Following a City Council resolution for Ann Arbor to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030, members of city staff and the public are working together to reach that goal. In support of this work, the Ann Arbor Office of Sustainability and Innovations launched A2Zero in November 2019, a new initiative aimed at planning and implementing actions to achieve a just and equitable transition to complete carbon neutrality.

A2Zero aims to address four sectors, including energy, mobility, resource reduction and adaptation and resilience. The initiative plans to encourage the transition to renewable energy, design a zero-carbon transportation network and minimize waste, among other actions.

The goal to achieve carbon neutrality was passed on Nov. 13 of last year at the city’s Carbon Neutrality Town Hall. Missy Stults, sustainability and innovations manager for the city, spoke to The Daily about A2Zero’s goals for the first pilot year and the next decade.

“A2zero was launched as a way to get input, to start the planning process, to actually create a plan, and then much more than that, to be able to sustain,” Stults said. “We have the branding … People can see it, feel it, they can contribute to it in all aspects of their life.”

In collaboration with more than 50 partners, A2Zero plans to host dozens of public events, run online public engagement and work with four technical advisory committees. The initiative also intends to continue creating new partnerships in order to move toward achieving carbon neutrality. 

“The entire process has been designed to be iterative, failure-positive, because we’re not going to get this right. No one has figured out exactly how to do this,” Stults said. “There isn’t a handbook. We’re just going to learn. And we’re going to do things better the next round. We just have to. Technologies will change, people’s sentiment will change, so we have to be iterative.”

The A2Zero planning process relies on input from Ann Arbor community members by encouraging people to fill out surveys or host events, according to Stults. She explained the first survey’s goal was to understand community priorities and specific actions community members wished to see.

“I want to point out that we really are being authentic and true to that public engagement process we are in right now,” Stults said. “That said, I suspect there are certain things that will have to be part of that strategy, but there are many things that the public will tell us what they want to see in that strategy.”

The second survey, which opened on Jan. 7, explores community priorities and perceptions of climate risks. The final survey will allow community members to provide explicit feedback on what should be included in the final carbon neutrality plan, according to A2Zero’s website. 

Rackham student Matt Sehrsweeney, a member of the Climate Action Movement who is studying environment and sustainability, commended Ann Arbor for setting a 2030 target for carbon neutrality, urging the University of Michigan to follow suit. 

“It’s a really exciting and ambitious plan,” Sehrsweeney said. “CAM, as an organization, really likes that they have set a target date for carbon neutrality in 2030, which is something that our own University has not done. And that’s one of the big problems we see in the planning process here at U of M. So that’s really cool to see that the town is really ready to pull its weight and is very serious about taking steps that we need to take to respond to the climate crisis.”

Sehrsweeney emphasized the importance of the University contributing to efforts made by the city. 

“Something that we think is really important is that we hope that this can influence  U-M’s efforts,” Sehrsweeney said. “That’s going to be really critical, especially because U of M accounts for 32 percent of the town’s emissions. So, necessarily, for the town to get to net zero carbon emissions, U of M is going to do some heavy lifting as well.” 

LSA senior Kristen Hayden, member of CAM and intern for the Ann Arbor Office of Sustainability and Innovations, said students as a demographic in Ann Arbor are heavily involved in the carbon emissions to the city, making the important for this initiative.

“This 2030 date is super ambitious, and it’s really exciting and a great opportunity to see what we’re made of,” Hayden said. “And if the University claimed this date as well, there could be a lot of push between the immense knowledge that’s built at this University — all the researchers and students who are super passionate — and getting solutions that help both the University and the city reach an equitable and sustainable future.”

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