Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird today released the Draft Climate Action Plan to continue building a strong, resilient, and thriving future for Lincoln. She also invited residents to review the draft plan at lincoln.ne.gov (keyword: resilient) and to participate in the public process to finalize the plan. Gaylor Baird said one of her top priorities after taking office in May 2019 was to commission a Climate Action Plan to evaluate local climate vulnerabilities and to develop recommended strategies to build our community's resilience.
"We know now that flooding, drought, extreme heat, and related health problems are some of the most important climate risks we will face in coming decades," Mayor Gaylor Baird said. "While the plan addresses issues and impacts brought on by a rapidly changing environment, the thrust of this effort is actually about protecting our people and ensuring our good quality of life for the future. It's also about steering innovation and encouraging local solutions."
The Mayor said the draft plan continues the visionary efforts to ensure a strong and resilient future made by Lincolnites who came before us. Community members in the distant and recent past have made smart, long-term choices and changes to make Lincoln a strong and thriving place to call home. Those include building water infrastructure in Ashland to support a growing city; the creation of Holmes Lake to prevent flooding and provide recreation space; and the Antelope Valley Project to prevent flooding and improve the core of the city.
"Now, it's our turn to do the good planning and make the smart choices that will ensure Lincoln continues to thrive for the next 100 years," she said. "We undertake this effort in the face of an accelerated rate of climate change that poses urgent and unprecedented threats to the quality of life that generations of Lincolnites have worked so hard to create."
Gaylor Baird said broad community involvement shaped the draft plan and will be key to its success. The year-long effort to develop the plan was led by Verdis Group Senior Associate Kim Morrow, who worked in collaboration with the Mayor's Climate Resiliency Task Force, community stakeholders, and scientific experts. The draft plan includes three main directives:
"We worked to identify climate risks for Lincoln and assemble strategies to keep our businesses, neighborhoods, schools, parks, and other institutions and amenities strong and resilient in the face of those challenges," said Morrow. "Multiple workshops, meetings, surveys, and interviews were held with both climate experts and community groups to gain insight and information to shape the draft plan."
Morrow said the multiple recommended strategies contained within the draft plan were developed with stakeholders from business, government, nonprofits, faith communities, the education sector, public health and emergency management professionals as well as immigrants, refugees, those with disabilities, and low-income residents. The draft plan includes eight action areas:
City Council member Jane Raybould, the Vice President of B&R Stores, said many local businesses already embrace the values of sustainability and resiliency and are eager to do more.
"At B&R Stores, we continuously research ways to improve our operations by reducing landfill waste and energy consumption," said Raybould. "We embrace these values and innovations not only because it leads to savings that keep our company competitive in the market, but also because they build a strong, resilient business operation that will support our community for decades to come."
Gaylor Baird also announced that Miki Esposito has been hired as Senior Policy Advisor to the Mayor and head of the Resilient Lincoln Initiative. She will lead the next phase of community engagement, review, and feedback on the draft plan.
"Miki is well-known and respected across our community from her roles within City and State government, as well as in the private sector," said Gaylor Baird. "Her experience and expertise align perfectly with the job ahead."
Esposito has a bachelor's degree in Biology, and a law degree with emphasis in Natural Resources and Environmental Law and served as an attorney for the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality. In 2009, she led the environmental cleanup of the West Haymarket. As LTU Director from 2011 to 2019, she led the development of a comprehensive Water Management Plan and the 2040 Solid Waste Plan, the completion of the Antelope Valley Project, the conversion of the StarTran fleet to alternative fuels, and the wastewater system's biogas to fuel project.
"I am excited to work with all sectors across the community to help shape the draft Climate Action Plan, said Esposito. "Community feedback and ideas will help determine Lincoln's best path forward to our goal of a strong and resilient future."
Gaylor Baird said public participation will be essential in determining how the recommended strategies will be prioritized and adopted. The final plan is expected to go to the City Council for approval in 2021.
"We look forward to finalizing the draft plan in partnership with the public," said Gaylor Baird. "Everyone in Lincoln has a role to play in helping build a stronger, more resilient community and a better future for our children to inherit."