Screen at the summit that says
Spectators wait for the last day of the Sustainability Summit to begin on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021, in the Swanson Auditorium at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s City Union. Photo by Kellyn Jewett/NNS.

Lincoln’s Climate Action Plan aims to build resilience to climate change through reducing emissions 80% by 2050.

Miki Esposito, a senior policy advisor to Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird, discussed how the city plans to become carbon neutral during the sustainability summit at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln last week. 

UNL’s Office of Sustainability hosted the summit on Sept. 7-9 in the Nebraska Union. Around 130 members of the community, as well as students from the university, attended the three-day summit where they heard from speakers like Esposito and various groups from UNL such as Sustain, the Student Organic Farm and ASUN’s Environmental Sustainability Committee. 

Esposito leads the mayor’s Resilient Lincoln initiative, which focuses on the implementation of Lincoln’s Climate Action Plan. The vision of the plan is to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions in the city by 80% by 2050. 

Esposito explained the eight climate action areas that the plan encompasses. The city plans to reduce emissions through increased energy efficiency, using more renewable sources of energy, and switching to electric vehicles among other efforts. The second half of the plan aims to build resilience to climate change through city actions and ordinances. 

Lincoln has decreased greenhouse gas emissions by 23% since 2011, according to Esposito. During her speech, she stressed the importance of protecting those members of the community that are most vulnerable to climate change. 

“We’re protecting everyone, not just those that have privilege and resources,” Esposito said. 

The Climate Action Plan lists flooding as one of the main risk factors of climate impacts along with droughts and public health risks. According to the census bureau, 13.5% of persons living in Lincoln are in poverty. Esposito said those who live in households experiencing poverty are at the highest risk of flooding.

“Those that are least responsible for climate change are going to feel it the most,” said Martha Shulski, director of the Nebraska State Climate Office and Nebraska State Climatologist.

Insta - UNL students learn about Lincoln’s climate action plan during sustainability summit
The summit, hosted by UNL’s Office of Sustainability, was Sept. 7-9, 2021 in the University’s City Union. Graphic courtesy of Breanna Epp.

Esposito said people are beginning to believe the data behind climate change. Sixty-nine percent of adults in Lancaster County believe that climate change is happening. Of these adults, 59% believe that climate change is something to be worried about, according to the report.

The plan includes 120 action items broken down into two categories. First, it focuses on things that the city is already doing to mitigate climate impacts. Second, the plan calls for new recommendations for the city.

“There’s two aspects to any climate plan, you can react to what we know is coming, and what’s also just as important if not more, is mitigating as best we can the worst of those impacts,” Shulski said.  

Among those mitigation efforts, Esposito said the plan aims to eliminate coal from its portfolio and invest in renewable sources of energy. The Climate Action Plan also works toward making Lincoln’s electric system decarbonized by 50% by investing in these new sources of energy. 

“The youth, when they use their voice for a political issue that this is, that’s very powerful,” Shulski said. 

The Climate Action Plan tells readers the risks of climate change in Lincoln. According to the report, by 2050 Lincoln’s climate will be five degrees warmer than the 1990 average with 44 days annually where the heat index goes above 100 degrees. Additionally, they predict a 15-30% increase in days with heavy precipitation statewide. 

During her speech, Esposito encouraged listeners to think about what they were going to do with their power. 

“It’s not the crisis that defines us, but how we respond to it,” Esposito said.