Executive Summary

Climate change is not a new phenomenon, but the rate at which human actions are altering global temperatures is staggering. With temperatures continuously rising, an increase in occurrence of natural disasters, and worsening weather patterns it is difficult to imagine what will occur if no action is taken.

There has been an ongoing debate, though the science is largely settled, on whether climate change is occurring. Those skeptical or opposed to the existence of manmade changes to the climate place confidence in the idea that the weather conditions are a part of a naturally occurring cycle, claiming that there is no satisfactory scientific evidence to state otherwise. However, a majority of scientific agencies have come to the conclusion that climate change is occurring and is largely due to human activities (EPA, 2011).

While the change in climate and weather patterns is the issue at hand, many of the repercussions are over looked. The financial ramification of climate change is not actively addressed, nor is the correlation between energy use reduction and financial savings. If more of the global population were to become conscious of their energy use and opportunity to save money, not only would they be able to save in individual homes, but they would also be able to gradually slow the effects of climate change.

The goal of this project was to draft the first half of a Climate Action Plan (CAP) for the Town of Auburn. To successfully accomplish this goal our project team set the following objectives:

  • Establish a timeline for creation of a CAP
  • Assess Auburn’s needs in CAP development
  • Compare the Town of Auburn with similar towns that have successfully completed CAPs
  • Determine approach to creation of a CAP
  • Make recommendations to the Town of Auburn for what should be included in their CAP and seek approval from the Town Planner

 

Methodology and Findings

Through a series of interviews, and surveys we were able to fully understand the views of the Auburn residents. From these methods we determined that our efforts must be focused towards the economic savings that would come with energy reduction, rather than environmental benefits. The majority of survey responders expressed concern with financial obligations they feared would accompany enacting a CAP. By spreading knowledge of energy saving methods we hope to not only reduce energy use throughout the town but also reduce the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).

To garner the support of Auburn residents we began to draft informational fliers that we disseminated throughout the town. These fliers contained information regarding state incentives for investing in energy efficient appliances and technologies as well as local offers for home weatherization. We also drafted a webpage containing similarly themed information, however with more detail and additional internet sources.

We reached out to the Auburn High School (AHS) to assist in gaining community support. We believe that gaining the students support for our efforts will allow an energy reduction ethos to grow organically through the town. The idea of gaining student support evolved into creating collaborations between the AHS environmental club, the Acton-Boxborough Green Council and the WPI Green Team to aid the AHS in their efforts to be given the Green Flag Award: an award given to schools recognized for their efforts in creating a sustainable environment and spreading awareness to the greater community (National Wildlife Federation, 2012). We were able to provide the environmental club advisor, Karen Ares, with all of the necessary contact information for the groups to collaborate efficiently moving forward.

By the use of case studies we were able to compare the CAPs of various municipalities and determine which methods would be most effective in Auburn. We sorted potential action items by analyzing population size and the urban or rural nature of the community in which they were implemented.

A less hands-on, but equally important exercise was obtaining a baseline emissions report on Auburn’s energy usage. We investigated and subsequently input data sets into the Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) programs, Climate and Air and Pollution Planning Assistant (CAPPA) and Clean Air and Climate Protection (CACP). These programs provided us with emissions baseline data broken down into municipal and non-municipal sections. This baseline allowed our project group and will allow future project groups and town employees to track the progress of the final CAP as well as give estimates for municipal costs and payoff period for implementing large-scale action items. Large-scale action items may include: an LED street lighting retrofit, solar panel implementation and installation of motion activated lighting in municipal buildings. Further research is needed for possible action items for the Town of Auburn to complete a CAP draft, however, we were able to come up with the following recommendations based on our findings.

Recommendations 

The result of our project is the formulation of a baseline emissions inventory and the beginning stages of research for potential action items for Auburns’ CAP. We have formulated these recommendations to aid in the completion of drafting and implementation of the CAP:

  • Continue gathering community support by making energy reduction information readily available;
  • Continue working with AHS to promote environmental awareness and sustainability;
  • Review and ensure full understanding of both the CAPPA and CACP programs to maintain a consistent emissions record;
  • Follow detailed methodology for data collection if it is found that additional data points are still needed; and
  • Continue adding to and refining the action item summaries.

Implementing a CAP can be difficult when the community is skeptical and not fully supportive. However, all support systems and tools needed to complete this task are provided by ICLEI. With proper research and understanding of all programs involved, completing a CAP for Auburn is an achievable goal.