Cities play a big role in climate change and stand to suffer the greatest consequences. So it only makes sense that cities should be part of the solution.
That’s why we support a proposal made earlier this month by Democratic City-County Councilor John Barth that would position Indianapolis to attack the problem through changes in local policy.
We’ve seen the eye-rolls from people on the other side of the aisle and the other side of the issue. We get it. It was the first proposal to be introduced by the newly elected council with its solid Democratic majority. Democrats making climate change the first issue out of the gate fits neatly into a tired political stereotype. It was an easy target for the opposition.
But let’s not allow climate change to become as partisan an issue at home as it is on the national level. Home is where climate change is felt, after all. It’s where weather extremes take their toll, where extreme heat buckles roads and torrential rains overwhelm our sewer system.
Indianapolis isn’t as vulnerable as coastal cities to the effects of climate change, but you don’t have to be at the mercy of rising seas to suffer the consequences or act to head them off. Landlocked Denver, for example, is among the cities credited with showing leadership on the issue.
Indianapolis is positioned to do the same. There’s a plan in place called Thrive Indianapolis, but without a proposal like Barth’s, Thrive will sit on a shelf.
Thrive was created by the city’s Office of Sustainability with input from Indianapolis Power & Light Co., Eskenazi Health, city government, the public and many other stakeholders. Adopted by the Metropolitan Development Commission almost a year ago, it lays out 16 objectives and 59 actions the city can take in the next 30 years to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
Among its recommendations are measures that would support the use of electric vehicles, increase the percentage of the city’s energy that comes from renewable sources, add to the city’s public transportation options, and offer curbside recycling and composting.
Barth’s proposal, which was co-sponsored by six of his Democratic peers, would create a year-long Commission on Environmental Sustainability made up of four councilors, four residents and the director of the city’s Office of Sustainability. The commission would be tasked with recommending policy changes and funding mechanisms that would make Thrive initiatives happen.
The commission wouldn’t be limited to what is called for in Thrive. It could also gather information from environmental experts and other community stakeholders to recommend additional policy changes.
Getting behind this plan doesn’t mean solving our violent crime problem or fixing our broken infrastructure have to take a back seat to climate change. Those issues lead a long list of problems we need to solve.
But we agree with Barth. Our elected officials need to be able to deal with more than one issue at a time.
One of those issues should be climate change. While national governments argue about the best course—or whether to do anything at all—cities around the world are stepping in to fill the void. Indianapolis should join them.•
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