City of Chapel Hill Climate Action and Response Plan works for a sustainable future

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Chapel Hill City Council discussed the implementation of the Town of Chapel Hill Climate Action and Response Plan in a meeting on Wednesday. Its mission is for the city to switch to 80% clean and renewable energy sources by 2030 and 100% by 2050.

The plan has four main impact categories: green energy, transport, sustainable development and modernization of infrastructure. The revised plan was adopted in April and a budget was approved in June.

John Richardson, community resilience officer for the city, presented a review of the plan at the meeting.

Richardson reviewed several studies the City intends to conduct that will measure current emissions and plans for future resilience. This includes energy load assessments, public housing assessments, and community options to invest in large-scale renewables, which Richardson says will likely be solar.

Another important aspect of the Climate Action and Intervention Plan is to make local transport more sustainable.

“As a reminder, buildings and transport represent 95 percent of our community emissions, so actions in these areas are a priority for the next few years,” said Richardson.

Richardson said the city has purchased three electric buses that will be on the road by January, followed by seven more electric buses later next year.

The City also wants to make it easier to own an electric vehicle. Richardson said they would use a location mapping tool to determine the best locations in the region for charging stations, with 46 stations planned to be installed over the next year.

City council member Hongbin Gu spoke of the need for other efficient modes of transportation in addition to electric vehicles.

“A lot of people are talking about the value or impact that electric bikes are going to have on our city,” Gu said. “We have a hilly topology, so if we can promote this program, we can dramatically improve the adoption rate of the bike.”

Another proposal to increase low-impact travel in the city is the Estes Drive connectivity project. It will create elevated cycle paths from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to Caswell Road, which will be more accessible for e-bikes. The project will also include walking trails that will allow pedestrians to walk from the UNC campus to Estes Hills Elementary School, just outside the Chapel Hill Public Library.

Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger added that some communities are giving grants to people to buy electric bikes, which the city may consider in the future. Traditional bike racks are too small to accommodate e-bikes, which is important to consider when building structures such as parking lots, she said.

Professor Noreen McDonald, a faculty member in the Urban and Regional Planning Department at UNC, said combining the use of electric vehicles with low-speed transportation provides less carbon-intensive travel options.

“Chapel Hill’s plans show that making progress on climate change requires many interconnected actions,” McDonald said in an email. “Electrification is not enough; improving hiking and cycling trails is not enough. But combining these actions leads to change. “

Richardson commended city council for its work in supporting the climate action and response plan.

“From what I hear from a staff perspective, inserting your voice, as other communities are into these conversations, is having an impact,” Richardson said at the board meeting. “It helps the state and others understand that local governments want to make changes and need those changes in clean energy policy to meet our own local goals.”

City officials also said the city plans to continue planting 200 trees a year, build green infrastructure that will reduce flooding, and implement a compost program for city employees.

While the action list is long, Richardson believes it is within the City’s reach.

“This is really an organization-wide effort and I know we’ve talked about wanting sustainability and climate action to work this way,” said Richardson. on paper and make it clear that there are so many people doing so many things that help us get things done the right way. “

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