Vail Daily column: Inventive possibilities arise from Climate Action Plan | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Inventive possibilities arise from Climate Action Plan

Kim Langmaid
Valley Voices

Editor's note: Each month, the Vail Valley Foundation submits a column from a community leader, partner or member of its organization on the topic of "Making It Possible."

Our climate is changing. Now, our community has developed a Climate Action Plan that allows to us change along with it. This plan shows that it's possible for our community to come together, preserve our economy and protect our seasonal way of life for generations to come.

For the past several months, a group of 30 stakeholders from local towns, businesses and nonprofits, including representatives from the Vail Valley Foundation, have gathered regularly to learn about climate change, and to set greenhouse gas reduction targets for our county.

The proposed plan is still undergoing public review, and soon it will be presented to our Board of Commissioners, as well as municipal leaders throughout the county. A summary of the draft plan and all the stakeholder meeting agendas, notes and presentations can be found at http://www.walkingmountains.org/cap.

The plan is bold — but also in line with what is being proposed by many other communities throughout the country and the world. It asks that Eagle County reduce greenhouse gas-emitting gases by 25 percent by 2025, and 80 percent by 2050.

In the short view, the plan could provide immediate economic savings. If we add up the greenhouse gas reductions from all of the stakeholders' proposed solutions, we can reduce our emissions almost 10 percent and save 24 million dollars each year.

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In the long view, it's also true that our local economy is foundationally dependent on climate. The natural rhythms of our seasons are also the rhythms of our lives. This pattern is at risk of disruption from climate change. We now have 23 more frost-free days when it's not cold enough to snow than we had before the 1980s. Climate scientists predict we'll have an additional 30 frost free days by 2060.

By achieving the Climate Action Plan's goals, we can do our part to minimize this disruption, and keep our recreational community healthy and prosperous.

The community-driven process of developing a Climate Action Plan has shown us that our goals are within reach. Getting there might even be fun. Many other communities, such as Ashton Hayes in England, have shown that embracing a carbon-light economy can be creative and inventive. They've shown that old traditions can continue, even as we shift into a new, carbon-light era.

Each of us can play an active role in protecting the things we value about our community: our health and well-being and outdoor recreation; our forests, rivers and wildlife. Our valley can establish itself as a leader in the post-carbon economy, supporting green jobs, local entrepreneurs and employees.

What are some of the proposed solutions? Scaling up energy efficiency projects in homes and commercial buildings, engaging more local businesses and schools in sustainability best-practice programs, increasing the use of zero-emissions vehicles, and diverting waste from the landfill with more recycling and composting.

I have been inspired by what I've seen over the past months from our stakeholders as they've put extensive time and energy into creating this plan. Our community has taken a lead role in so many ways, and I hope the adoption of this plan can establish us as a resort leader on this very important issue as well.

To learn more about the climate action plan for the Eagle County community go to http://www.walkingmountains.org/cap and to provide feedback email cap@walking mountains.org.

Kim Langmaid is founder and vice president at Walking Mountains Science Center and serves on the Vail Town Council.