Omaha City Council members push to speed up climate action plan progress

The council voted 4-3 to approve Tuesday’s resolution.
It's been almost a year since the city expressed its intent to create a climate action plan but so far, no progress has been made.
Published: Sep. 13, 2022 at 10:38 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - In the list of the top 50 biggest cities, 15 of them don’t have climate action plans as climate change continues to plague the planet.

On that list is Omaha.

Last November, council members voted in support of a resolution that expressed the intention of creating the city’s climate action plan and hiring a consultant to help the city do so.

“Every city our size has already done a climate change action plan to assess our current environmental footprint, to identify specific goals, to reduce our carbon emissions and reduce our impact on our environment,” said Council President Pete Festersen on Tuesday. “There’s no reason why this hasn’t started in the last 10 months.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Festersen introduced a resolution that further expresses the council’s support for the plan to happen sooner rather than later, and even hoped to allocate excess funding from the 2022 budget to make it happen.

“We’re reaffirming that support here with some frustration I would say on my part, in a respect that we have not yet seen a request for proposal to get that project moving that really should’ve been done before now,” Festersen added.

The Metro Smart Cities initiative, which is co-chaired by Mayor Jean Stothert, has been tasked with creating the proposal request which outlines the duty of a consultant and then hiring one.

The Mayor’s office said Tuesday that the proposal is in the works and will likely be approved at their next advisory meeting on September 21.

“It will likely be 2023 before we actually hired a consultant, the consultant hired to prepare the plan, and that plan will form what will be the strategy to address this very important issue,” said Thomas Warren, the mayor’s chief of staff.

Warren says funding for the consultant and plan will likely come from the 2023 budget, however, the current proposed 2023 budget doesn’t yet mention anything about a climate action plan.

“The goal of this is to move forward to see where we’re at, and if we say ‘well, we can’t do that because we don’t know how much,’ well we made a lot of votes up here not knowing how much something would cost. And that’s on the record,” said a frustrated Councilmember Vinny Palermo.

During Tuesday’s discussion, many community members expressed support for developing and implementing a climate plan as soon as possible.

“I support its time to begin to develop a necessary and to address this Omaha changing climate, which affects us all locally with extreme weather events,” said Cathy Jeffers.

“As a mom of young kids, I care deeply about the world we pass onto them, and I also want them to grow up in a city that’s thriving economically, culturally, and with regard to the well-being of the people who live here,” said resident Sara Kohen.

But there were also residents who spoke in opposition to the plan, saying it’s a waste of time and money.

“As they say, save the planet earth, that’s just ridiculous. Omaha’s not going to do anything to save the planet earth,” said resident David Begley.

“The false idea of man-made climate change is over 100 years old is a garbage theory used to market goods to the public such as windmills, solar cars, solar panels, these products are indulgences to supposedly keep you out of a climate hell,” said resident Andrew Sullivan.

The council voted 4-3 to approve Tuesday’s resolution to support moving the plan forward as quickly as possible.