Canary Initiative sprouts wings
Aspen’s Canary Initiative apparently has wings.The Aspen City Council didn’t flinch Tuesday night when town staff asked for preliminary support of a potentially controversial plan to reduce the town’s greenhouse gas emissions.The staff’s proposal includes steps such as hitting developers with an impact fee, requiring inefficient vehicles to pay a higher annual registration fee, and charging for utilities based on the efficiency of buildings, not just consumption. Hundreds of ideas in the Canary Action Plan are designed to reduce the energy consumption responsible for greenhouse gases or to raise revenues for programs that offset greenhouse gas production.Most scientists agree that the release of greenhouse gases contributes to global warming and climate change. Aspen completed an inventory of its greenhouse gas production earlier this year. Now Dan Richardson, the city government’s global warming project manager, is seeking ways to reduce that gas production.He used an action plan in Portland, Ore., as a model and tailored some proposals specifically for Aspen’s unique problems. For example, he proposed some type of impact fee on tourists to offset greenhouse gas production they are responsible for when flying or driving to Aspen vacations.Aspen’s level of responsibility for its tourists’ travels could prove to be a future battleground in the action plan. Councilman J.E. DeVilbiss questioned if it is “realistic” to hold Aspen accountable for all the greenhouse gas production when a tourist flies here from, say, Chicago. Perhaps Aspen should only be accountable for greenhouse gas emissions a flight generates while it’s in Pitkin County airspace, he suggested.City Attorney John Worcester, who is largely responsible for hatching the Canary Initiative, approached the issue from the other end of the spectrum. He said the action plan should draw special attention to the contribution to Aspen’s greenhouse gas production from commercial airlines and private jets.There could be creative solutions to reducing that part of the equation, such as a voluntary program to get tourists who fly in to buy energy credits that would offset their travel.Worcester said the city could also encourage airlines that serve Aspen to show passengers a short video about greenhouse gas production, its connection to global warming and Aspen’s plan to address the issue.The council avoided discussions on specific parts of the plan. Any specific measures must get approval in future meetings. However, the draft action plan survived an important first test.”I certainly support your moving ahead with this,” Mayor Helen Klanderud said.Richardson said provisions of the plan will evolve over the next few months as he presents it to the business community, utility companies and residents. He said he hopes to bring it back to the council in August for approval.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.com.
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