Friday, November 20, 2009

Alaska Climate Change Compact

For your consideration: Should Kodiak join this statement?

Alaska Coastal Communities Global Climate Change Compact

Alaska has more miles of coastline than all the rest of the United States. The vast majority of our state’s residents call our coastal communities home. These communities generate billions in economic activity. From Metlakatla to Kaktovik, people have lived along Alaska’s vast coast for thousands of years and depended on rich biological ocean resources for survival. Today, the cultural identity and survival of Alaska’s coastal communities still depend on the ocean resources that support commercial fishing, tourism, recreation and subsistence.

We, the undersigned Alaskan local and regional governments and elected officials, express our deep concern about human-induced global climate change and ocean acidification and issue a call to policymakers to take strong and immediate action to prevent catastrophic impacts from greenhouse gas emissions. We recognize the validity of the following statements:

1. Global climate change represents one of the greatest threats of our time. The Intergovernental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s leading scientific body on this subject, has presented compelling evidence of climate change’s dangerous effects and has recommended steps to avoid them. The IPCC has called on nations to collectively curtail greenhouse gas emissions to ensure that atmospheric concentrations peak no later than 2015 and decline 80 percent by 2050, compared to 2000. The IPCC has concluded with 90 percent confidence that today’s climate changes are attributable to human activity, primarily from the burning of fossil fuels.

2. Ocean acidification is caused by increased carbon dioxide concentrations from the burning of fossil fuels and is accelerating. The daily uptake of over 22 million tons of carbon dioxide into the ocean is causing ocean acidification and threatens many forms of marine life by decreasing the ability of certain organisms to build their shells and skeletal structures. Ocean acidification has the potential, within decades, to severely affect marine organisms, food webs, biodiversity and fisheries.

3. Global climate change and ocean acidification threaten communities in Alaska. Because high latitude regions of the earth are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of global climate change, Alaska has been described as “ground zero” for climate change. Coastal erosion, thawing permafrost, and spruce bark beetle infestations are evidence of climate change in Alaska. In addition, ocean acidification threatens the fisheries that provide food, jobs, and cultural identity to many Alaskans, particularly in coastal communities.

4. Alaskan coastal communities are important to the nation, and Alaska can play a role in addressing climate change and ocean acidification. Alaska produces more than half of the seafood caught in the United States. Alaska also has potential to mitigate climate change and ocean acidification, through development and export of renewable energy technologies that can be used throughout the developing world.

5. There are compelling economic arguments to act now. Positive economic development and diversification of Alaska’s economy will be associated with addressing climate change in the state. Furthermore, the economic costs of inaction will be far greater than the costs associated with immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with IPCC recommendations.

6. The United States has an obligation to take a leadership role in addressing global climate change. With only 5 percent of the world’s population, the United States produces approximately 25 percent of the world’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.

7. For the well-being of current and future generations, immediate action must be taken at all levels of government and throughout society to address global climate change and ocean acidification. Given the seriousness of these problems, policies and programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions must constitute a priority when allocating government resources.

We hereby express support for the following policies, actions and initiatives:

1. At the national level, immediately enact climate legislation that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions to meet or exceed the goals recommended by the IPCC; e.g., 80 percent reduction from 2000 levels by 2050.
2. Reengage at the national level in the international process of dealing effectively with global climate change.
3. At the national and state levels, enact legislation and fund initiatives that will dramatically increase energy efficiency and the production of renewable energy.
4. Utilize a significant portion of the proceeds from national cap-and-trade legislation, carbon tax, or other sources to fund initiatives in Alaska that will:

- develop renewable energy resources, improve energy efficiency in buildings, transportation, etc., in all sectors of the economy
- increase public knowledge of issues related to greenhouse gas emissions,
- create a skilled workforce for a new clean-energy economy
- help vulnerable communities adapt to unavoidable climate-related impacts
- protect or rebuild infrastructure that is threatened by climate impacts
- enhance research in the area of ocean acidification
- enhance research in the areas of energy efficiency and renewable energy.

We further express our commitment to:
1. network with other Alaskan coastal communities on the issues of climate change and ocean acidification;
2. encourage actions within our own communities to mitigate climate change and ocean acidification and adapt to unavoidable changes;
3. make wise and effective use of resources provided by the state and federal governments for such actions; and
4. support community efforts to educate the public on these issues.

City and Borough of Sitka
City of Homer
City of Petersburg
City of Dillingham
City of Gustavus
Kenai Peninsula Borough