Aspen unveils ‘Canary Initiative’ |

Aspen unveils ‘Canary Initiative’

Janet Urquhart

ASPEN – Comparing Aspen’s fragile climate to a canary in a miner’s cage, the city unveiled a multi-pronged plan last week for reducing its contribution to global warming.Dubbed The Canary Initiative in reference to the old practice among miners of carrying a caged canary into mines to detect deadly gases, the plan acknowledges Aspen’s particular susceptibility to climate change and the impacts of global warming on its ski resort economy.”Given the fact that Aspen, with its unique and fragile climate, has, in effect, become the canary in the miner’s cage, it is incumbent upon all of us to face this potential threat upon our economy and way of life as we would any other potential threat,” said John Worcester, city attorney and a key author of the initiative.The ambitious plan calls for the formation of the Aspen Global Warming Alliance, involving the city, the Aspen Skiing Co., Aspen Institute, Aspen Global Change Institute and other local environmental players to help the city implement a long list of goals.Among them are:• Increase the city’s supply of energy through wind power by 10 percent starting this year at a cost not to exceed $388,800 annually, and boost wind power purchases by another 16.5 percent in 2006, at a cost not to exceed $240,200 annually. The commitment will bring the city’s reliance on renewable energy sources to about 80 percent.• Construct a new hydroelectric plant at a cost of $250,000 to $500,000.• Take an inventory of emissions generated by the city and establish targets for reducing them.• Join the Chicago Climate Exchange, a voluntary trading program in which members agree to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a certain percentage or, if they fail to do so, purchase credits from other members that exceed their target reductions.• Hire consultants to scientifically assess the likely consequences of global warming on Aspen in this century.• Acquire additional water rights in the Roaring Fork River.• Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from traffic and buildings in Aspen.• Coordinate with the Aspen Institute and Aspen Global Exchange Institute to host a “major international conference” on global warming in 2006, for which the city will put up $50,000 of the anticipated $400,000 to $500,000 needed to produce it.• Create a new city position, not to cost more than $110,000 annually, to oversee Canary Initiative efforts.Various players in the newly formed alliance complimented the city on its plan.Measuring emissions output and setting targets to reduce the gases that contribute to global warming is a significant step, said John Katzenberger, director and co-founder of the Aspen Global Change Institute. It brings scientists from around the world to Aspen each summer to discuss technical issues related to global change.”It really puts Aspen in a position where it’s walking the talk,” Katzenberger said. “It puts Aspen in a position where other communities will want to emulate that.”The initiative should give residents who feel there is little they can do personally to rein in global warming a way to make a difference, City Councilwoman Rachel Richards said.Stephen Saunders, president of the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization, offered this observation: “The state of Colorado puts out more emissions from fossil fuels than 174 other nations do.”Vail, Colorado

Support Local Journalism