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Environment

Climate Change Crisis Turns Heat Up On Boise Climate Action Plan

A protester is seen during a climate change demonstration.
Mother Jones
/
Mother Jones
A protester is seen during a climate change demonstration.

20th century warnings of climate change are distant echoes. Today’s catastrophic impacts of climate change are wreaking havoc as much in Idaho as they are in every other corner of the globe. Drought plagues the region’s water systems. Record-setting heat is choking energy usage and, ultimately, family budgets. And deteriorating air quality impacts every living creature on the planet.

“It’s like a hammer hitting us on the head every day,” Malik Amin Alsam, Pakistan’s special assistant on climate change told The New York Times.

Meanwhile, Boise’s Climate Action Plan manager Steve Hubble says he has reason for optimism, and sometimes even sees it rolling by his own Boise home.

“It's funny; sometimes when I'm working in the yard, there are days that more hybrid cars or electric vehicles drive by than than regular ones” he said.

Hubble and Boise Mayor Lauren McLean visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about what changes Boiseans might see sooner than later, and how McClean believes, that “it’s not too late” to make significant change.

“We can have affordable housing and parks. We can have affordable housing and energy efficiency standards and clean electricity. It is possible, because ultimately this is about people. It's about pocketbooks.”
Boise Mayor Lauren McLean

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning. I'm George Prentice. Boise Mayor Lauren McLean is here. Madame Mayor, good morning.

LAUREN MCLEAN: Good morning. It's great to join you again.

PRENTICE: And Steve Hubble joins us. He is the Climate Action Manager for the City of Boise.

STEVE HUBBLE: Good morning, George. Thanks for having me. Glad to be here.

PRENTICE: Up top. I've got to ask Mayor McLean…let's talk about climate change. The intensity and the number of climate events this year is off the chart. Do you have days - like some of us - where you may think, “Gosh, I hope it's not too late to turn this around?”

LaurenBoiseBackgroundCropped.jpg
Lauren McLean

MCLEAN: Oh, George, that's a question that I think many people grapple with often. And you're right-, we've had more nights… which is important to note in our own community. We've had smokier skies. We've seen communities in the West lost to fire, that we're at a point where we have to act. And so,.. that's why we started the Climate Action Division. We've built aggressive and bold goals. And I don't think it's too late… not at all… because we have to mitigate for the impacts that we're experiencing. But there's so much opportunity that we can harness, and we will harness, for Boise.

PRENTICE: And that brings us to Steve Hubble and that Climate Action Plan. What might anyone in Boise notice in that plan… what change might we notice, sooner than later?

HUBBLE: Thanks, George. One of the things we've talked about as we've worked to develop our Climate Action Plan or a “roadmap,” as we refer to it, is that in many ways climate action is going to mean different things to different people across the city. It's funny; sometimes when I'm working in the yard, there are days that more hybrid cars or electric vehicles drive by than than regular ones. And then for others, I think in many ways, it's just about simple changes, at least in the initial phases: working to conserve, working to reduce stress, whether it be energy, water or materials… potentially buying local food when that's available. And then there will be some changes that just naturally occur. We're seeing great progress with work to clean our electrical grid and improve it with additional renewable energy. And oftentimes those changes are unseen to us as residents and consumers. I think, in many ways, that will vary. But obviously, as we look forward to the outcomes that are ahead, certainly cleaner air from more vehicles that are emissions-free, locally produced food, a healthier river with good access and then certainly locally produced clean and renewable energy. It’s an opportunity that we're very excited about, as well.

PRENTICE: Steve Hubble, you mentioned transportation. The big news out of the White House last week was that President Biden was reinstating some emission standards, and is incentivizing the purchase of more electric vehicles. Will we see more charging stations in the city?

Steve Hubble.jpg
City of Boise
Steve Hubble, Climate Action Manager, City of Boise

HUBBLE: We're focused initially with the electric vehicle charging in our own facilities. And I think you will see that theme, with the city looking to lead by example and create opportunities for our community to learn. So that's certainly an initial area of focus to us in the city fleet, bringing on electric vehicles and charging where that's appropriate. We're hearing a lot of news about an uptick in some of the private charging that's out there. And I think you'll continue to see a lot of action there. And additionally, as the city works to update its development requirements and work through that process, certainly electric vehicle infrastructure and charging will need to be something we think about in the context of new development as the city continues to grow and build out.

PRENTICE: Mayor McLean, a big part of this has to be “greening up” Boise… continuing to “green up” Boise. Can we connect all the dots now to access to food… access to water…housing or sometimes the lack thereof? Are you now looking through a different lens when you look at developments of apartment complexes or shopping plazas that are proposed, and what they will bring to that greening effort?

MCLEAN: We can and we must, George. I mean, the impacts of climate, and ensuring that we're building a city that will withstand those impacts, and create a place where people have opportunity for the long run. And that's our kids and grandkids. We have to. I really appreciate the expectations of our residents that we do it, and the leadership of our staff like Steve, that have developed plans that show the connections. So,, a great example is you recently saw an announcement for the Housing Land Trust that we have as a city, at State and Arthur, and plans for affordable housing for Boise. And we're going to make sure that that's built in a way that ensures that their power is affordable in the long run. We're taking steps with our water renewal system. That's what we now call, to remind us that we need to renew water, our roads, our sewer system. We're taking steps, when we ask our residents this fall to let us know how they want to pay for updates and growth. And we're taking steps to make sure that it includes water renewal. So, we have access to water and it's drinkable and usable for businesses into the future.

PRENTICE: And when it comes to private development…can we have affordable housing and parks together?

MCLEAN: We can have affordable housing and parks. We can have affordable housing and energy efficiency standards and clean electricity. It is possible, because ultimately this is about people. It's about pocketbooks.

PRENTICE: And private developers… are they on board?

MCLEAN: We are seeing so many more. They get it, particularly those that are building multifamily units, because they see the bottom line. And residents now are asking for even their single-family homes to be set up for the future, because they want to save money on a monthly basis from their power bills, et cetera. It is very possible to have it all. And ultimately, we have to. If we want to make sure that we're a city for everyone that meets the needs of the future.

PRENTICE: Steve Hubble, what can a Boise family do today, to make things better?

HUBBLE: George, I think a great point that we always need to stress in this, is that the city's Climate Action Plan is a community plan and really, we need participation from residents and businesses to make it successful. But it's often times, sometimes overwhelming to think about climate action. And I would encourage folks first not to be overwhelmed. Just think about simple things that you can do every day. Take one last vehicle trip, or combine trips. Can you take a walk to the grocery store instead of driving? In some instances, can you use less energy? Certainly, energy was at a premium, and our electricity provider asked us to do what we could to help conserve. So, think about the setting on your heating and air conditioning. Just small changes like that, that really don't particularly impact comfort can help a lot, make us more efficient and help with conservation.

PRENTICE: And Mayor McLean, I know we talked a bit about housing. But this is also about food. This is about water.

MCLEAN: It is about our community as a whole, quite frankly. It's about building an economy that withstands and wins in the future. It's about making sure that we do we have access to clean water for drinking. We have access to food in the long run. And we have a community that's livable. Boiseans understand these deep connections. And it's really an honor to work with each and every resident that is dedicated to helping us meet these goals.

PRENTICE: Boise Mayor Lauren McLean and Steve Hubble… best of luck to you and thanks so much.

MCLEAN: Thanks so much for having us, George. Great to talk to you.

HUBBLE: Thank you. George.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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