Columbia establishes task force on climate action and adaptation

The task force was formed in response to the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.

A previous version of this article stated that Davenport is part of a counsel, when she is a part of a council. The Maneater regrets this mistake.

Following President Trump’s withdrawal in June from the 2015 Paris climate accord, Columbia Mayor Brian Treece assembled in February a task force of 16 representatives from around the city to work with the public to develop a climate action and adaptation plan.

Task force members will work with the public to draft a plan that will be put before the City Council. Concerns and suggestions from residents and business owners will figure into next year’s proposal in order to make the plan as easy as possible for the city.

“We will hopefully deliver a report to the mayor and City Council by June 2019 that identifies what pathways and direction Columbia can take as we move into a warmer and less certain future,” said Jay Hasheider, current chairman of the task force and Columbia Water & Light board member, in an email.

Treece joined the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy on June 17, “reaffirming the commitment of the City of Columbia to take action to reduce climate pollution,” according to the city’s website.

The task force members are all representatives of Columbia, selected by Treece in February to draft and assist in carrying out a plan to give the city a more sustainable future. During their inaugural meeting on Feb. 20, Hasheider was elected chair.

Hasheider, who worked in utilities for over 30 years, wanted to serve on the task force as a way to give back to the community.

“I wanted to serve on the task force because I felt that I have knowledge and interest in this important issue, as well a great deal of relevant experience,” Hasheider said in an email. “Plus, I'm recently retired and have an ability (with the accord of my wife) to make the time commitment necessary to see this project through.”

Aimee Davenport, another task force member and legal partner at Stinson Leonard Street in Jefferson City where she represents clients in environmental and energy law, is confident in the city’s commitment to the climate action plan.

“That our council made an official resolution and ordinance to make concrete reductions in greenhouse gas emissions — that sets the platform right there,” Davenport said. “We are already, in my mind, a city that is ahead of the curve in its intentions. Now we just need to figure out how to get there.”

Davenport anticipates the input from the community will range from fear of increased expenses to specific recommendations on how to reduce waste.

Mid-Missouri Peaceworks, a nonprofit organization in Columbia, intended on bringing a climate adaptation initiative in front of the City Council in July 2017, but Treece joined other mayors around the country in the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy in June just days after the U.S. withdrew from the Paris Agreement.

“City Council just took the ball and ran with it,” Mid-Missouri Peaceworks Director Mark Haim said.

Peaceworks had its hand in Columbia’s climate action progress by sponsoring candidate forums, which Haim said most of the candidates on the City Council have participated in.

“Our role is one of an educational organization,” Haim said. “We’ve participated in making our various candidates for city council more aware of these issues.”

As part of the plan, the city has hired Cascadia Consulting Group. Cascadia works with governments to create strategies for climate action.

Davenport believes that a consultant is an essential part of facilitating conversations about climate action, which often contain complicated information.

“It’s completely standard to have a consultant,” Davenport said. “We get a lot of data that goes into models, and rather than just dumping it all in front of every member, they compress it and make sense of it with general findings. Rather than all 16 of us trying to become a climate scientist overnight, we have to work with respected experts in that area.”

The task force's next monthly meeting, which is open to the public, is planned for Thursday at 4:30 p.m. at Columbia City Hall.

Edited by Skyler Rossi |

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