Climate resolution lacks clarity | Guest View

By Neil Tibbott | Jul 21, 2017

By now, news watchers in Edmonds have seen one or more stories about the “Paris climate accord” resolution City Council passed June 27. I have waited until now to say something about my “no” vote on that item.

Before I go into the details of the council’s decision-making process, let me give some background to the events of the day.

My daughter is interested in environmental studies. Sustainable architecture and design have interested her along, with the science that influences how we as people steward the resources of our planet.

We spent part of June 27 considering environmental programs at the University of Washington, as well as her interests. We wandered around the campus looking at ways the new buildings incorporated sustainability into their construction. She said that the economics of sustainability really interests her.

“If it doesn’t make sense economically, how can we include it in our designs?” she asked. As a high-school senior, she understands that there is a connection between what we as a society spend on project and the benefit.

Now fast-forward to the council meeting a few hours after our grand tour of the UW. Prior to our 6:30 p.m. start, the council received a lengthy email with proposed amendments sent by Councilmember Mike Nelson at 5:30 p.m.

During the council meeting, he apologized for sending the amendments so late, and then continued to introduce 17 amendments, one by one.

As I mentioned in the council deliberation, I had a problem supporting all the amendments without the benefit of reading the text and evaluating their merits prior to our discussion. In retrospect, I should have at least asked the council to postpone deliberations to a future date.

Council President Thomas Mesaros has since apologized for not making the resolution a study item instead of an action item, for which I’m appreciative.

When it came time to vote, however, I could not support the resolution because it lacked clarity in several important areas, including budget considerations and the administrative resources required for implementing the action items.

While its true that it is a resolution, not an ordinance, this one has specific target dates and expectations. By approving the resolution, the council effectively set in motion an action plan that requires city resources to accomplish the objectives.

Beyond the lack of clarity, I was concerned that we had not heard from the Edmonds citizens about their priorities for actions the city ought to pursue regarding climate change objectives.

Now that the resolution has passed, I want to invite the citizens of Edmonds to help shape its implementation.

There will undoubtedly be proposals that come to the council and administrative details to approve.

Among the questions I’ll be asking: What amount of our annual budget should be dedicated to implementing the Paris accord in Edmonds? What, if any, projects like the Edmonds Waterfront Center, for example, should be postponed or included to accommodate new practices?

What is a reasonable time frame for completing these goals? Is five years good, or is 25 years good enough?

We can’t change the steps to getting the Paris accord resolution for the city of Edmonds. That’s already behind us. We can, however, influence the way it’s implemented. This is something the entire council can agree upon.

We value citizen involvement, and will seek to do better the next time a resolution like this comes up.

Neil Tibbott is an Edmonds City councilmember.


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