Commissioners talk sustainability after Paris Climate Agreement

In a recent statement by the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda (MNCAA) updated June 5th, 313 mayors nationwide have signed an agreement to uphold the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement after President Donald Trump announced his withdrawal from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change agreement on May 31st.

As of now, Athens Mayor Nancy Denson does not plan to oppose or support on signing the MNCAA agreement, according to a previous Red and Black article.

“Something that I and the commission are very interested in is making sure that we do the things that are within reason for our community to do, and that are fiscally responsible for our community as well as environmentally responsible,” Denson said.

Denson said Athens-Clarke County currently has an “aggressive sustainability program, which we will continue to implement.”

According to Denson, the ACC environmental coordinator is finalizing a sustainability plan and report to present to the Mayor and Commission.

As of June 19, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Clarkston Mayor Edward Terry, and Macon-Bibb County Mayor Robert Reichert are 3 of the 313 cities who have signed the MNCAA agreement and the only Georgia cities that have agreed.

Amongst the Athens-Clarke County Commission, there is a mix of opinions towards signing any petition or agreement in response to U.S. withdrawal, but majority of commissioners agree that more should be done to sustain the city of Athens.

For District Three Commissioner Melissa Link, it’s “imperative” that Athens take action to preserve our community by taking measures in sustainability.

“I think [taking action] is imperative. It is a moral obligation for us to do everything in our power to advance sustainability and now more than ever because our federal government has turned its back on the entire planet, the future of our children, and life on earth as we know it,” Link said.

Link said that Athens-Clarke County has taken steps back in recent years. She said one of the largest factors hindering sustainability plans was because the county went without an environmental coordinator for over two years.

“Athens was doing pretty well about ten years ago or so. We had a mayor who was very committed to sustainability and climate change,” Link said.

Commissioner Jerry NeSmith, commissioner for District Six, said he believes there is still work to be done in the community to “reduce our carbon footprint,” but he also said that most of Athens-Clarke County citizens are not aware of what the local government and community is currently doing to sustain the environment.

“It’s not well known how much effort is going into Athens to reduce our carbon footprint as a city,” NeSmith said. “As far as coming out and stating that we support the Paris Climate agreement, I believe we should be more precise. We need to commit to a set of really measurable goals, much like Atlanta has.”

NeSmith said in recent years, the ACC local government has taken measures to advance retro city lighting and solar insolation since a large component of carbon pollution is electrical consumption.  

“Here’s the problem…more than half of [carbon dioxide] emission come from the generation of electricity and coal and gas power plants,” NeSmith said.

One influential group to “to develop a common vision for the future of the Athens-Clarke County community,” according to their website, is Envision Athens.

According to NeSmith, power companies, such as Georgia Power, will have to make sustainability paramount before the community will be able to make a large difference in sustaining our environment.

“We as individuals can do a little about that by consuming less electricity, but until the power companies are motivated to implement sustainable sources of energy, we are just making a small difference, and it’s not going to be enough,” NeSmith said.

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