QUEENSBURY — It’s not often that a North Country town is asked to help do what the federal government decided not to do.
But Queensbury officials are considering joining the We Are Still In movement, in which municipalities, businesses and other small groups try to reduce their carbon footprint.
The ideal would be to create as much of a reduction as the United States originally agreed to do in the Paris Agreement, which spelled out the need to slow global warming before the climate changes drastically.
That’s a lot easier to do on the national level, where changes in policy or regulation can have a nationwide impact.
However, that’s not happening now. President Donald Trump has taken steps to roll back requirements to improve vehicle fuel economy, a key component of reducing the country’s carbon footprint.
That’s left everyone else to try to cut back wherever they can, from putting solar panels on a house to persuading a town to slowly switch to an electric-only vehicle fleet.
So far, 3,500 representatives from all 50 states have joined the movement, according to We Are Still In.
Queensbury Town Board member Catherine Atherden asked the Town Board to join the movement, counting the town’s clean-energy efforts toward the country’s goal in reducing greenhouse gases.
She’s hoping it would motivate other municipalities to join as well.
“We can do a whole lot more,” she said. “For instance, when you want to build a new building, you can’t force people to do solar or geothermal, but certain questions should be asked.”
The idea is that informed planners might present options that didn’t occur to a local resident, such as pointing out that their house is south-facing and would be perfect for solar.
Planners could also suggest new environmentally sensitive technology that might serve residents better.
“Have you thought about, instead of putting in (septic) holding tanks, putting in a Clarus Fusion?” she suggested, referring to a new sewage treatment system.
It’s all part of changing the culture, she said.
“We will not do this, we will not save the planet, unless the culture changes,” she said. “This is serious business.”
It’s hard to imagine that all the small municipalities in parts of the country could equal what the federal government could have done.
But Atherden said it’s a start.
“I’m very encouraged by what this country is doing without the formal U.S. agreement,” she said. “People are waking up. I think this will just get stronger and stronger.”
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Queensbury has been focused on environmentally friendly efforts for some time, adding solar power to most town-owned buildings, switching to LED lighting and buying electric cars.
Its Clean Energy Committee led the region through a solarize campaign last year that nearly equaled the results of a campaign in the much larger Albany area.
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Atherden thinks the town can do much more, and that the We Are Still In movement could encourage the town in those efforts.
But it’s an uphill battle. In 2018, the country’s total carbon dioxide emissions rose for the first time in years.