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Bozeman city commissioners finished 2020 by passing a wide-ranging climate plan laying out ambitious goals for reducing emissions in the coming years.

But now, city staff say, the real work begins.

The Bozeman Climate Plan calls for the city to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26% in the next few years, establish 100% net clean electricity by 2030 and complete carbon neutrality by 2050. The plan lays out dozens of specific actions the city and community can take to help achieve those and other climate-related goals.

The action items range in scale, city strategic services director Jon Henderson said, and will require buy-in from all aspects of city government and other organizations, businesses and residents. Broadly, Henderson said the city is also looking to use a “triple-bottom line approach,” meaning decisions will be made looking at the financial, social and environmental costs.

In the near-term, staff will work to establish a charter to lay out a plan for climate action, Henderson said.

The charter is intended to be a living document laying out near-term actions the city can take in the next few months and years, he said, and will address the timeline, funding needs and partnerships that may be needed to accomplish them.

“The climate plan is a 30-year document. And the way that we wrote the climate plan, it will help us set the stage for developing solutions over a very long period of time in order to achieve these very ambitious goals in 2025, 2030 and 2050 and so the charter is more near term,” Henderson said. “None of these things are meant to be static.”

Staff are pulling together an internal committee with people from every city department to help form the charter. With the plan addressing everything from land-use decisions to transportation and waste, Henderson said it will require a broad approach.

“We’re not really in a position to implement 65 actions in parallel,” Henderson said. “What we’re doing is we’re just trying to take the good work of the climate plan, condense it into a manageable volume that takes into account the resources we have available to accomplish these actions and then we prioritize them.”

The city commission won’t have to approve the charter, Henderson said, but may influence climate priorities in their budget-setting process.

The next thing the commissioners are scheduled to vote on in the coming weeks is an agreement between Bozeman and the city and county governments in Missoula and Helena to work together to establish a green tariff program with NorthWestern Energy.

The agreement will formalize the partnership between the four governments, Henderson said, as they plan to hire a consultant to put together an economic analysis to support a green tariff proposal.

A green tariff would involve the utility adding more renewable energy sources to their existing portfolio which customers, from the city to businesses to individual residents, could choose to source their electricity from for a different rate.

A green tariff is “priority number one,” Henderson said.

“It absolutely is critical for achieving our 2030 goal of 100% net clean electricity by 2030,” Henderson said. “I’ll just say it, there’s no way we’re going to accomplish this goal unless we have something like a green tariff in place.”

The plan calls for frequent updates to the charter and for performance measure updates on the different goals and focus areas, including biannual greenhouse gas emission inventories, which Henderson said is an aggressive timeline.

The city is working on establishing an online dashboard to publish progress on their goals, Henderson said, which he expects to be live by mid-2021.

The dashboard will have sections for each of the six focus areas, Henderson said, and an interactive tool for residents to track the city’s progress.

The city is also putting together information for residents to learn how they can take action.

Involving residents will be key, Henderson said.

“In the past we’ve had these very large documents, and the climate plan is no exception, (that) get printed and put in a binder and put on a shelf. That is not what we’re going for here,” Henderson said. “We know from experience that is not how you effectively engage the community and get them engaged in making a difference.”

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Nora Shelly can be reached at nshelly@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2607.

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