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U.S. city first to fight climate change and peak oil together

Many cities have plans in place to reduce greenhouse gases, and a growing number are planning for declining global oil production. But the U.S. city of Spokane, Washington has become the first to tackle climate change and global oil depletion together, marking a new step in local government responses to these increasingly urgent challenges.

Summary: 

Many cities have plans in place to reduce greenhouse gases, and a growing number are planning for declining global oil production. But the U.S. city of Spokane, Washington has become the first to tackle climate change and global oil depletion together, marking a new step in local government responses to these increasingly urgent challenges.

PRESS RELEASE - 14 February 2008

U.S. city first to fight climate change and peak oil together

by Daniel Lerch, Post Carbon Institute

Downtown Spokane, Wash.Many cities have plans in place to reduce greenhouse gases, and a growing number are planning for declining global oil production. But the northwestern U.S. city of Spokane (pop. 199,400) has become the first to tackle climate change and global oil depletion together, marking a new step in local government responses to these increasingly urgent challenges.

Announcing a new strategic planning effort to identify and address the impacts of climate change and energy security, Spokane Mayor Mary Verner said: "By aggressively pursuing strategies now that prepare us for future energy and climate uncertainties, Spokane will manage challenges while increasing our competitive advantage over other cities. It just makes sense." A citizen task force will lead the strategic planning effort, supported by work groups and technical assistance from city staff and other experts.

Spokane, the second-largest city in the state of Washington, has built on previous sustainability efforts to emerge as a new leader in the fight against climate change and global oil depletion. With the launch of this initiative, Spokane joins other more recognized sustainability leaders like Seattle, which in 2005 launched the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, and Portland, Ore., which in 2006 pioneered the nation's first Peak Oil Task Force to identify the local risks posed by global oil depletion.

Both Seattle's and Portland's efforts have since served as models for other cities across the United States. Spokane's new initiative promises to similarly blaze new trails for local governments.

Speaking to an overflow crowd at the February 6th launch of the Spokane initiative, Daniel Lerch of Post Carbon Institute said, "We're entering uncharted territory with world oil production plateauing and atmospheric carbon reaching record levels. Cities need to identify the new risks they face, because there isn't any state or federal government agency that's going to do it for them." Lerch, a national expert on local government responses to global oil depletion, is author of the recently released book Post Carbon Cities: Planning for Energy and Climate Uncertainty, the first major government guidebook on the subject.

Spokane's initiative is part of a growing movement of local government leaders concerned about the local economic and social ramifications of global oil depletion. In the last few years, as oil prices have surged past historic highs, at least 10 cities in the U.S. and Canada have started task forces or released studies on the risks to local economies and local government services; in addition to Portland and Spokane, Oakland (Calif.), Austin (Tex.), Brattleboro (Vt.), San Francisco (Calif.) and Berkeley (Calif.) have all created task forces within just the last year.

With General Motors Chairman Rick Wagoner and President George W. Bush both making groundbreaking statements last month about global oil demand outpacing global supply, and with concerns about energy prices growing among both local and state officials, 2008 may well be the year that global oil depletion joins global warming as a mainstream economic and political issue.
 
 
Additional information:
City Seeks Applicants for Sustainability Project Citizen Task Force - City of Spokane press release, 11 February 2008.

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About Post Carbon Institute:
Post Carbon Institute conducts research, develops resources and assists groups and individuals who are leading their communities in making a smooth transition to a world that is no longer dependent on hydrocarbon fuels nor emitting climate-changing levels of carbon: the post-carbon world. Post Carbon's advisers and fellows include some of the world's foremost experts on energy resource depletion and sustainability. Post Carbon is headquartered in Sebastopol, California with offices in Portland, Oregon; Vancouver, British Columbia; and Queensland, Australia. For more information visit www.postcarbon.org.

About Post Carbon Cities:
The Post Carbon Cities program of Post Carbon Institute helps local governments understand the challenges posed by peak oil and climate change, and provides resources for elected officials, city planners and others to develop plans and responses appropriate to their communities. The Post Carbon Cities website at www.postcarboncities.net is a forum for news, policy tools and other resources related to local government actions on peak oil and global warming. The Post Carbon Cities website was recently named a Top 10 Website of 2008 by Planetizen.com, the top-ranked website for urban planning professionals in the United States.

Post Carbon Cities: Planning for Energy and Climate Uncertainty (Post Carbon Press, 2007; 113 pages, $30; www.postcarboncities.net/guidebook) is the first major guidebook on peak oil and global warming for people who work with and for local governments in the United States and Canada. It provides a sober look at how these phenomena are quickly creating new uncertainties and vulnerabilities for cities of all sizes, and explains what local decision-makers can do to address these challenges.

Photo credit: Spokane by pgautier2004

Comments

Posted by Will Stewart on February 19, 2008 - 5:37pm

We are recommending that our local government collect energy consumption data and they asked, "What ways of collection do you recommend?". We are a county, so does anyone have any lessons learned from prior efforts?

Posted by Daniel Lerch on February 20, 2008 - 5:29pm

A citizen group in Willits, California conducted their own inventory of the the town's consumption. You can read both their results and a description of what they did in the reports linked below:

- Willits Area Energy Inventory (28 Jan 2005)

- Conducting Community Inventories (3 Oct 2005)

Daniel

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Post Carbon Cities: Helping local governments understand and respond to the challenges of peak oil and global warming.
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