While waiting on climate plan, Omaha mayor asked to act now

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) – Whether or not it took Omaha too long to officially begin the climate plan journey was not what people like U.N.L. Professor Emeritus David Corbin and Creighton’s sociology program director Ryan Wishart came to Mayor Jean Stothert’s final town hall of 2022 to talk about.

“There are a lot of federal dollars, state dollars, other funding that the city could be working on right now without waiting several months before they get going with climate action plans,” Corbin said. “What we want to make sure of is the city’s engaging with the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy to ask for the money, because you don’t get it unless the state asked for it.”

A lifelong advocate for addressing environmental issues, Corbin presented a two page list of items they say the city should be pursuing now, including Inflation Reduction Act funds, OPPD Greener Together project funding, clean heavy-duty vehicles and more.

“As a public health professor, I’m worried about public health indications if we’re not acting on climate right now,” Corbin said. “So since we’ve had OPPD extend the number of years that they’re gonna be burning coal in the North Omaha plant, that means we have to be extra careful to worry about environmental justice and make sure that we can try to help the people who are most affected to remediate and prevent more effects of climate on them.”

At Tuesday night’s town hall held in District 2 at The Dock at the Ashton in Millwork Commons, Wishart sat alongside Corbin on the top row directly in view of Stothert and the panel of city leaders who gathered to answer questions. Wishart presented questions about perceived shortcomings in several aspects of the city’s master plan regarding climate and environmental issues.

“I think people who are concerned really need to take a look at what the science is telling us, about the levels of emissions reductions we need to make by 2035 and by 2050 to avoid some of the worst-case climate scenarios,” Wishart said. “The answer to, ‘should we be happy things are happening (with an action plan) or what?’, is we always have to look at how far we are from what the science tells us we need to be doing and how do we get on that trajectory.”

Omaha remains one of the 15 largest 50 cities in the United States without a climate action plan, which may have been news to some of the 50 or so in attendance at the town hall. Lincoln’s action plan was in place in 2021. Marco Floreani is just getting started in his job on the mayor’s staff tasked with changing that.

“Questions and comments tonight certainly validate the city’s efforts to create a climate action resiliency plan,” Stothert’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Economic Development and Development Services Floreani said. “Part of that plan will include a community stakeholder group to collect more feedback from the community.”

Ignoring the importance of acting now is not something the younger generation of voters seem willing to abide. Creighton University student Ren Roecker asked Stothert for details of the need to hold the city accountable moving forward.

“What has been said, it seems there has been a lot of delay in reaction (to calls for a climate action plan),” she said. “And I do think it is really important to keep the public informed.”

“I think the recent elections show that younger people have voted in higher numbers and they’re worried about the climate, obviously and rightfully, and they are kind of leading the way,” Corbin said. “I am of the older generation and its not gonna affect me as much as its gonna affect them. It’s important.”

After earlier efforts to be part of a regional plan bogged down, Stothert said she turned to Metro Smart Cities Advisory Committee for direction. The request for plan (RFP) for the city’s Climate Action Plan was released October 12, with the deadline for submissions November 28. The RFP consultant selection is not expected until mid-January, with the project start date to create the plan tentatively set for February 11, 2023.

“We have had an environmental aspect of our master plan for many, many years now and we are always looking to improve it,” Stothert said after the town hall. “But you know there are new issues that bubble to the surface. and like right now, environment, sustainability, diversity, equity and inclusion.”

on your side in omaha… brent weber… six news..

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