an office with five full-time employees.”
  • Per Council’s resolution, City Administrator Howard Lazarus will draft a 2030 carbon-neutrality plan for the city before the 50th anniversary of Earth Day next April.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu

Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
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