(Wikimedia Commons Photo)

Sitka’s “Climate Action Task Force” has disbanded. The temporary task force was established in the winter of 2020/2021, with the goal of tackling Sitka’s carbon footprint. Their work will continue in a way, though– the task force is being replaced with a permanent commission focused on sustainability in Sitka. 

In February of 2021, the group reviewed an old climate action plan from a decade before. They met with the assembly in the spring to narrow down their priorities. Elizabeth Bagley was the task force chair. She gave the group’s final report to the assembly on Tuesday night, and said that of their priorities, a few rose to the top – including a greenhouse gas emissions inventory with updated data from 2021. 

“So we were able to see where there are some opportunities to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions within the city and borough of Sitka, specifically, within the municipal buildings and fleet,” said Bagley. “Some of the recommendations that came out of that work was a vehicle fleet transition schedule. So as we are transitioning vehicles, how might we move into more electric or hybrid vehicles, [or] working towards getting the remaining city buildings electrified, if they still are on any gas, and pursuing the installation of highly efficient heating systems like like heat pumps and heat pump water heaters?”

Another priority they tackled? Sustainable tourism– researching things like electrifying cruise ship docks and other tourism infrastructure in Sitka.

“One of the really important things that I think we did was provide a forum for community members to discuss their impacts and concerns,” said task force member Katie Riley. “We’ve all heard of the impacts of the diesel buses. And I know that’s a large concern amongst citizens, as was voiced at many at the climate action taskforce meeting.”

While the Climate Action Task Force’s work has come to a close, a new commission, with a dedicated city staff member liaison, is on the horizon. The assembly unanimously approved a “Sustainability Commission” at the same meeting after they thanked task force members for their service. Thor Christianson said he hoped that as the city moves toward sustainable and carbon neutral goals, it will save them money.  

“There was an interesting article in The New York Times today saying that, over the next 20 years, as we move to renewables, it will save trillions and trillions of dollars worldwide,” he said. “I applaud the people who are willing to step up and work with us on this and hopefully, you know, we’ll look forward to years of slowly pushing the goal closer to the goal line.”

The city is now seeking seven volunteers to serve on the newly formed commission. Applications are available online or at the municipal clerk’s office at city hall, and must be submitted no later than noon on Monday October 3.