As our nation emerges from the pandemic, some folks are asserting that governments at all levels should get back to addressing the climate emergency.
I hope local stakeholders understand that here in Dane County we never paused in our efforts to address the climate crisis. Even at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dane County was making progress on its ambitious countywide climate agenda.
- Dane County issued our Climate Action Plan in April 2020 after several years of work that involved hundreds of stakeholders from local government, business, agriculture, environmental and social advocacy groups and the university.
- Dane County Executive and Office of Energy & Climate Change staff then met virtually with dozens of stakeholder groups, ranging from local sustainability committees to chambers of commerce to faith communities, to build momentum around the climate action plan. (Please reach out if you would like us to meet with your group to talk about the Climate Action Plan.)
- Dane County installed solar energy systems at the William G. Lunney Lake Farm County Park, bringing the total number of county solar installations to 16. The system at Lake Farm provides about 90% of the electricity used at the park and campground.
- Dane County worked with MGE to build a 9 MW solar array at the airport that now provides about 40% of the electricity used for county government operations (saving taxpayers about $140,000/year in the process).
- Dane County also finalized negotiations with Alliant Energy for another solar array near the landfill that will make all the electricity for County operations 100% renewable by 2024.
- In the fall of 2020 the Office of Energy & Climate Change recognized the first cohort of Climate Champions, local governments and businesses that are leading on climate action. The Champions include the first net-zero-energy school in Wisconsin and the first carbon neutral general dentistry in the nation.
- The Brightmark manure digester in Waunakee began producing compressed renewable natural gas and selling it into the interstate pipeline, leveraging the offloading station that Dane County Waste & Renewables established at our landfill facility to support local digesters. This innovation not only reduces emissions, it keeps phosphorous out of our lakes.
- Dane County Waste & Renewables launched Trash Lab, an interactive educational display to help people better understand the implications of the waste they produce, how landfills work, and new opportunities for more sustainable solutions.
- Dane County Land & Water Resources expanded efforts to dredge waterways to remove phosphorous-rich sediment and increase water flow through our lake chain; these efforts improve water quality and make us more resilient to the climate impacts we are already facing.
- Land & Water Resources also recently issued an interactive online map that showcases the various efforts the department is pursuing to protect more than 9,000 acres of Dane County land.
In short? Dane County is getting things done—even while we responded to the once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.
Our partners - local governments, school districts, businesses and nonprofits - are getting a lot done too. Just look at the various success stories and clean energy installations to see proof of the substantial progress we are making together.
Our Office is delighted that President Biden is acknowledging the climate emergency and setting targets for national emission reductions. Here in Dane County, though, we are particularly pleased to know that we have already identified the milestones necessary to achieve a 50% emission reduction by 2030 and, most important, we are making progress on those milestones.
The climate emergency can feel overwhelming. Acknowledging local progress (and the related benefits) gives people hope and helps to accelerate our collective efforts. Yes, we have a lot to do to address the climate crisis but we are making good progress and, together, we will do even more.
Kathy is the Director of the Dane County’s Office of Energy and Climate Change. In that role she's leading efforts to implement the Climate Action Plan. Prior to coming to Dane County, Kathy led Cool Choices and, prior to that, she led Wisconsin's Focus on Energy program.
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