Eagle announces ambitious goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2030 | VailDaily.com

Eagle announces ambitious goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2030

Resolution passed Tuesday adopts aggressive sustainability goals

From left to right: Mikel “Pappy” Kerst, Mayor Scott Turnipseed and Town Council members David Gaboury and Janet Bartnik listen to a staff comment during Tuesday’s Eagle Town Council meeting.
Kelli Duncan/kduncan@vaildaily.com

After opting out of an updated Climate Action Plan prepared by the Climate Action Collaborative, the town of Eagle on Tuesday came out with its own, seemingly more ambitious sustainability goals.

The Eagle Town Council passed a resolution Tuesday evening adopting a goal to achieve net-zero carbon emissions in town government’s internal operations by 2028 and in the “greater Eagle community” by 2030.

“To move forward as a full squad and not be split on something that is probably the biggest existential threat to the town and to the species, I think it’s a big deal and we’ve got a lot of smart people to try to figure out how to get to 2030,” Town Council member Geoff Grimmer said following the meeting. “Maybe we even get there six months early and have time for some Champagne.”

Getting the Town Council to agree upon and pass these core objectives is just the first step in the long and complicated journey of constructing a plan to meet these goals, Mayor Scott Turnipseed said.

Even this first step was an arduous one that required much conversation and compromise, Town Council member Matt Solomon said.

Support Local Journalism

The resolution passed unanimously but, in the discussion that preceded its passing, multiple council members expressed doubts that the town would be able to achieve the goals it established.

‘If you end up short, you end up short’

“It is aspirational because when I put my engineer hat on, we have no clue how we’re going to get there and if it’s even attainable,” Town Council member David Gaboury said.

Gaboury said he was proud that the town wanted to be a leader in this space, but expressed concerns about being able to meet the first goal of net-zero carbon emissions for town government by 2028. He said the timeline would put town staff in a time crunch to meet the mark and that the Town Council was being unnecessarily “self-pressured” to set ambitious targets.

When the discussion turned to Town Council member Ellen Bodenhemier, she pointed out that it was Eagle Town Manager Brandy Reitter who wrote the resolution, leading her to believe that Reitter feels comfortable with the goals.

As the discussion continued, Turnipseed and Town Council member Janet Bartnik smoothed things over with assurances that the goals are intended to be “aspirational.”

“I just got very strong recommendations … to go for it,” Turnipseed said. “If you end up short, you end up short.”

Turnipseed and Grimmer said the resolution is more so an acknowledgment of the difficulty that lies ahead and a celebration of the differing perspectives on the board.

The promise the Town Council made to the public Tuesday remains that elected officials and town staff will push hard to meet the goals by 2030, Turnipseed said.

The support they hope for in return is for all innovators, activists and environmentalists, big and small, to get inspired and come to the town with ideas, Grimmer said.

If there is doubt among some council members, it is constructive doubt that will push the council to pursue bulletproof sustainability initiatives as it begins to strive toward net-zero carbon emissions, Grimmer said.

“Oftentimes systems are improved through finding the weaknesses in the system,” Grimmer said. “It just strengthens your model. We want to hear what people think won’t work and try to troubleshoot it on the front end, so all the perspectives are important.”

Aspirational or not, the goals will serve as an important backbone, giving reasoning to the sustainability initiatives the town pursues moving forward, Solomon said. For him, these initiatives will have to be good for taxpayers, protecting the environment while also “making good, economic sense,” he said.

The road ahead

Setting the town’s environmental sustainability benchmark at 2030 was favored early on after the Town Council heard a presentation from Luke Cartin, founder of Mountain Towns 2030, in a July 6 sustainability work session, Turnipseed said then.

In an interview after the work session, Turnipseed was hesitant to say whether that 2030 goal would be to reduce carbon emissions by 50%, 100% or somewhere in between.

Cartin, an environmental sustainability manager for Park City, Utah, founded Mountain Towns 2030 to support mountain towns in developing individualized plans for significant climate action by 2030, Turnipseed said.

Grimmer and Turnipseed said Cartin’s presentation made them feel optimistic about the financial feasibility and, potentially, long-term financial benefits of pursuing ambitious climate action.

The decision to break the goals into two components — town government operations and then the community as a whole — came from discussions that Turnipseed had with Cartin as well as the mayor of Park City, Utah.

Tuesday’s resolution stated that the new climate action goals are informed by the town’s priority of “investing in environmental and energy sustainability” outlined in its 2020 strategic plan.

“I’m pretty excited about it,” Turnipseed said after the meeting. “I have a pretty good feeling that everything we do will be beneficial all around. It’s not going to be a burden money-wise.”

Support Local Journalism