A2Zero launches ambassador program to develop solutions for carbon neutrality

Wednesday, October 21, 2020 - 9:15pm

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Design by Mellisa Lee

In an effort to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030, the Ann Arbor City Council will collaborate with residents and students in the new A2Zero Climate Ambassador Program. This program incorporates nine weeks of leadership training to provide participants the tools and resources needed for reaching carbon neutrality and implementing communitywide sustainability. 

A council resolution from November 2019 established the city’s carbon neutrality goal. The same month, the Ann Arbor Office of Sustainability and Innovations launched A2Zero, an initiative to facilitate the city’s transition to complete carbon neutrality. 

Ambassadors will engage in various volunteer opportunities while meeting for training via Zoom every week from November to February. Missy Stults, sustainability and innovation manager of Ann Arbor, said the program is an opportunity to collaborate with residents interested in climate action.  

“By the end of the curriculum, the individuals who go through the cohort will be ready to go out and work in their neighborhoods to advance their relevant carbon neutrality and sustainability activities,” Stults said. “It mirrors the carbon neutrality work that we are doing as a city.”

The program will begin with participants learning about the history of land use and systemic racism in Ann Arbor, and will study energy and water efficiency and transportation, with equity being the underlying theme for all sessions. 

Stults said they are looking for a diverse array of passionate ambassadors for a total cohort of around 15-20 individuals. 

“You don’t have to have any previous experience — you just have to care about this topic and want to be involved,” Stults said. “We will help you get all of the knowledge and skills, but we can’t teach passion, so that’s really what we’re looking for.”

Matt Sehrsweeney, a member of the Climate Action Movement and a graduate student in the School for Environment and Sustainability, commended the effort but expressed his concerns regarding the effectiveness of community engagement based on voluntary participation.

“Real community engagement takes work to incorporate the needs of hard-to-reach constituencies,” Sehrsweeney said. “The progress we need will not come from individuals working only in their spare time, but rather dedicated people who are compensated for their labor.”

Sehrsweeney acknowledged the importance of the council’s support in helping launch the program.

“We urge City Council to commit the funding necessary to institutionalize such community engagement so that we can build a resilient community for everyone,” Sehrsweeney said.

LSA professor Adam Simon praised the initiative’s efforts to create a cohort of enthusiastic Ann Arbor residents and University of Michigan students.

“I think the collective hope is by educating the community around carbon neutrality and what it requires by way of infrastructure changes, community pressure will be applied to the city council so that the necessary changes are implemented,” Simon said.

Simon acknowledged that the University is a major contributor to carbon emissions and said this program encourages members of the University community to become involved in these issues.

“Missy has a program that, as I read it and understand about it, is open to the entire community,” Simon said. “And that community involves students, faculty and staff at the University of Michigan.”

Stults said the climate ambassador position is open to anyone interested in getting involved no matter their experience.

“This is for people who care really deeply and passionately about climate action and sustainability and making sure Ann Arbor is one of the most welcoming, affordable, equitable and sustainable communities in America,” Stults said.  

Daily News Contributor Brooke Halak can be reached at bhalak@umich.edu.


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