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  • Janet Zahn

Coalition Going Forward: City Passes Its Resolution, and We Have a New Name

By Janet Zahn

Since the Grand Rapids Climate Resolution Coalition was formed in early 2021, beginning with 19 organizations, much has happened. Community interest in our goal that the City of Grand Rapids declare a climate emergency and commit to community-wide carbon neutrality by 2030 has grown substantially. The Coalition has grown to 57 member organizations and hundreds of individuals who support this goal, to be achieved with an environmental justice focus, by 2030. Our goal is science-based, not arbitrary, and while ambitious, is necessary for the long-term well-being of our community.

After careful, collaborative writing of the Resolution by our group, it was shared with City Commissioners and discussed with most. We had support from several of them. In August, we learned that the Commission had their own version of a climate resolution written by the Office of Sustainability. This resolution had far more modest goals and did not adequately commit to a community-wide goal. It did affirm the City Manager’s municipal goal of 85% carbon emissions reduction by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2040. This resolution was introduced by the Committee of the Whole on September 14th and scheduled for a vote on September 28th.

It is our understanding that based on the nature and limitations of resolutions in Grand Rapids local government, the scope of what we were asking for was not appropriate to be approved by the Commission. Information shared with the Coalition from the Office of Sustainability:

  • The City is creating a process to evaluate if/how/when the City will pass resolutions as the City of Grand Rapids has not passed resolutions like other cities over the last 10-15 years; we currently do not have a formal process in place for receiving requests to pass resolutions

  • Resolutions fall within the City Commission’s authority versus the City Manager’s

  • Community groups have the opportunity to provide input by communicating directly with the Mayor or Commissioners, this information was shared broadly with the community

  • The City committed to completing a community-wide carbon emissions inventory by June 30, 2022 and facilitating conversations with community on establishing a community-wide carbon emissions goal

Coalition members gave public comment at both the September 14th and September 28th meetings, expressing approval of publicly stating the municipal goal, and appreciation for Grand Rapids’ long history and current commitments to sustainability. But Coalition members additionally noted that the stated goals were not enough to address the very real urgency of climate change.

The GR City Commission passed its resolution "Declaring Climate Change a Crisis" on September 28th. We will need to continue sharing thoughts about the need for a comprehensive response and greater urgency in the plan for addressing climate change in Grand Rapids. Please see our press release here.

Because the resolution phase has now ended, we must adapt our strategies to continue advocating for our goals. We are in discussion of next steps to achieve environmental justice and city-wide carbon neutrality for Grand Rapids. This includes working on state and local policies which impact the ability to achieve carbon neutrality and developing collaborative relationships with other community groups, such as the Community Collaboration on Climate Change (C4). Stay tuned and get involved! The work continues.

In the interest of being more accurate to the times, we have changed our name to the Grand Rapids Climate Coalition.

Janet Zahn is the co-chair of the Grand Rapids Climate Coalition.

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