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Climate change a top concern in 2020 for Indianapolis City-County Councilors

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Posted at 6:38 PM, Jan 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-08 18:38:05-05

INDIANAPOLIS — To combat the effects of climate change, an Indianapolis City-County Councilor has introduced a proposal that would study and create recommendations for the future of the city.

Councilor John Barth, D-District 7, introduced Proposal 1 at Monday’s City-County Council meeting. If passed, it would establish a study commission to do the following:

  • review the status of the city's response to climate change including the implementation of the Thrive Indianapolis Plan
  • recommend any needed Council proposals to advance the priorities of the Thrive Indianapolis Plan
  • gather information from environmental experts and community members to recommend additional policy changes to advance the cause of sustainability and resilience for Indianapolis

The Thrive Indianapolis plan was released last year to “chart a course” for the future of Indianapolis when it comes to sustainability. It includes a pledge to make Indianapolis carbon neutral by 2050 and goals to make all new buildings meet green standards, expand green spaces and make air quality exceed federal standards, among others.

With the title of the first proposal of 2020 and seven co-sponsors at the top, why is there a climate push from the council this year? Barth said the climate is an issue that frequently came up from constituents when he was campaigning over the summer and fall.

“I think what we’re seeing is that folks are very aware of climate change and what’s happening both here and at the national level,” Barth said. “They’re not seeing action at the national level and they’re not seeing action at the general assembly. So they’re going to the level of government that is most responsive to them, and that is the City-County Council.”

An August 2019 Pew Research Center survey showed that 57% of U.S. adults say global climate change is a major threat to the well-being of the United States. That number has increased from 40% in 2013.

Jeremy Kranowitz, President and CEO of Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, has dedicated his work to making sure the city is clean and sustainable. He has been working on climate issues for more than 20 years.

“The issue is that the problems are getting more and more obvious and the implications are that we have less and less time to deal with them,” he said. “There’s nothing magic about 2020. If anything, we should’ve started 10 or 20 years ago. So, let’s start right now.”

Keep Indianapolis Beautiful is an environmental and community non-profit, and an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful. The organization picks up litter on the streets and plants trees in greenspaces, which may seem like insignificant efforts to combat climate change. But the litter would eventually back up the storm drains or pollute the White River, and some studies also show that trees help reduce crime in a neighborhood.

Kranowitz said there are “remarkable” positives with Indianapolis’ approach to sustainability and preventing the effects of climate change, such as the push for electric vehicles and bike lanes. But there are also currently discouraging results, such as recycling.

“Indianapolis, and the state of Indiana, does not recycle materials anywhere close to what the country as a whole does, and certainly not what happens in big cities on the east coast and west coast,” Kranowitz said.

There has been criticism on the new proposal from people who argue it doesn’t address perhaps Indianapolis’ two most pressing issues – crime and potholes. Barth notes he has went on a police ride along and met with community leaders in his district about crime.

“This is one thing that’s very important,” Barth said. “Crime is also very important, but we can do more than one thing at a time.”

But the pothole issue, Barth argues, would be worsened by climate change by the rapid heating and cooling cycles.

“We need to take this kind of action to help with the preventative maintenance we need to do on our streets,” he said.
Barth said lawmakers at the municipal level are limited in what they can do policy-wise to affect climate change, but one goal of the focus on the issue is to create pressure on the higher levels of government.

“If we do this effectively, you start to move the needle,” Barth said. “That puts upward pressure. Instead of top-down on climate change from the federal government to us, I think what you’re going to start seeing is cities reacting and putting grassroots up to try and change that way.”

Kranowitz said if everybody did a little for their community, it would actually make a difference in combating climate change.

“The opportunity to do something is really critical,” Kranowitz said. “It’s easy for people to throw up their hands and say ‘This is a global problem. What can Indianapolis do, or what can I do, that will even make a dent? … We all decide to make a little change. Then we make a little more. And we make sure tomorrow is a better day than today.”

What can you do?

  • Create a compost in your yard to reduce your food waste and use it for a garden
  • Plant pollinator gardens to attract bees and butterflies