Fulton County's new sustainability plan sets climate change mitigation as No. 1 goal

By David Pendered

Climate change mitigation is the No. 1 priority named in the sustainability program approved unanimously by Fulton County’s Board of Commissioners. The measure is strongly endorsed by environmentalists and members of a citizen panel that contributed to the document.

Appalachian creek

Fulton County’s newly adopted sustainabilty program touts the natural beauty of the region that’s located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Credit: David Pendered

The commission voted unanimously June 5 to adopt a program that establishes specific priorities that are to:

  • “Reduce energy and water consumption by 20 percent for all county-owned facilities based on the consumption rate for 2018 (baseline year) by year 2025;
  • “Improve air quality by increasing green spaces on the county’s capital projects; increase alternative fuel vehicle fleet, green commuting alternatives, and safe access to transportation for pedestrians and bicyclists at county sites; increase recycling efforts, composting and alternate disposal options at county buildings and on capital projects by year 2025;
  • “Empower employees and residents with education through various means of outreach about the county’s sustainability commitment to the environmental and economic benefits of green practices.”

The entity that helped craft the program, the Fulton County Citizens Commission on the Environment, was created in 1995 to establish environmental policies. Member Lynn McIntyre said in an email Monday the plan culminates a year’s worth of work on an effort that was started almost a decade ago.

The program represents the government’s commitment to addressing environmental concerns of the county’s residents.

“It is needed for Fulton County citizens who expect government to provide the leadership to move us forward on critical environmental challenges,” McIntyre said. “Long term, we know this plan will meet several key strategic goals, such as ‘all people are healthy.’ It is road map for the future and we are happy to have contributed to the effort.”

The trend line that Fulton’s program represents is heading in the right direction, Jennette Gayer, executive director of Environment Georgia said Monday in an email. A major first step up this line occurred earlier this year, when Atlanta adopted a sustainability platform in March that calls for a 100 percent transition to clean energy.

“I’m glad to see a plan with clear metrics on a broad array of issues coming form Fulton County,” Gayer said. “As we see more and more counties and cities adopt ambitious 100 percent clean and renewable energy goals I hope Fulton’s plan and their successes will lay the groundwork for bigger and bolder actions from the county.”

In addition, a cover letter posted on the document by commissioners commits the leadership of Georgia’s most-populated county to environmental stewardship.

The six priorities outlined in the county’s plan, 2019 Sustainability Plan + Resilience, are named as:

  • Climate change mitigation;
  • Social equity and smart transit;
  • High-performance county infrastructure;
  • Education, outreach and green jobs training/placement;
  • Fostering partnerships for plan implementation;
  • Budgetary appropriation for implementation of the plan.

Fulton County Chairman Robb Pitts commended the plan in a statement:

“[T]his board again showed its commitment to the future of Fulton County,” Pitts said. “It is our civic duty to our current and future constituents to do everything in our power to take care of our planet and its natural resources. By adopting this Sustainability Plan, we are taking responsibility for our environmental impact and ensuring that our environment is considered in every decision.”

An introductory letter signed by all six commissioners begins by locating Fulton County in the verdant foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Then it observes:

  • “Preserving these breathtaking natural resources, including our economic and social stature, now and in the future is the collective vision we have for our communities. Sustainability begins by developing a collective idea of what we want to be, then taking actionable steps toward making that vision a reality for all, making Fulton County one of the best places to live, work and visit…./”
    “Our top priority is to lead a path of transformation, enhancing sustainability and resilience during the next five years and beyond. We are making sustainability and resilience a reality in Fulton County where all can thrive and be a legacy for the future….
  • “Our top priority is to lead a path of transformation, enhancing sustainability and resilience during the next five years and beyond. We are making sustainability and resilience a reality in Fulton County where all can thrive and be a legacy for the future.”

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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