What The Paris Climate Talks Mean For Reno, Tahoe, And Beyond

Dec 16, 2015

When the climate march in Paris was cancelled after the terrorist attacks, Avaaz gathered more than 500 pairs of shoes from would-be marchers (including the Pope) for a symbolic display of support for the 100% clean energy agenda at the global climate talks.
Credit Courtesy Avaaz

      

Reactions to the global climate agreement reached in Paris last week have been mixed. Some applaud the move to reduce emissions and cap warming temperatures while others criticize the agreement’s lack of binding commitments. On the heels of that summit, we take a look at the intersection between those global discussions and what's happening right here in our region.

For the past year, Truckee town councilman Morgan Goodwin has been leading the charge on a climate plan for his small mountain community. And in recent months, when he hasn’t been at town council meetings, Goodwin has been organizing global climate marches with the nonprofit group Avaaz. As the international climate summit got underway in Paris earlier this month, “we had over 2,000 events in 185 countries around the world.”

The primary aim of those marches was to support the goal of 100% clean energy. “100-percent clean means that we are committing to move entirely away from fossil fuels. We are no longer going to rely on an economy that pumps carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and threatens our security.”

Clean energy is a stated goal in the Paris agreement as well, which some have declared marks the end of the fossil fuel era, but each country has been left to its own devices in terms of setting a strategy and timeline for getting off of fossil fuels. President Obama has pointed to his Clean Power Plan as one way the United States could get there. But earlier this month, while Obama was in Paris, Congress voted to block his ambitious plan. Texas Republican Michael Burgess argued against it on behalf of House Republicans:

“The House is taking up these measures and is doing so to reflect the will of the people that so many of us represent who are opposed to the administration’s actions and wish to stop the out of control Environmental Protection Agency from further hurting the economy.”

Obama's plan would limit emissions from power plants and provide incentives for renewable energy generation. Many Nevada politicians, including Governor Brian Sandoval and Senator Harry Reid, are behind it. Earlier this year, at a Reno press conference, City Councilman David Bobzien voiced his support as well.

"It's an opportunity for Nevada. Unlike a lot of other states that have domestic fossil fuel sources and the like, we have renewable energy. That’s a business opportunity for us."

But not everyone in the Silver State is on board. Nevada Congressman Cresent Hardy, who represents several rural counties, was one of many House Republicans who voted the Clean Power Plan down, calling it “top-down, heavy regulation” that would raise prices on electricity.

In Truckee, councilman Morgan Goodwin says he is encouraged by what he sees happening at the local level. Changes in the Reno-Tahoe area range from increased renewable energy to the number of local cities and counties drafting climate plans.

“We’re a community of climatologists. There’s nowhere in the world where people have a greater knowledge of El Nino cycles and Pacific oscillations and what the historical snowfall totals are, and these things matter to us. They matter to our businesses, they matter to why we live here.”

Still, it takes time to get everyone on the same page, and to craft policies and solutions that everyone can get behind, whether you’re trying to build consensus among multiple countries or within one small mountain community.

“I think the blocker is often we just don’t know what we can do. We’ve changed our lightbulbs and now we kind of are wondering what next? The town climate action plan is that way for us to engage and come together and set a goal as a town, and even as a region, for what more we can do. And we have such a creative community! I can’t wait to have that discussion with this community about what we can do that takes it further.”

The focus locally? Dealing with water supplies that are continually changing, as well as a wildfire season that just keeps stretching.