City council unanimously passes climate emergency resolution

A child sits in a stroller along with a handmade sign during the Flagstaff City Council meeting Jan. 28.

To roaring applause from the public, Flagstaff City Council unanimously approved the progression of a climate emergency resolution for the City of Flagstaff. The unified decision was not a surprise considering council expressed interest in such a move when the subject was discussed at a work session Oct. 15, 2019.

The decision for a climate emergency resolution came after Joe Shannon, assistant research professor for the NAU Department of Biological Sciences, launched a petition for the city to declare a climate emergency, which gained roughly 250 signatures from various Flagstaff residents.

Flagstaff resident Darla Marks-Mariano was one of many concerned citizens to ask the council to support the climate emergency resolution.

“I feel hopeful because people here are grounded and connected to nature, and I can look around and see the possibility of transformation to a zero-carbon economy,” Marks-Mariano said. “I am here before you today to declare a climate emergency and to direct staff to elevate the goals of the Climate Action [and Adaption] Plan to carbon neutrality by 2030.”

Among the packed council chamber were dozens of students who wanted their voices heard among those who supported the declaration.

Flagstaff Arts & Leadership Academy senior Mayan Cohen addressed the council to explain the her generation’s interest in addressing the climate crisis.

“We, as young people, recognize the severity of the climate crisis and strongly support further action beyond the currently implemented Climate Action [and Adaption] Plan,” Cohen said. “While we appreciate Flagstaff’s progressive policies, we urge Flagstaff City Council to revise the current Climate Action Plan and announce a climate emergency, which requires urgent attention and action.”

Before the council voted unanimously to move the climate emergency resolution forward, councilmember Jim McCarthy joined the public by voicing his support for climate change advocacy.

“The glaciers are melting, the sea levels are measurably rising and we are seeing shifts in the type of vegetation, so we don’t need to look at the numbers to see the obvious,” McCarthy said. “Anybody who has their eyes open can see that climate change has started.”

Mayor Coral Evans also voiced her support for the citizen petition and declaration during the Jan. 28 meeting.

Furthermore, Mayor Evans questioned the council’s ability to be bold and believe in initiatives that could benefit the city, despite any controversy from residents.

“I agree with the statements from the public that we need to do more than just declare an emergency,” Evans said. “If we are going to move in a manner that’s bold, that means that this council will have to grow a backbone and when we have the ability to do the right thing, we do it.”

Although the council moved the symbolic climate emergency resolution forward, if passed, it will have no legislative power. It is rather a statement of what the council and many members of the public believe.