Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Board To Consider Climate Change Policy

Supervisors will vote on a carbon neutrality policy and a single-use plastics ban.

By - Apr 19th, 2021 07:03 pm

Milwaukee County Courthouse. Photo by Sulfur at English Wikipedia [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Milwaukee County Courthouse. Photo by Sulfur at English Wikipedia (GFDL) or (CC-BY-SA-3.0), via Wikimedia Commons

On Thursday April 22nd, also known as Earth Day, the Milwaukee County Board will consider a raft of climate and pollution related legislation.

Board Chairwoman Marcelia Nicholson authored legislation that, if passed, will make it the official policy of the Milwaukee County Board to pursue carbon neutrality for all county operations and facilities by 2050.

The board’s Parks, Energy and Environment Committee recently approved this resolution along with two others that would direct county owned or operated facilities to reduce or eliminate single use plastics.

Milwaukee County, along with the City of Milwaukee, set up a task force committee to begin investigating the ways carbon emissions can be reduced and jobs and racial equity advanced in a green economy. Nicholson took over as a co-chair of this City-County Task Force on Climate Change and Racial Equity when Representative Supreme Moore Omokunde resigned his board seat after his election to the state Assembly.

In the fall of 2020, the Task Force released their preliminary report, the major findings of which supported the development of a comprehensive plan that policy makers can follow over the coming decades to achieve bold goals like a 45% cut in carbon emissions by 2030 and 100% by 2050.

In 2017 the board passed a resolution saying the county “establishes its allegiance with other states and global partners that continue to adhere to the principles and goals of the Paris Agreement,” which includes carbon neutrality by 2050.

A recent carbon inventory by the county’s Office of Sustainability of all estimated private and public emissions in the county found that Milwaukee produces approximately 11.1 million metric tons of carbon emissions a year, which is essentially equivalent to the emissions that come from powering 8.7 million homes.

The latest resolution from Nicholson commits the county to these goals and seeks to create a roadmap for getting there.

The legislation requests a strategic plan for the county to meet carbon neutrality goals, a report on current progress to reduce carbon emissions and a framework for carrying out the strategic plan, all by September 2021.

When the parks committee approved Nicholson’s resolution, it also approved an amendment that stated the county is interested in pursuing projects “on a large-scale” as part of the We Energies Solar Now program.

Solar Now is a pilot program whereby the utility partners with an organization, business or government to install solar arrays on land or infrastructure that is not currently used. The Parks Department has been working with the energy utility on a potential solar farm at the county-owned Oakwood Golf Course at 3600 W. Oakwood Rd. in Franklin, as part of the program.

“We know that climate change intersects with just about every other critical area from public health to racial equity,” Nicholson said. “We also know that climate change has a disproportionate effect on communities of color.”

The chairwoman said it is expected that the strategic plan for achieving carbon neutrality will be viewed through a racial equity lens.

The other major resolution that will be before the Board this week is one that was originally sponsored by former supervisor and current Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic. If passed, the resolution state’s that it is the policy of the county to reduce the use of single-use plastics and polystyrene foam in county operations and facilities by 50% by the end of 2021 and 100% by the end of 2022.

The resolution requests that the Director of the Office of Sustainability and county Corporation Counsel bake the policy into the county’s future contracts with private vendors and for departments to update the board on their progress in meeting the goals stated in the resolution.

Sup. Steven Shea, a co-sponsor of the resolution, said the county, and the world needs to end their dependence on plastic. “Plastic is everywhere,” he said. “We are literally eating and breathing plastic.”

The board will also vote on whether or not to join the Wisconsin Local Government Climate Coalition, which will not cost the county any money.

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