Commissioner seeks sea change in Clark County’s sustainability efforts, calls for climate action plan
Las Vegas is the fastest warming city in the nation with an average temperature increase of nearly six degrees since 1970.
That finding, from the research organization Climate Central, was one of the many statistics presented at Tuesday’s Board of Clark County Commissioners meeting, which has not seen an agenda item about climate change since the formation of the 2008 Eco-County Initiative. Commissioner Justin Jones gave the presentation in an effort to create a robust, county-specific sustainability action plan to rival that of Reno.
“Those among us who can least afford to deal with climate crisis are the ones who feel the heat, literally, as they pass away from heat exhaustion,” Jones said, citing coroner reports of heat-related deaths in uncooled cars and homes in Clark County.
The commissioner’s presentation included a request to hire a full-time sustainability manager whose primary task would be conducting a six-month audit of existing efforts and identify what the county can do to improve its sustainability practices. After the audit, the sustainability manager would be expected to adopt and implement a climate action plan.
When the 2008 initiative began, Clark County had given additional duties to Robert Tekniepe, now-supervisor of the county’s Air Quality Planning division, and designated a deputy director to oversee it. Funding for the initiative was limited to whatever grants the two-person Office of Sustainability could get.
Jones noted that the initiative led to several conservation measures such as installing more energy efficient traffic and street lights and working with local agencies to move toward more sustainable irrigation practices such as using reclaimed water and efficient landscaping. He pointed out, on the other hand, that the Office of Sustainability website had not been updated in four years.
“We have installed solar cells here in the county building. We've converted over 70 percent of our fleet vehicles to fuel-efficient vehicles. I don't think that the word gets out because there isn't a person who actually has that job description,” Jones said.
Jones also recommended that the new manager help Clark County join the Santa Clara County Coalition, a group of 25 U.S. counties signed on to decrease greenhouse emissions as outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement, which calls for countries to set voluntary targets to reduce emissions.
“I think we need to get back to some of the goals that were originally made in the 2008 eco-initiative. And I wanted to talk about a couple of things that I think we as a County Commission ought to make commitment to,” the commissioner said.
Jones said Clark County does not have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to jumping on new sustainability initiatives. Recently, other Nevada governments have made commitments to reducing emissions and implementing renewable and energy-efficient infrastructure in services such as transportation, waste management and government buildings.
The Legislature passed SB254 in spring, providing for annual reports on the state’s greenhouse gas levels and recommendations to lower them to zero emissions by 2050. Also during the last legislative session, Gov. Steve Sisolak signed on to the US Climate Alliance, which now includes 25 other states that agree to set state-specific goals to reduce emissions.
In Southern Nevada, the City of Las Vegas celebrated its transition to 100 percent renewable energy-powered buildings and lights.
To keep pace with other Nevada governing bodies, Jones requested adding a full-time sustainability manager by the end of the year. On Tuesday, Chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick said that the board would look into funding for the new position.