YOU can regularly see it in the news reported in the Free Lance-Star and other newspapers: climate change is remaking our world. Fredericksburg urgently needs to develop a climate plan in response.
This effort should include a plan that would both reduce our city’s carbon emissions (which help propel global warming) and enable adaption to impacts that are inevitable—such as lethal heat, and air- and water-borne diseases—given that a certain amount of warming is already locked into our climate system.
Such a strategy would both respond to climate change risks and prevent them from worsening.
As a first step, the Fredericksburg City Council should pass a resolution acknowledging the seriousness of climate change and committing to a transition away from fossil fuels by 2050.
Similar resolutions are already being implemented by cities such as Blacksburg; Charlottesville; Atlanta; Washington, D.C.; Fayetteville, Ark.; and more than 120 others. Smart cities know that the era of fossil fuels is over.
Such a resolution has already been endorsed by Fredericksburg’s Clean and Green Commission and is now being considered by the City Council.
Renewable energy goals, however, are just one component of a Fredericksburg-centric climate plan. Municipal components of a strategic climate plan would also include:
An assessment of climate hazards, risks and vulnerabilities. Multiple free web-based tools exist to assist in this process, such as the Resilient Cities Toolkit download;
Energy efficiency targets;
Goals for rooftop solar installations on municipal buildings;
Plans to phase-in electric vehicles, replacing existing city cars and trucks as they wear out;
A consideration of a composting system for municipal food waste, an important (and often overlooked) source of carbon emissions;
A study of viable transportation needs and options for a carbon-constrained world to help city planners develop a walkable and bikeable community, while boosting mass transit in our region;
Plans to decrease the risk of catastrophic flooding, which poses severe threats to businesses and residents living downtown. This should include goals to retrofit existing mega-parking lots, e.g., in Central Park and elsewhere, with extensive tree planting, water gardens, permeable paving, and other technologies to reduce flood risk; and,
Development of a land trust to save open space and preserve remaining forestlands.
On one hand, Fredericksburg can boast its success in preserving and managing a truly remarkable amount of mileage along the river corridor upstream from town, which helps protect the wetlands, riparian ecosystems, and forestlands necessary to absorb and store water before it goes raging downstream.
On the other hand, areas outside and inside Fredericksburg have succumbed to Northern Virginia’s suburban sprawl, resulting in lost forestland and more and more pavement that simply can’t hold water, but instead puts it right into the Rappahannock River, frequently building to flood levels.
For this reason, the development of a land trust to save open space and preserve remaining forested sections in our city—to preserve their water-holding capacity, slow down erosion, and provide temperature-cooling buffers—may prove to be the most critical piece of a city climate plan.
Fredericksburg is a wonderfully historic city. But to protect all of its historic qualities, we also need to protect its future.
There is an amazing amount of talent and energy among our neighbors living here. Let’s unlock it through a climate-planning process to ensure that tomorrow’s historic city will still be there in the future, waiting to be enjoyed by our children and their own families.
Eric Bonds is associate professor of sociology at the University of Mary Washington and a member of Fossil Free Fredericksburg. Rebecca Rubin is president and CEO at Marstel-Day, an environmental consulting firm.