Update on the Thurston Climate Mitigation Plan

By Tom Crawford, TCAT Board President

With so many of our normal activities on hold and reshaped by our current public health crisis, you might wonder whether work on the Thurston Climate Mitigation Plan (TCMP) is continuing or has been delayed.  So this is a good time for an update.  For those unfamiliar with the TCMP, it is a partnership between Lacey, Olympia, Tumwater and Thurston County to develop a plan for drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions community-wide throughout Thurston County.  GHG reduction targets adopted by all four jurisdictions are:  45% reduction in GHG emissions below 2015 levels by 2030, and 85% by 2050. Thurston Regional Planning Council is managing and coordinating the project.

There have been delays due to the pandemic; some meetings of the TCMP’s Climate Advisory Workgroup and the Steering Committee were cancelled during February and March.  Still, at the April 23 Steering Committee meeting:

  • All attending Steering Committee members expressed strong commitment to completing the plan as soon as possible, so that work can begin on bringing down our community-wide greenhouse emissions.
  • The Steering Committee selected a set of actions for Cascadia Consulting (the consulting firm hired for the project) to focus on, and empowered them to add additional items in order to reach the TCMP targets.

Priority actions and strategies were developed and refined over the past few months by TRPC staff, consultants and members of the Climate Advisory Workgroup.  Now those actions are being analyzed by Cascadia Consulting using evidence-based estimates of the GHG reductions they would actually achieve.

Along the way, TCAT staff and volunteers have raised questions, provided detailed recommendations, and had a significant influence on the Steering Committee’s decisions.  The latest example of this was a TCAT memo recommending that the Steering Committee not get bogged down in the fine points of comparing individual actions, but direct consultants to use the ample input provided to them so far to select actions for quantitative analysis and move rapidly to complete  a draft plan.  The Steering Committee’s decision at its April meeting is in line with that recommendation.  TCAT has also recommended items for addition to or removal from the priority list based on their likely effectiveness in achieving the needed GHG reductions.

Meanwhile, TCAT has been meeting with elected officials in all four jurisdictions about how to raise money to carry out the plan.  This has produced a list of possible funding sources, and some ideas for moving forward to position our communities for raising funds to support climate action.  Here are some next steps that have been identified:

  • County staff are preparing to establish guidelines to implement a new program authorized last year that allows homeowners to repay loans for energy efficiency and renewable energy work as part of their property tax bill. TCAT, city councils, and citizens can express support for this program when it comes before the county commissioners.
  • With the possibility that federal stimulus funds may become available to local cities, elected officials can direct staff to prioritize projects for funding that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This includes energy efficiency, clean energy and carbon friendly transportation projects.

There is still much work to be done.  And we as residents of Thurston County have a very important role to play, making sure that city and county representatives know we place a high priority on strong local climate action.  We have a strong group of people who are regularly sending testimony to their elected council members and commissioners on their desire to see a strong climate plan.

You can join this effort. To make your views known and to be part of this movement, sign our pledge card and climate action petition. And spread the word to your friends and neighbors in your emails, Zoom calls, social media exchanges, and other ways that we’re staying connected during this time.

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