The Climate Action Plan can change Alaska’s environmental future

Climate change is discussed in the media in all forms. Some Alaskans argue that we can see it right in front of us in the form of glaciers melting faster than normal rates, the warming of Utqiagvik and even the McKinley fires.

A few hikers were still present in Hatcher Pass on a smoky day. Photo by Christina Swayney.

Alameda, California is one of 29 cities in the United States that works within the local government trying to create solutions for the effects of climate change. One such solution is called the Climate Action Plan, or CAP, proposed by The Climate Action Plan Steering Committee.

“It is a strategic framework for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change. Cities utilize climate action plans as roadmaps for achieving emissions reductions and improving community resilience,” according to The Municipality of Anchorage, or MOA.

Strategies for reducing the effects of climate change in the CAP include solar energy, optimizing refuse, improving transit options, supporting wildfire mitigation, educating residents and many other strategic options to reduce carbon footprints.

The goal of the program is to significantly improve climate change by 2050 and reduce greenhouse gases by 80%. The program looks to accelerate the economy by reducing costs and providing more jobs, stewarding natural resources for future residents, engaging the communities of Anchorage to take part in reducing personal carbon footprints and also preparing for natural disasters.

Reducing emissions not only reduces greenhouse gases but can save considerable amounts of money. Businesses can save approximately $40 billion by using energy-saving resources such as LED light bulbs and installing solar panels, according to the MOA website.

The plan aims to work with city and borough planners throughout Alaska, as well as stakeholders to optimize the electric fleet of city vehicles such as public buses. This is part of the 2040 Land Use Plan, which is also a part of the CAP. It attempts to utilize the reduction of emissions and the optimization of non-motorized vehicles in any way it can be used in the city.

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The CAP also aims to decrease solid waste and consumption. Methods of achieving this include increasing composting, creating policies that align with a zero waste policy for Anchorage and educating the community about recycling.

The CAP first originated in 2008 when the former first lady of Anchorage and political science professor Mara Kimmel and UAA political science professor Kimberly Pace both traveled to Tromso, Norway to observe how their city was merging environmental policy with daily life to combat climate change.

When Kimmel and Pace returned to Anchorage, they gave their class the assignment of drafting the CAP plan, then presented it to Ethan Berkowitz. The plan was suspended until renewed interest from Mark Begich. The CAP’s current draft was presented to the Anchorage Assembly for review in 2017.

Micah Hahn, an assistant professor of environmental health within UAA’s Institute for Circumpolar Health Studies, has been directing the renewed plan for the past year. She has suggestions that students can do to take part in slowing climate change.

Hahn proposed simply searching for an online quiz that identifies a person’s carbon footprint.

“Taking a carbon footprint quiz will give you an idea of what you may be doing to contribute to climate change and how you can make your carbon footprint smaller. Are you using your car a lot? Are you composting?” Hahn said.

She also has advice on how to make a change over time.

“Pick one concrete thing, like ride your bike to work, and stick to it. It will overtime be a part of your routine and your carbon footprint will shrink,” Hahn said.