Achieving Climate Goals at the Local Level

The Community Climate Solutions Team (CCST) began actively operating in January 2020. We hold monthly meetings to which our 110 members are invited in order to learn about the work of our various Community Working Groups and plan new initiatives. Our Community Working Groups already are achieving some of their goals.

Madison Community Working Group

By February, we completed our first project — helping the city pass its tougher stormwater ordinance. Now, our 41 members (who include high school and college students and young professionals, as well as many older citizens) are organized into project groups that support the city’s Plan Commission, Transportation Commission, building efficiency efforts, and efforts to streamline the solar permitting process. Prior to taking action, each of these groups seeks advice from key climate leaders in the community on how to proceed strategically.

An example of successes to date comes from our 12-member Plan Commission Climate Corps. We already have encouraged the commissioners to reject or require modifications to proposals for new buildings on the basis of inadequate attention to climate issues. In addition, we have provided the commissioners with something they did not have — and want now that they have heard so much from us: a building sustainability checklist for reviewing each proposed project.

Another example of outcomes to date is our use of the CCST Action Participation List. We have gotten scores of climate-concerned citizens to ask city leaders to pass an electric vehicle infrastructure ordinance and to write to the Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change and the state-level Public Service Commission asking for specific actions designed to reduce carbon emissions. Several city alders have reported that these comments have made a difference.

Dane County Community Working Group

We waited to launch our efforts until April, when Dane County released its Climate Action Plan, which includes some 110 proposed actions! To strategically choose which of these actions to focus on, we are interviewing top-level Dane County officials and key climate leaders in the county. We also are meeting with many of the 37 elected county supervisors to bring their attention to the Action Plan and obtain their advice.

UWMadison Community Working Group

Our launch was slowed by the campus shutdown due to Covid. Nonetheless, we now are developing a list of key climate-action players not only at UW–Madison, but across Wisconsin’s four-year university and technical college systems. We already are using the contacts on this list for our second project — our “climate-aware Get Out The Vote” initiative — which went into high gear during summer 2020. We are seeking funding from Clean and Prosperous America to hire central and statewide coordinators for our GOTV initiative. This work is proceeding even though we do not yet know the outcome of the grant proposal. Our climate-aware GOTV work uses both digital and (socially distant) in-person events to provide students with detailed information about voter registration, absentee ballot voting, and so forth, and to highlight the connections between climate change, social/racial justice, and climate resilience.

Middleton Community Working Group

We have engaged in multiple initiatives to keep climate change at the top of municipal officials’ minds as well as to stir action to advance policies and decisions that address climate change. As part of an overall communications effort to assure that municipal decisions get made with full consideration of the climate crisis, we have spoken during public comment opportunities at city council and other municipal meetings, published articles in local media, and met individually with the mayor, mayoral candidates, alders, and city staff. We envision formalizing mayoral engagement and alder engagement projects that assign volunteers to specific elected officials to continue that communications effort.

Our greener golf course and fleet electrification projects made some initial inroads with staff but ran into dead-ends as a result of concerns over premature adoption of new technology, as well as capital budget limits and planning cycle constraints. With additional volunteers, these projects — plus other shelved projects focused on idling, bike advocacy, solar energy collaboration, and coordination with the Dane County Climate Action Plan — could be resumed to build on our promising initial discussions with city staff.

We also have worked in a volunteer subcommittee of the Middleton Sustainability Committee to propose revisions for the energy and greenhouse gas chapters of the Middleton Sustainability Plan specifically targeted to climate change. These proposed revisions will be presented to the committee in Fall 2020.

Helping Achieve Climate Goals at the State Level

In close collaboration with other groups across 350 Madison, CCST has been advocating hard at the state level for policy change designed to reduce climate-warming emissions. We participate because state-level energy production and efficiency policies are hampering local government efforts to achieve climate goals.

Examples of our state-level policy engagement include the extensive recommendations that 350 Madison submitted during summer 2020 to the Governor’s Task on Climate Change and to the Public Service Commission about its draft Strategic Energy Assessment. In addition, some 350 Madison leaders, including CCST members, are participating in state-level climate-related committees.