INDIANAPOLIS — Goshen Mayor Jeremy Stutsman pledged that his administration would work toward carbon neutrality for the northern Indiana city by 2035 among other efforts in spurring a greener community.
“The year 2035 is not nearly as quick as I would like it to be but I think that’s what’s realistic with the budget we have,” the mayor said.
Stutsman, a first-term mayor, said he wanted to investigate the viability of creating an Office of Sustainability. Those offices typically raise awareness of environmental issues and help residents find resources for a sustainable future.
Stutsman’s announcement came at the start of a symposium Friday titled “Environmental Resilience: The Legal and Policy Landscape” at the IU Robert McKinney School of Law. About 200 people, including law students and environmental activists, were at the daylong gathering.
In 2017, three Indiana cities passed climate policy resolutions, Earth Charter Indiana Executive Director Jim Poyser said. Two of the cities promised carbon neutrality by 2050.
North of Indianapolis, Carmel city leaders passed a resolution two years ago urging carbon neutrality.
“It’s a voluntary thing,” Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard said. “It’s not required, but we’re trying to do everything we can to become more resilient, save money and take care of the earth.”
The audience also included city officials who are looking at ways to gear infrastructure to growing environmental changes and alternative energy sources. One emphasis was on environmental resilience, or looking for ways to protect ecosystems and the well-being of residents.
Carbon neutrality goals aim to achieve net zero carbon dioxide emissions by balancing emissions with offsetting practices such as lower vehicle emissions or planting more trees. Stutsman has set a goal for more tree canopies by 2045.
Carmel is home to 122 traffic roundabouts, with seven more planned. Brainard said the circular intersections reduce vehicle gas emissions as drivers don’t need to quickly accelerate from a stationary position.
As development continues in downtown Carmel close to the popular Monon walking trail, planners are looking for ways to add parking garages equipped with charging machines for electric vehicles.
Some cities, such as Bloomington, have offices of sustainability.
“I think it is extremely important ... to have somebody who focuses on these issues because otherwise the business of city government and local government just takes over,” said Philippa Guthrie, chief counsel for the city of Bloomington. “It’s kind of a 24/7 job.”
City leaders there approved a sustainability plan last fall. The plan addresses food, energy, water, transportation and waste.
“We had been doing things in increments, but not in a systematic way,” Guthrie said.
In 2016, Stutsman appointed a youth advisor to the city council and helped start a youth caucus involving Goshen High School students. The caucus is working on a resolution to be presented in April to the city council. The student-driven resolution will likely include environmental needs and ways to address them.
On Sept. 12, Goshen will host the fourth annual Climate Leadership Summit, sponsored by Earth Charter Indiana, to bring together mayors, community members and sustainability experts to discuss ways for a more resilient state.
Stutsman attended the second Climate Leadership Summit in 2017 where Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett announced carbon neutrality as a goal by 2050.
Goshen has been hit hard by major weather events including the 2018 flooding of the Elkhart River that led to dozens of water rescues and damaged more than 250 structures.
“Extreme weather and temperature changes associated with climate change cause accelerated damage to Goshen’s infrastructure of roads and paths, and to our water utilities,” Stutsman said.
“We are working to build the argument for Goshen to take an even stronger position on the environment,” Stutsman said.
In addition to the carbon neutrality proposal, the city of Goshen will look at taking a baseline measurement of emissions or carbon footprints, writing an emissions management plan and incorporating energy efficiency and renewable energy standards where possible, Stutsman said.
Climate Leadership Summit
The Fourth Annual Climate Leadership Summit will be held Sept. 12 at Goshen College. The summit brings together Indiana mayors, city staffs, community leaders and environment sustainability experts to discuss ways to expand resiliency efforts.
For information, visit https://www.earthcharterindiana.org/climate-leadership-summit