Northfield’s plan to save the world

Northfield’s Climate Action Plan Advisory Board presented the city’s goals for environmental improvement last Thursday, Sept. 19 at Carleton College.

Over 40 community members were present at the meeting alongside members of the Board and the Great Plains Institute, a clean energy non-profit.

“Climate action is necessary,” said Board member Clarice Grabau. “Global warming is real. It’s here, it’s happening and we have to respond.”

The first half of the meeting covered the plan’s contents, including the city’s objectives to receive 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2030, and to be completely carbon-free by 2040. Graphs displayed at the meeting showed Northfield’s current greenhouse gas emissions and the difference this change would make to emissions in the future.

The Board organizes itself around four strategies to move the city towards its goals. These strategies include expanding education and engagement, incorporating climate considerations into policy and planning, and demonstrating city leadership through innovation and maintaining momentum through continued support of Northfield’s Climate Action Plan.

Established a year and a half ago, the Board has been forming the action plan since November of last year. The research process started with data collection and then moved to community engagement, such as focus groups with local high schools, colleges and businesses. This work led to writing and revising a draft of the plan, which the Board aims to get approved by the Northfield City Council.

Abby Finis, Senior Energy Planner at the Great Plains Institute, provided a brief overview of the plan’s goals.

“The very tail end of the plan is among the most important and that’s bringing it all together, how are you going to get started, where are the right places to start,” Finis said.
The board must find more resources for funding within the next couple of years in order to implement the plan, Finis said.

The second half of the meeting was guided by audience engagement. Audience members took a poll, while slips of paper were provided at each table with space for attendees to write their thoughts on the plan. One of the main purposes of the Climate Action Plan is to encourage community participation.

“Three attendees came from Faribault, speaking to the ripple effect Northfield is already having,” Finis said. “Overall, people were really engaged and ready to get to work.”
Robert Entenmann, a retired St. Olaf professor of history and Asian studies, attended the event with his wife, Sarah. “We’re here because we’re concerned about climate change and to find out what we can do,” Entenmann said.

The Board will have a final discussion at a meeting on Oct. 2. After that, the Board and the Environmental Quality Commission will have a joint meeting where each will vote whether to approve the action plan on Oct. 10. Upon approval, the action plan will be presented to the Northfield City Council on Oct. 15 – the Council will vote on its adoption on Nov. 5.

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