Northfield’s Environmental Quality Commission is seeking council approval for the formation of a publicly and privately funded fund to help ensure the city is carbon neutral by 2040.

The council could consider the resolution next month. Funding for the plan is expected to come from outside the city’s general operating fund through individual and business donations can also be accepted. Other funding possibilities include city contributions achieved through savings undertaken through energy efficiencies in public buildings and solar energy sources.

A specific amount for the fund has not been calculated. Funding would be used for projects identified as priorities under the Climate Action Plan, like tree planting, converting grass into native planting and projects intended to reduce greenhouse gas levels. For example, Kallestad said someone who is flying on an airplane producing greenhouse gas emissions could donate $25 to the carbon reduction fund as a way to balance the environmental impact.

Kallestad said the fund is expected to last at least through at least 2040 but will likely continue even longer as the city continues its environmental work. A specific funding goal has not been decided. She noted the project isn’t intended to be a true carbon offset, which would consist of actions compensating for the emission of man-made carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere.

EQC member Janet Petri said many details of the plan still need to be worked out.

“It’s going to help with accounting so that carbon reduction has a place in the budget,” Petri said. “It will help clarify … it will help with accounting and then we can add details in the future.”

Market-based carbon fee

The EQC could consider supporting passage of a market-based carbon fee being considered by Congress during the commission’s October meeting. In doing so, the EQC would call for the council to endorse Congressional approval and signal the plan’s necessity due the costs associated with climate change — destabilized weather patterns, rising sea levels, extreme weather events and other serious impacts the commission says “pose a threat to the health, prosperity and security of Northfielders, Minnesotans and all the world’s citizens,” a draft resolutions states

The fee would be intended to incentivize entrepreneurs and existing businesses to invest in clean energy, protect lower- and middle-income households through revenue being returned to U.S. households as a monthly dividend, create jobs and economic growth, reduce pollution, discourage businesses from locating in other locations with less strict carbon dioxide standards, and make the U.S. a leader in mitigating climate change and clean energy technology.

The proposed motion is part of the city’s participation in Minnesota’s Green Step Cities and Climate Action Plan participation.

The draft resolution states the social, environmental and health costs of carbon emissions are not included in the price of fossil fuels and lists the support of many U.S. economists, past Federal Reserve and Council of Economic Advisors chairs and Nobel laureate economists.

“The city of Northfield recognizes that rising carbon emissions are exposing and will continue to expose Northfielders to the risks of increasingly extreme heat in the summers, heavier rainstorms, more frequent and severe flooding, and stresses on the public health and economy,” the draft resolution states.

Petri said any EQC action would be based on the merit of the proposed legislation — not serve as any indication of the Congressional support the board believes the plan would generate. Currently, Congress faces partisan gridlock on some issues and uncertainty as the November election nears.

“The legislation would be so good for the American people,” Petri said. “It would reduce carbon emissions, which would improve our health, because air pollution hurts people’s health.”

She noted the Citizens Climate Lobby, which includes more than 100 area residents, is considered to be a large grassroots group of volunteers at the federal level; and the Climate Leadership Council is also trying to inform legislators of the need for the fee.

“If we let our legislators know that we want them to take action on climate change, having a resolution with these carbon principles will help them,” she added.

Reach Associate Editor Sam Wilmes at 507-645-1115. © Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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