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City Council plans to mobilize city to reduce carbon footprint

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Chris Fahl and Samuel Crowl at Monday's City Council meeting. Photo by Emily Crebs.

Athens City Council unanimously passed a resolution Monday night that both declares climate change an emergency and commits Athens to a citywide mobilization effort to reverse global warming.

The resolution, presented by Councilmember Chris Fahl, outlined efforts the city will take in 2020 to work toward climate-related goals, which include ending citywide greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

“This sounds very aggressive, and it is,” Fahl said. “It’s totally aggressive because we need to be. This is an emergency, and we have — in our community — the power, the tools and the people to be able to do this.”

She pointed to a few examples of the city’s current sustainability efforts, including its work with solar energy and its research of city buildings to see where electricity usage could be cut.

“People need to realize (the city’s efforts) and say ‘yay’ for Athens and Athens County and the citizens of Athens and all of the hard work they’ve done and will do in the future,” she said. “But we ought to double down on that. We are in a state of emergency.”

During discussion of the resolution, Councilmember Samuel Crowl, who serves as the associate director of the Office of Sustainability at Ohio University, said it’s important that the city collaborate with the university to combat climate-related issues.

“We are a city and a university combined,” he said.

Ohio U committed to be carbon neutral by 2075, meaning the university’s carbon footprint is anticipated to be zero by that year; all carbon emissions on campus will be balanced with carbon removal.

Crowl said that the university’s commitment date is tentatively set to move up more than 20 years by Fall 2020. However, the Ohio U Board of Trustees still has to officially approve the new date.

While the Council did not commit to a date for achieving carbon neutrality in Athens city, it outlined a vague goal to “immediately initiate an effort to safely draw down carbon from the atmosphere.” 

Crowl said he hopes the resolution’s passage will push the city to take the lead and the university to follow.

“Obviously, there are no borders to sustainability,” Crowl said. “The things that we do on campus don’t stop at the edge of campus and not impact the city and vice versa. We have to think of these issues together.”

Several community members and advocacy groups — including Rural Action, a nonprofit based in The Plains — came to the meeting to voice their support for the resolution.

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