In the same week that young people across the globe joined a strike to demand action on climate change, Clark County Commissioner Justin Jones outlined a plan for the county to assert itself as a leader on sustainability issues.
Speaking on Tuesday during the commission meeting, Jones requested the local government join a coalition of counties across the U.S. rallying to combat climate change within 30 days; hire a full-time sustainability director before 90 days; and perform an audit of the county’s sustainability efforts no later than six months after the director is hired.
Jones also called upon the county to adopt a sustainability and climate action plan similar to the city of Reno, which introduced the six-year proposal titled, “Reno Resilience,” last month.
In Reno, officials propose reducing energy and water use in city facilities, employing green and energy-efficient methods on capital projects, shrinking the number of employees who commute by themselves and increasing recycling in operations, construction and demolitions, among other goals.
Jones pointed to how other local players were already setting benchmarks for sustainability including the city of Las Vegas, which is committed to 100 percent renewable energy, and the state of Nevada, which joined the U.S. Climate Alliance in March and passed Senate Bill 254 this past legislative session to offer a framework for greenhouse gas reductions.
“I think that there’s some serious opportunities for we, at the county commission, to step up and make sure that we are also making those same type of commitments when it comes to sustainability and climate change,” Jones said.
Las Vegas was recently named the fastest-warming in the U.S., a dubious distinction that Jones highlighted in a presentation during Tuesday’s meeting.
Earlier this year, he and fellow Commissioner Tick Segerblom considered their roles on the Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition as a potential vehicle for addressing climate change issues, but the coalition disbanded last month.
“So I think it’s time for us to step up and take the bull by the horns and do it ourselves,” Segerblom said.
In recent years, the county has installed solar cells at the county government building and converted more than 70 percent of its cars to fuel-efficient vehicles, according to Jones.
In 2008, officials adopted the eco-county initiative to address air quality, electric vehicles and other sustainability plans but Jones said the initiative was never fully realized due to budgetary issues raised by the Great Recession and staff turnover.
One immediate role for the climate change czar would be to market the county’s ongoing efforts, which officials believe have gone overlooked.
Commission Chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick said it will be key to set expectations for the sustainability director as she also warned about funding.
“It can’t come at the expense of social services, what our main goal is,” she said.
Jones said money would come from the enterprise fund, under the umbrella of the Air Quality Department, and not encroach on social service resources.