Sharon Bronson: Pima County leads the way on fighting climate change
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Sharon Bronson: Pima County leads the way on fighting climate change

The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.

On Nov. 4, 2019, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo notified the United Nations that the United States was pulling out of the Paris Agreement on climate change. The process for withdrawal takes exactly one year, so one day after the 2020 election, the United States will become the only country on the planet not part of the global effort to slow, halt or reverse climate change.

One of the great things about living in our republic is that despite the federal government’s capitulation to the fossil-fuel industry, local and state governments don’t have to follow suit. Regardless of the Trump administration’s dangerous shortsightedness, the people of the United States can still show global leadership on reducing our carbon footprint, leading sustainable lives and doing all we can to reduce our adverse impacts on the local and global environment.

Pima County has been in the vanguard of local jurisdictions taking direct action to limit the effect of government operations on the environment. I have spent my 23 years on the Board of Supervisors fighting to protect our fragile desert ecosystem and for Pima County to operate in an environmentally sensitive and sustainable way.

Pima County in 2007 was one of the first local governments in the country to adopt a five-year strategic sustainability plan. We have updated the plan twice and this year, Arizona Forward, a statewide nonprofit that advocates for a balance between economic growth and environmental quality, awarded Pima County its Crescordia Environmental Excellence Award for Best Sustainability Plan or Policy.

Our Sustainable Action Plan for County Operations, or SAPCO, sets specific sustainability goals in carbon emissions, materials, water and energy efficiencies, landscape protections and workforce resiliency, and the strategies for the county to meet those goals. It is a “systematic approach to integrating the goals of sustainability into virtually all facets of the way Pima County government operates — from the cars we drive, to the energy and water we consume, to the construction of our buildings, to the products we purchase, to the way in which we view and handle our “used” materials.”

Over the course of the FY2014-2018 plan, Pima County has:

• Avoided more than 64,000 metric tons of carbon emissions and improved our energy efficiency by 20%.

• Installed more than 6 megawatts of solar energy for use in county facilities, which expanded our total solar capacity to more than 13MW.

• Began integrating electric vehicles into the fleet. The county has added more than 40 EVs thus far.

• Installed efficient water fixtures and improved water consumption intensity of county buildings by almost 15%.

The latest update to the plan is aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement and lays out a seven-year plan to meet the agreement’s greenhouse gas reduction goals by 2025. The county intends to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28% below our 2005 levels.

It won’t be easy, but it has to be done. The introduction to the latest SAPCO update lays out in stark terms what’s at stake:

“The Southwest is already the hottest and driest region in the United States and, according to climate models, these trends will intensify in the coming decades. Harsh conditions coupled with other stresses — water shortages and a growing population expected to increase 70% by 2050 — have created a region acutely vulnerable to climate change impacts. … As a result, Pima County’s economic robustness, environmental quality and public health are at risk.”

There is no such thing as “believing” in climate change. It’s not Santa Claus. It exists. It’s happening. And it is this nation’s greatest threat to our economy and our posterity. We must do all we can to stop it. And I am immensely proud to say that, unlike my country, my county is leading the way.

Sharon Bronson is Pima County’s District 3 supervisor. Contact Bronson at District.3@pima.gov.

Related to this story

In a letter to her grandchildren, our latest contributor imagines the world of 2050, and what our actions might have shaped that reality. "In contemplating the world in 2050, I cannot imagine the choices ahead of you. Now in 2020 we have strong predictions about how the climate will change over the next 30 years, but no way of knowing how effective we will be at reducing global warming."

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