Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Policy Would Create Climate Lens for County Infrastructure Projects

Chairwoman Marcelia Nicholson wants county to consider emissions goals when prioritizing infrastructure and maintenance projects.

By - Apr 7th, 2023 03:47 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

Milwaukee County Board Chairwoman Marcelia Nicholson has authored legislation that, if approved, would give policymakers a rubric for prioritizing projects that will help the county achieve carbon neutrality.

In 2021, the board adopted a policy authored by Nicholson that committed the county to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. A Sustainability Task Force is currently working on developing a plan to that end, and at the start of this year circulated a survey for county residents intended to inform the planning process.

The resolution, co-sponsored by Sup. Steven Shea, would direct county officials to develop criteria for evaluating and scoring infrastructure and maintenance projects “for their contribution to the County’s adopted goal of carbon neutrality and alignment with the strategic plan outlined in the Climate Action 2050 report.”

“As someone who cares deeply about our youth, it is important that I use my position to make sure we have a livable planet for generations to come. When I wrote a resolution committing Milwaukee County to becoming carbon neutral by 2050, that was just the beginning,” Nicholson said in a statement. “We now need to make sure our climate is front and center when making all major decisions, including our capital projects. Where we spend our limited dollars matters.”

Scoring projects with specific criteria is nothing new for the county, which has a Capital Improvements Committee that reviews project requests and develops short and long-term plans for which projects to prioritize. But the current scoring process does not consider how a project maps onto the county’s carbon neutrality goals. The emissions-related criteria will build that in, as well as give policymakers an idea of where to direct funds to make the biggest impact.

“Future projects should have a lens on climate so we are making the most of what we have to work towards a sustainable and green future,” Nicholson said.

Additionally, the resolution directs the county’s Office of Sustainability and Department of Administrative Services to “coordinate with applicable departments to seek grant opportunities to support projects that help achieve the county’s adopted sustainability goals.”

The county’s goals for carbon neutrality also mirror those in the international Paris Climate Agreement, such as a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2030. In 2017 the board passed a resolution committing to the “principles and goals” of the agreement after then-President Donald Trump withdrew U.S. support.

A 2021 report, based on data from 2005 to 2018, found that the county had already reduced its carbon footprint by approximately 31%. A more recent report, charting emissions from 2019 to 2021, found the county had reduced its carbon footprint by another 12%, leaving another 18% reduction in emission reductions needed to hit the 2030 goal.

Read the full resolution.

If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real, independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits.

Categories: Environment, MKE County

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us