May 1, 2024

Council Hears Report On Present and Future Of Climate Action Plan

By Anne Levin

At its meeting on Monday night, April 29, Princeton Council was given a progress report on the town’s Climate Action Plan (CAP), which was adopted in 2019 to reduce carbon emissions and help the community become more climate-resilient. Sustainable Princeton, which has been leading the effort, delivered the presentation.

Among other items on the agenda was the adoption of a resolution appointing nine members to the Princeton Advisory Committee on Affordable Housing, Human Services, and Racial, Social and Economic Equity. The committee was formed after the controversial consolidation in January of the former Civil Rights Commission, Human Services Commission, and Affordable Housing Board.

Council also passed ordinances related to loading zones and parking on Chambers Street once construction of the Graduate Hotel is completed, and license agreements for the new Hermes and Faherty stores, among other issues. Resolutions included a shared service agreement with Princeton Public Library for information technology services, a consulting agreement for community solar development, a contract for bicycle-safe grates and curb piece faceplates, and an urban tree canopy assessment.

Christine Symington, executive director of Sustainable Princeton, said the presentation on the Climate Action Plan was designed as an overview; a more detailed report will be available later this week. The plan is to be updated in 2028.

Since the CAP was first created, there has been a dip down in greenhouse gas emissions, due in some measure to the fact that people were confined to their homes during the pandemic. “We don’t want to have another pandemic just for the sake of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We want to make consistent lifestyle and habit changes to maintain the greenhouse gas emission reduction,” said Alex Dill of Sustainable Princeton.

Symington, Dill, and other staff members reported that 493 Princeton households and 57 local businesses have completed energy efficiency audits, and that number is expected to rise. There have been 313 solar installations, representing a 73 percent increase since 2019. These initiatives have been promoted by activities including the Green House Tour, held last September. The date for this year’s tour is September 28.

The biggest drivers of greenhouse gas emissions are the built environment and the way we get around, Symington said. “Reducing the number and length of vehicle trips and increasing the number of people moved per vehicle, and increasing the number of clean vehicles on our streets, will significantly reduce Princeton’s transportation-related emissions. And the combination of compact development built with green building features close to transit and supporting zero emission vehicles has the most potential to reduce energy use.”

The report included a list of completed and in-progress work on the town’s bicycle mobility plan and pedestrian improvements. Some 3.5 miles of bike and pedestrian paths have been completed; another 4.2 miles are to be built in the next two years. Electric shuttle buses, 20 public charging stations for electric vehicles, and Princeton University’s addition of an off-road cycle track and on-road two-way cycle track on Washington Road are among other improvements in the report. The town’s retention of a full-time arborist, street tree inventory, and the preservation of the final Lanwin tract were also noted.

“There is still work to do to make our community less car dependent,” Symington said. “Some say we aren’t moving fast enough. But I feel it is important to recognize what has been accomplished.”

Members of Council praised the report.

“So many of the things I do I rely on you guys to educate me to provide data, provide support, and provide counsel, to work with the community,” said Councilwoman Eve Niedergang. “This is such an important partnership we have, absolutely crucial to what we do.”

“Sustainable Princeton and the work that you do always seeks to acknowledge equity, social justice, and environmental justice,” said Councilman Leighton Newlin. “You pay attention not to just some neighborhoods, but all neighborhoods in Princeton.”

“Tonight is one of those nights where I am feeling so proud that not only is the Climate Action Plan a thing, but it’s far enough where we’re evaluating the progress,” said Council President Mia Sacks, recalling the years when a CAP was under discussion but had yet to be formed.

Councilmembers Newlin and Leticia Fraga spoke before the vote on the resolution creating the new advisory committee, which is made up of nine members and two alternates. Terms are staggered to ensure continuity so that they don’t all expire at the same time. To form the committee, they drew names, “literally out of a hat,” said Fraga.

She called the group “a dynamic and diverse group of individuals. This dedicated team will bring together a wide range of backgrounds, ethnicities, socio-economic statuses, and life experiences.”

The first meeting of the group is currently being organized, and their names will be listed on the website. “This is an overarching and collaborative initiative that will address critical areas of stabilization for the least, the forgotten, and the sometime-lost among us,” Newlin said.