LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The new decade will bring changes for Lafayette, including taking a more serious look at the impacts of climate change and the steps the city can take to be more environmentally conscious.
During Monday’s city council meeting, Mayor Tony Roswarski presented the council with a report about upcoming work on a resolution for climate change. Starting in January 2020, the city will hold a meeting open to the public to start work on the resolution, which aims to come up with feasible ways for local businesses, industries and members of the community to combat climate change.
Roswarski will enlist the help of Purdue student Iris O’Donnell Bellisario, who, through Earth Charter Indiana, has previously helped the cities of West Lafayette and Indianapolis develop and write their climate change resolutions.
In October, West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis and the city council unanimously passed a non-binding resolution to reduce carbon emissions by 20 percent every four years. In 2018, Indianapolis released an ambitious set of 16 goals and more than 60 actions with an ultimate goal to make the city carbon neutral.
Typically, the work drafting a climate change resolution involves the city creating a greenhouse gas inventory, Bellisario said, which measures the amount of carbon emissions put into the atmosphere. To help with this audit, Indiana University’s Environmental Resilience Institute will supply an intern to Lafayette who will perform the inventory, which will give the city an idea of the extent of the greenhouse gas impact.
If the city passes a climate resolution, Lafayette will also likely create a sustainability office, sustainability commission and a climate action plan.
“We’re going to help (Lafayette) figure out what’s going to work best for the city by bringing in different resources from around the state and figuring out what that specifically looks like for our community,” Bellisario said.
The first public meeting on the climate change resolution is not yet schedule, but will be held in late January. Roswarski said he wants the process to be very community-focused, with local businesses, industries and the general public all being involved at every level.
“I think it’s time to have this community discussion at a larger, more organized scale,” Roswarski said. “We really have zero preconceived ideas, and we’re going into this with eyes wide open to see what we can do.”
Lafayette is notably more industry based than neighboring West Lafayette, home to major manufacturers including Caterpillar and Subaru. Because of the heavier industrial presence than their neighbors across the river, Roswarski said any climate resolution adopted by Lafayette will likely look different from West Lafayette’s goal to decrease carbon emissions by 20 percent. Much of the upcoming work will depend on results from the audit, which will serve as a guide for creating Lafayette’s resolution.
While work will begin in January, there is not yet any objective deadline to have the resolution complete and ready to be voted on by the city council.
Nov. 27, the newly-formed Tippecanoe Climate Alliance held a third climate strike on the John T. Myers Pedestrian Bridge in Lafayette to show the camaraderie between the multiple climate organizations in the greater Lafayette area and to pressure the cities of Lafayette and West Lafayette to declare a climate emergency.
Roswarski said declaring such an emergency in Lafayette isn’t his priority, and instead finds it more valuable to work on feasible solutions through the climate resolution, which the city can continue to grow and adapt years into the future.
“If you just declare an emergency and don’t do anything else, it will just die off,” Roswarski said. “This will be a process that will continue, and hopefully folks will continue to work on it over and over. Even when we get the resolution done, people will stay engaged and help with the implantation.”
And by showing that Lafayette is aiming to be cognizant about climate change and providing more clean energy business opportunities, the city can both attract and retain residents passionate about sustainability.
“If we can promote that we’re being good stewards of the environment, and if that helps people stay here, that’s another bonus,” Roswarski said.
Emily DeLetter is a news reporter for the Journal & Courier. Contact her at (765) 420-5205 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @EmilyDeLetter.