November 29, 2017

Support of Climate Charter Is Debated At Council Meeting

By Anne Levin

Just what signing a resolution to support the North America Climate Summit Charter would mean to the town was the subject of a debate at a meeting of Princeton Council on Monday, November 27. After much discussion, the governing body voted four to one in favor of the measure.

In reaction to President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, cities and
communities across the country have committed themselves to supporting the accord on a local basis. Princeton Council passed a resolution in support of the agreement and that committed to development of a Climate Action Plan as part of its 2017 goals and priorities. A summit of mayors from across the country will be held December 4-5 in Chicago.

While expressing support for the Paris agreement, Council members Jo Butler and Bernie Miller said they had concerns about just what support of the North America Climate Summit Charter would mean for Princeton. “We would be signing on without really looking at the cost analysis,” said Butler. “We have not considered the financial considerations very closely. I worry about making these commitments as a small town. It seems to prioritize above many things that are of concern to our citizens.”

Miller added, “Once again, it is a case of the federal government abdicating its responsibility and looking to the states and municipalities to pick up the ball and run with it. While we can do many good things, we need to be cautious about what we are committing to. We put our name on the document and it becomes a moral commitment to fulfill what is in that document.”

Councilwoman Heather Howard said that while she understood her colleagues’ concerns, it would violate her conscience if the governing body did not vote to support the measure. “I don’t see a single thing here I wouldn’t stand up for,” she said of the information Mayor Liz Lempert issued to Council members. Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller said she felt comfortable with voting for the resolution. “I think symbolic things like this are really important,” she said. “It says each municipality can set their own goals. There is nothing specific with times or dates.”

Crumiller and Councilman Tim Quinn likened it to the town’s Master Plan, where some lofty goals might not always be possible to attain. “It’s aspirational and a framework that captures a lot of what we’re already doing, and it urges us to do more when we can possibly do so,” Quinn said.

Lempert said, “There is something more powerful in lots of communities getting together to do something together,” she said. “We’ve seen over the past year that it can imbue more meaning and power to what you’re doing if you do it in conjunction with other communities.”

Molly Jones, director of Sustainable Princeton, expressed the organization’s support of the resolution. “They give you a lot of room to figure out the cost effective, realistic ways our community can attain the goals articulated here,” she said. “We encourage and support your signing of the charter.”