Appleton’s Climate Action Plan Proposal seeks to address climate change

In December 2021, the Taskforce on Resiliency, Climate Mitigation and Adaptation of the Appleton Common Council released the Climate Action Plan Proposal for the city. The taskforce was created on Nov. 20, 2019 by Resolution 13-R-19, which was introduced by Common Council members Vered Meltzer, Denise Fenton and Alex Schultz, and former council member Corey Otis. According to Appleton Mayor Jake Woodford, Appleton is attempting to reduce its electricity use by 25% by 2025.  

The Climate Action Plan begins with a letter from Woodford and then gets into the history of Appleton and the importance of addressing climate change. The task force mentions that Appleton has installed a large solar farm at the Municipal Services Building, installed UV-light disinfection at the water plant, installed ponds and biofilters to improve water quality and converted all city-owned streetlights to LED, which are more durable, efficient and long-lasting, among other sustainability projects.  

The plan includes a graph that shows the source of Appleton’s carbon emissions. Most of the emissions come from the energy sector, with 54.9% of emissions from electricity, 37.8% from methane and 6.2% from natural gas. 0.5% of Appleton’s emissions are from landfill waste, and another 0.5% come from transportation.  

The plan then discusses the importance of addressing climate change, noting that globally, atmospheric carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide were higher in 2019 than at any other time in human history. The taskforce also notes that the increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases is leading to sea level rise and an increase in extreme weather such as droughts, wildfires, blizzards and floods, and that a warming climate will contribute to more war, poverty and a worsening refugee crisis.  

For Wisconsin specifically, heatwaves and precipitation are forecasted to increase significantly. The taskforce also notes that extreme heat is decreasing milk production and increased precipitation has waterlogged soils, which has delayed the planting and harvesting seasons, negatively impacting Wisconsin’s economy. The taskforce mentions that these extreme weather events will lead to worse health outcomes and expensive property damage. The plan then moves on to recommendations.  

The recommendations are divided into four sections: Leadership, Wellbeing and Public Spaces, Resource Allocation, and Natural World.  

In the Leadership section, the plan recommends that the city of Appleton establish a permanent body to “promote and facilitate climate action” and engage the community in the process. Specifically, the plan asks Appleton to hire Climate Resiliency Staff, to identify necessary measures, collaborate with the community and identify funding sources. The plan also recommends that a Greenhouse Gas Inventory to track the amount and sources of Appleton’s emissions be completed by July 1, 2022, as well as a dashboard to show the city’s progress on its emissions goals. The plan then requests that the city of Appleton engage with local educational institutions to integrate environmental issues into curricula and to incorporate recommendations from underserved communities.  

In the Wellbeing and Public Spaces section, the plan recommends that Appleton implement standards to regulate the environmental impact of buildings, including energy consumption, emissions and waste. It’s also recommended that Appleton establish effective stormwater management and reduce the use of pesticides. The plan recommends that cars in the city fleet that need replacement be replaced by hybrid or electric vehicles and that the city build and connect bike lanes and increase pedestrian safety. It also recommends that Appleton support public transit, such as looking into areas that need increased bus routes and offering free bus fare for students. In October 2021, Valley Transit made fares free for Lawrence students.  

In the Resource Allocation section, the plan recommends that Appleton reduce energy consumption by only using necessities like streetlights and temperature control in buildings when needed and implementing systems to determine when they don’t need to be used. The section also recommends developing a variety of renewable energy systems in the area, such as wind power, so that energy that is used comes from sources that don’t emit greenhouse gases. This section also talks about waste management, such as commissioning a study to determine how much recyclable and compostable material ends up in the landfill, implementing composting and recycling programs, and partnering with schools, grocery stores and restaurants to decrease waste. It also asks the city to reduce plastic use, reduce water usage and control runoff.  

The last section of the plan is the Natural World section, which encourages the city of Appleton to support urban forestry, conserve the prairie landscape and incentivize gardening.  

Although the Taskforce no longer meets, and many of these changes have been implemented, there is still work to be done to make sure Appleton reaches its climate goals.