Bozeman residents gathered around tables and posters on Wednesday evening, drawing pictures on large sheets of paper, writing their ideas on multi-colored sticky notes and talking to city staff about how Bozeman can better address climate change.

Wednesday’s forum was the first public event for the city’s recently launched update to its climate plan, which outlines how Bozeman can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the already-changing climate.

“It’s really these actions at the city level that will be most impactful when it comes down to it,” said Bruce Maxwell, a Montana State University ecologist, co-author of the Montana Climate Assessment and member of the Montana Climate Solutions Council. “What we do here will really be a model for other communities in the state.”

The city’s new climate plan will set targets that help Bozeman meet the goals of the Paris climate accord, which the city commission endorsed in 2017. The plan will also be based on existing climate planning documents that detail dozens of ongoing projects like making buildings more energy efficient and expanding the use of electric vehicles.

Existing city initiatives have kept greenhouse gas emissions static between 2008 and 2016 — the most recent year for which data is available — despite the population growth in Bozeman, said sustainability manager Natalie Meyer. However, she said Bozeman needs to do more if it’s going to help fulfill the Paris climate agreement.

In the Story Mill Community Center on Wednesday, tables were set up around the gym. At one, a young boy drew his vision for the future, including a home with solar panels, an electric vehicle, a garden and a recycling bin. At other tables, attendees wrote down ideas to address climate change, such as educating homeowners on how to collect and use rainwater, launching a city-run compost program, expanding Streamline bus routes and providing subsidies for making energy efficient home improvements.

Using ideas offered at the forum, the Bozeman Climate Team — which includes 35 Bozeman residents — will meet over the next several months to create the new climate action plan.

Claire Vlases, a Bozeman High School student and climate team member, urged those at Wednesday’s forum to step up.

“We can’t wait for tomorrow,” she said. “Climate action is necessary.”

As a seventh grader, she led a successful effort to install solar panels on local schools and said her work shows that small local initiatives make a difference.

“We as a community can wipe away our carbon footprints,” she said. “All we have to do is roll up our sleeves and get to work.”

The Bozeman Climate Team will present a draft of the plan to the city commission in December. The public will have an opportunity to comment on the draft in the spring, and the commission will likely adopt the plan in July.

Commissioner Terry Cunningham said the city commission is committed to addressing climate change but added that Bozeman can only take the necessary steps with input from residents and if it works with state officials and NorthWestern Energy.

“The Bozeman leadership has decided we’re in,” he said. “But we cannot do this ourselves.”

Bozeman began work on its first climate action plan in 2006 after then-mayor Jeff Krauss joined the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, a pact to reduce cities’ carbon emissions below 1990 levels.

By 2008 Bozeman had created that first plan, setting out to reduce city government emissions 15% below 2008 levels by 2020. Three years later, the city expanded its plan, going beyond government emissions and deciding to reduce all emissions in Bozeman 10% below 2008 levels by 2025.

The climate plan update is the first since 2011.

Perrin Stein can be reached at 406-582-2648 or at Follow her on Twitter @PerrinStein.

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