Charleston City Council to take up climate action plan

Source: Live 5
Updated: Apr. 22, 2021 at 7:54 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston City Council is set to consider a climate action plan. If adopted, it will be the first of its kind and will pave the groundwork for transforming Charleston into a sustainable and resilient city.

The plan was developed by the Resiliency & Sustainability Advisory Committee in consultation with the public. Five subcommittees began working on the plan in the fall and it was approved by the full committee on April 15. Director of Sustainability Katie McKain says once city council approves it, they will be able to start implementing it.

“It’s a plan by the people for the people,” McKain said. “It’s a five-year strategy to reduce carbon pollution and it really puts us on a path to reduce our emission to net zero by 2050.”

The 2050 target isn’t the only one. By 2030, it aims to reduce emissions 56% below 2018 levels.

The plan breaks down carbon emitters into four broad categories: buildings, transportation, waste and other. Energy usage from all buildings are responsible for nearly 65 percent of the carbon emissions.

Eddy Moore with the Coastal Conservation League was part of the Building Subcommittee. He says taking on inefficient powerplants is low hanging fruit.

“We probably have more than 50 powerplants in South Carolina. Five of them are emitting two-thirds of the climate emissions,” Moore said. “Those plants are old and inefficient and even if you didn’t care about global warming you would close them because they’re losing money.”

Advocating for that kind of change is one of 51 action items and 7 strategies laid out in the plan. However, action costs money and, while a specific price tag is not given for each item, an estimated range is.

Implementing all 51 items is estimated to cost around $840,000 at the lowest end. The high end of the range is open ended but the minimum, maximum cost is close to $1.6 million. The numbers are extremely preliminary and McKain says a lot of the projects will pay for themselves.

“When we look at energy efficiency measures, like switching out light bulbs to LED or sealing up cracks around our windows to prevent leakage we are not only reducing our energy needs which lowers emissions but we’re also saving money on our utility bills,” McKain said. “Most of the items in our climate action plan have little to no cost at all, but really, the cost of doing nothing far outweighs the cost of taking climate action.”

34 action items are in the lowest cost tier, between $0-$10,000. There are seven action items listed that are expected to cost more than $100,000 - the plan’s most expensive tier. Those items encompass projects like acquiring flood damaged property to develop natural areas to absorb carbon and an audit of garbage collection.

Both Moore and McKain say many of these projects are things the city has been doing or been talking about doing already.

“It’s been known for several years that Charleston needs to do an audit of its solid waste system. What happens to your trash? What happens to restaurant trash?” Moore said. “Information needs to be collected so we can come up with a rational plan and implement it. That’s low hanging fruit. We need to make that happen.”

While the action items are specific, they would need more detailed plans before the larger projects and programs are implemented.

The city council is expected to review the plan at the May 11 meeting.

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