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Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor was appointed as a special adviser to the Global Executive Committee on Climate Action last Wednesday. Taylor was appointed by Local Governments for Sustainability, also known as International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), last Wednesday. 

ICLEI is composed of more than 1,750 local governments from around the world with the goal of addressing climate change and making their municipalities more sustainable. The network is led by the ICLEI Council and Global Executive Committee who meet regularly with members to discuss progress and strategize action plans. The newest members of ICLEI, including Taylor, will meet for the first time at the ICLEI World Congress in April, hosted by Malmö, Sweden.

As special adviser, Taylor will collaborate with other local leaders from around the world on solutions and methods to fight climate change. He will be one of two ICLEI appointees from the United States and the only American special adviser. 

“I’m delighted,” Taylor said in an interview with The Daily. “The action to fight climate change is such an important part of what we do here in Ann Arbor. With the issue historically being ignored, at least in the federal government, it’s all the more important that local governments take action of their own.”

Since becoming mayor in 2014, Taylor has played a role in launching the A2Zero campaign, Ann Arbor’s plan to become carbon neutral by 2030. Adopted at the beginning of 2020, the A2Zero initiative seeks to achieve carbon neutrality in an equitable and comprehensive way by addressing energy, mobility, resource reduction and adaptation. The plan outlines ways the city will move towards this goal, including reducing miles traveled in vehicles by 50% and using electric energy in appliances and vehicles, rather than coal and gasoline.

Taylor said though Ann Arbor is still in the beginning stages of rolling out the plan, he remains hopeful the city can reach its goal. 

“I’m incredibly confident we’re going to do absolutely everything we can, but some of these things are not within our control,” Taylor said. “We will need cooperation from the legislature, we’ll need cooperation from the utility (companies) and we’ll need the cooperation of the University of Michigan.”

Missy Stults, Ann Arbor’s sustainability and innovations manager, said the city has made progress with A2Zero so far by launching the Solarize program — a program allowing community residents to bulk-purchase solar power  — and an initiative to plant 10,000 trees. Given these successes, Stults said she believes the city can achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.

“It’s not easy but it’s imperative, and the fact that it’s imperative gives a lot of the energy when you’re faced with an obstacle that sometimes can seem insurmountable,” Stults said. “The things that we’re setting up are really exciting and they’re beginning, they’re catalysts for more things that need to happen.”

Stults said she is excited for Taylor to take on a new position with ICLEI because it will give Ann Arbor a voice on a global scale. 

“Having the mayor and our community representing local governments broadly in international discussions around what climate action should be like is really important,” Stults said. “If you look at climate action in the U.S. over the last 20 to 30 years, it’s been local. Climate action has been led by local communities because local is where you feel the impacts the most acutely.”

Rackham student Noah Weaverdyck is a member of the Climate Action Movement at the University of Michigan. Weaverdyck said he believes Ann Arbor and the University should look to other cities and institutions for inspiration in combating climate change, and their effort needs to be focused and persistent. He also said the University, which currently makes up 32% of greenhouse gas emissions in Ann Arbor, must take action. 

“It’s really important for people to collaborate and coordinate locally, regionally, statewide,” Weaverdyck said. “But it’s also extremely important to not let the inaction of others hold back the action that we need to take at home.” 

Weaverdyck compared the A2Zero initiative to the University’s President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality’s draft plan to reach carbon neutrality for Scope One emissions by 2025 and total carbon neutrality by 2040. The PCCN’s draft recommendations, which were released in December 2020, were finalized this month after receiving community feedback via webinars

The PCCN draft recommendations came about after sustained student activism from the U-M student body urging the University to take climate change more seriously and implement tangible changes.

Weaverdyck said he believes the A2Zero plan is much more comprehensive than the PCCN’s, which he says does not adequately concentrate on transportation and affordable housing. 

“I think we will see likely in the final report that there’s huge gaps in the plan to actually address vital areas of intersection between climate and these other issues that affect people really concretely … which are completely left out of the Climate Action Plan at the University of Michigan because there wasn’t that active listening done,” Weaverdyck said. 

The PCCN’s draft recommendations include transportation as one of the topics it hopes to address, with specific recommendations such as transitioning to all-electric busses and “reduc(ing) the carbon intensity of the university commute.” The PCCN also said in their draft plan the University examine needs for affordable housing to facilitate lower carbon intensity. 

Weaverdyck said he admires that A2Zero takes climate change seriously instead of implementing plans that are convenient. 

“The short answer is yes, I think we can hit that goal (of carbon neutrality by 2030),” Weaverdyck said. “The question is whether we have the political will. 10 years is not a long time. But at the same time, it’s the amount of time that we have.”

Daily Staff Reporter Lily Gooding can be reached at 

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