TC Legislature 12-15-15

(Fossil Free Tompkins organized a rally and speak-out to the Tompkins County Legislature on December 15 to encourage them to act boldly and quickly to eliminate fossil fuel consumption in our county.  More than 60 attended and 30+ provided comments.  Below are remarks by Sustainable Tompkins President Gay Nicholson.)

The Paris climate talks have concluded, and although we can celebrate this initial acknowledgment to stay below 2 C of warming and to at least measure and report emissions, we all know that much more needed to be accomplished at this point in the climate transition.

The next five years will be critical for global climate systems. The next two years of this legislative term must be used to start really digging into the detailed work of emission reductions.

I want to express my thanks to the County Legislature for their work thus far on climate issues, and for adopting our Energy Element in the Comprehensive Plan with its goals for emission reduction. The Energy Road Map will be in your hands in early 2016, and my hope is that all of you will be prepared to shoulder a leadership role in our community in drafting a strategy for implementation.

An important first step – despite your busy schedules! – will be to read the document and get familiar with at least the main issues of the scenarios and recommendations. We need you to have a firm grasp of the scope of the work ahead, the potential for making change, and the benefits of acting now rather than later.

Besides this self-education, you can also play an important role in educating the elected officials of the towns and villages and neighborhoods that you represent. Please take on the job of bringing the Energy Road Map to these elected bodies and provide them with a tour of its contents.

In the next two years, we should develop the policy framework needed to make strong progress on energy efficiency in new and existing buildings, reduced transportation demand, and land use for renewable energy systems. Of course, the county government does not have authority over much in these domains, but your leadership in creating collaboration among municipal governments could make it possible to adopt new policies in multiple jurisdictions so that all residents and businesses feel there is a level playing field.

For example, we need to establish much higher energy efficiency in rented commercial and residential buildings. The Energy Road Map reveals the primary role of this step in emission reductions. It will also save us a great deal of money over the long run in lower energy bills for everyone and much lower investments needed in renewable energy systems. Building owners who are occupants will be likely to make efficiency investments, but it is clear that we will need additional “carrots and sticks” for rental properties.

We hope to see the County Legislature engaged and leading the way on our Energy Road Map in 2016, and I know we all look forward to working with you on behalf of all residents, now and in the future.