This article was written by Elle Myers and originally published in The Montgomery County Sentinel on August 8, 2019.
Montgomery County’s Climate Planning Process Workgroups, which are tasked with coming up with a series of strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, held their first meeting on July 24.
According to the county, more than 60 volunteers and about 30 Montgomery County representatives attended the organizational meeting.
The three working groups were developed by County Executive Marc Elrich to create strategies to help the county meet its climate goals by reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2027 and 100% by 2035.
Adriana Hochberg serves as an assistant chief administrative officer in Montgomery County and the county’s climate change coordinator.
“(County Executive Elrich) recognized the tremendous expertise on climate and energy issues by members of our community,” she said. “The workgroups will seek to leverage that expertise.” Hochberg explained that climate change cannot be boiled down to just a government problem and that effective solutions should also be considered from the people the government represents.
Each working group has about 20 volunteers from the community who were selected for their environmental backgrounds and interests, according to the county. Also included in each group were 10 county representatives with environmental experience.
In his first term as county executive, Elrich had noted his commitment to addressing climate change.
“In Montgomery County, we are going to take action and establish a model for others to follow,” said Elrich. “These workgroups are an important step in the effort to consolidate past studies, efforts and experience and move forward with a concrete action plan. We are fortunate so many talented, experienced and committed people have volunteered to help address climate change and, in the process, help spur and modernize our economy, enhance our health and promote social equity.”
The workgroups are designed to focus on three key issues facing the county. The Buildings Technical Workgroup will be tasked with developing recommendations related to building codes, benchmarking and building energy-performance standards. The Transportation Technical Workgroup will look for opportunities to increase the use of electric vehicles and infrastructure such as charging stations. Finally, the Clean Energy Technical Workgroup will explore expanding the use of solar energy for hot-water heating and geo-exchange energy systems.
Gregory Knoop is the owner of Eco-Mar, which partners with communities and organizations to create conscientious architecture and urban infrastructure. He is also a volunteer on the Buildings Technical Workgroup.
Knoop said that he heard about the new climate groups through his previous work on climate issues with the county.
“This (kind of work) is what we formed our company to do, this kind of advisory work and the professional services around it,” he said. “So, we kind of put our hearts where our passions are.”
He stated that climate issues are much tougher to solve than they might look on the surface.
“There’s a lot of hard work and strategic thinking that is part of the walk across from the current state or your current trajectory to a major shift in trajectory both socially and physically and economically. (Climate change issues) are intense and involve serious work to get there; otherwise they don’t get done,” Knoop said.
Because the issues related to climate change are in some ways ominous and overwhelming, Knoop added, he wanted to be a part of the county’s working groups to come up with solutions that will bring about real progress towards healthy climate goals.
Rohini Srivastava is also a volunteer on the Buildings Technical Workgroup and a researcher at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, a non-profit organization that works toward advances in energy-efficient policies.
“I think the way I look at it is (these groups are) just such an amazing way to get expertise and an idea together,” she said. Srivastava noted that many of the volunteers had expertise in a broad range of facets like commercial building to experience serving on committees or being involved with data analytics. “So it was just such a good group of folks who could get together and brainstorm on the topics.”
She noted that the way the groups are structured with county representatives and volunteers seems to be an effective way to invoke change.
“The way it’s been structured as practitioners or people who are really interested in this topic who are really motivated to bring market solutions to the table I think is good,” she said. “That’s something that’s very unique about this group that all of us have been in the field for long enough to understand the challenges and issues and opportunities out there. How we can leverage existing structures and bring about some sort of an action that would be more impactful than just putting a policy out there and saying, hey let’s just do these upgrades.”
The groups will meet over the next five months and they will be expected to have their first reports by the end of the year, according to the county.
There will also be two additional work groups formed that cover Adaptation and Sequestration and Community Engagement and Education.
Learn more about the County’s Climate Planning Process here.