The Northfield City Council on Tuesday expressed its support to be carbon free within approximately 20 years.

By a 5-2 vote, the council approved the Climate Action Plan, which was formed by the Climate Action Plan Advisory Board. Councilors Brad Ness and David DeLong voted no.

The plan also calls for the city to provide 100% carbon-free electricity by 2030.

In approving the plan, the council committed to seeking deep energy-efficiency retrofits for nearly all buildings and facilities, switching energy sources from fossil fuels to clean electricity in buildings and travel, reducing the miles people drive by promoting and expanding public transit, biking and walking, eliminating waste that enters a landfill or resource recovery facility and sequestering carbon through accelerated tree plantings and sustainable land and ag practices.

Ness, who requested climate action plan approval be moved from the consent agenda to the regular portion of the meeting to allow for more discussion, said although he appreciated the committee that put the plan together, Northfield taxpayers have a right to know how much implementing the plan will cost. He said doing so is needed for fiscal responsibility.

“Without those numbers, I cannot support putting it in place tonight,” Ness said.

Fellow Councilor Erica Zweifel said the financial impact was not in the plan development scope and will be included in future discussions.

“The cost of not taking action and not addressing climate change will be far greater,” she said.

Councilor Jessica Peterson White also expressed gratitude for the Climate Action Plan Team.

“I am proud to support it,” she said.

In supporting the measure, fellow Councilor Suzie Nakasian said although she shared Ness’s concern, the city passed its comprehensive plan with a similar lack of financial information, adding she believes it is important to pass the plan given the significant impacts climate change is projected to have.

In a public forum prior to the vote, Climate Action Board member Alex Miller, who at times became emotional while addressing the council, said she has lived with the knowledge of climate change impacts her entire life. She told the council they were passing the Climate Action Plan for future generations.

“This plan is a form of collective impact that we can all get behind,” she said.

According to results from a Climate Action Plan survey at Northfield High School, more than 92% of students believe it is important for the city to adopt a comprehensive Climate Action Plan and 86.6% deem it important to be carbon-free by 2040. Even more — 87.4% — feel the city should be carbon-free in its electricity use by 2030.

The city will receive help from Xcel Energy during the process. Northfield’s public utility has committed to providing 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050. The city’s strategic plan includes prioritizing climate action as one of its six principles.

Reach Associate Editor Sam Wilmes at 507-645-1115.

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