Eight students urged the West Lafayette city council Monday to take greater action against climate change.
Among the students who spoke were Annabel Prokopy, Abigail Lee, and Ethan Bledsoe, the West Lafayette Jr./Sr. sophomores who helped organize the local climate strike in September where 300 students and community members participated.
The students, as well as community members and Purdue faculty, spoke to express their support for resolution No. 12-19, which reads:
“A Resolution To Reduce Carbon Emissions, Increase Energy Efficiency And Renewable Energy Use, And To Create A Climate Change-Resilient City Of West Lafayette, Indiana To Benefit The Economy, Promote Public Health, And Protect The Community’s Children And Grandchildren.”
“We must act now,” Prokopy said during her speech to the council. “I am scared for my possible future children and grandchildren’s future, not to mention my own, and I am sure that you are too. So let's pass this resolution unanimously so that we can be efficient in decreasing our carbon footprint by 20% every four years in our city, because the longer we wait, the scarier it will get.”
The council unanimously passed the resolution, becoming one of just a half dozen cities in Indiana to pass such a resolution.
For Purdue student Iris O’Donnell Belisario, junior in College of Agriculture, this moment has been a long time in the making.
“I spent the past six years of my life working towards this resolution,” O’Donnell Belisario said. “I've spent countless hours working with Mayor Dennis and Dave Henderson to figure out how we can make the City of West Lafayette prepared for climate change.”
The resolution is part of several actions the City of West Lafayette has taken to address climate change. In 2017, the city council voted to support the Paris Agreement and uphold its emission reduction goals despite the U.S. pulling out of the agreement on a federal level.
Additionally, through a partnership with the Go Greener Commission, a local environmental organization, and Purdue Environmental and Ecological Engineering design team were able to begin drafting a Climate Action Plan for the city.
This partnership generated a greenhouse gas inventory for the municipal operations and a plan to reduce emissions at in each department, resulting in 20% reduction by 2020, with carbon neutrality to be achieved by 2040. The city is also working on a more comprehensive, city-wide GHG inventory.
During the meeting Henderson, the director of the wastewater treatment plant, described green initiatives such as the biogas digester solid that helps supplies 20% of the electricity to the plant. As the wastewater treatment plant constitutes 48% of the city's 6,142 tons of annual carbon-dioxide emissions, the department's goal to cut emissions 50% by 2025 would be a major emission reduction for the city.
Mayor John Dennis also highlighted several things he sees the city doing well such as constructing roundabouts, planting trees and decreasing the carbon footprint of the city vehicle fleet.
Although the resolution addresses the problem climate change on multiple fronts, many in attendance were quick to note that the document is only a starting point.
“It's a huge step for our city,” Prokopy said. “I think it's obviously just a starting block, but it's gonna grow from here.”
Bledsoe wants to see the council go beyond simply passing a non-binding resolution. “I would like to see (the city council) pass more binding things that they have to accomplish,” Bledsoe said. “So then it's not just a recommendation, rather they have to do it.”
Councilman David Sanders highlighted a few future steps he sees the city taking to address climate change such as promoting wind energy, building electric vehicle charging ports in new developments and fixing current inefficiencies with the electrical grid.
He also pointed out that beyond addressing climate change at the city level, that action must be taken at the state level.
“Our representatives in Congress over the course of my career here in Indiana have been climate change deniers,” Sanders said. “That's something that we need to we need to work on.”
According to Sanders, climate science in indisputable and political affiliation would not affect the actions of the council members on climate change.
"I can speak for this council, that this is not a political issue,” Sander said. “I just want to say this council, I think, is all on board. It doesn't matter about political affiliation.”
The council's resolution marks a step in the right direction for the concerned community members who attended.
“People have been warning us about our over consumptive lifestyles for decades, warning that one day we face the consequences,” O’Donnell Beilisario said. “Well, we're past that one day, that day was yesterday, that day is today and tomorrow and everyday hereafter, but it's not too late to prepare ourselves, and to minimize any future harm from coming to our community.”