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WUWM's Susan Bence reports on Wisconsin environmental issues.

Milwaukee City-County Task Force Asks Community To Help Push For Climate & Equity Action

Erin Cadigan
Task force member Pam Ritger says one strategy makes homes more energy efficient.

The Milwaukee City-County Task Force on Climate and Economic Equity was formed in 2019. Since then, it’s been grappling with how to address the cascade of challenges that fall under those issues.

Thursday evening the group hopes residents will tune into a virtual community kickoff. The task force will share its ideas and begin to gather community input in hopes of pushing the work forward.

Milwaukee resident Ted Kraig is one of the dozen members of the task force. He says he got involved with Citizen Action of Wisconsin’s push for climate action planning in 2017.

At the time, Kraig says more people were beginning to recognize the power of connecting climate to economic opportunity, including within Milwaukee city and county government.

A city-county resolution evolved.

“Making commitments to deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions — 45% by 2030,” Kraig says. “As well as making investments to improve economic opportunity in Milwaukee, especially for people in communities of color.”

The resolution created the Milwaukee City-County Task Force on Climate and Economic Equity. Its goal is to turn aspiration to action.

READ: Milwaukee Is One Vote Away From Creating A Climate Task Force

Kraig says task force members divided the challenge among working groups, based on participants’ expertise and interest.

He calls the response overwhelming. “Green buildings has over 30 people in it, many extremely expert in the area,” Kraig says.

Kraig says the groups worked hard to come up with achievable ways to mitigate climate impacts and at the same time open the door to equitable family-supporting jobs.

Task force member Pam Ritger says one strategy makes homes more energy efficient.

READ: How Wisconsinites Are Getting Involved In The Fight Against Climate Change

“That’s really gets at the equity angle around this. You know, disproportionately households of color are spending way more than they should be on their energy every month and every year. If we can make funding and retrofits more affordable for households, not only are they reducing their energy and their emissions, they’re reducing what they’re paying every month," she says.

Ritger says another work group explored at the potential of a prefabricated “super affordable energy-efficient home project." She continues, "Where those homes could actually be manufactured in the city and so they would provide good jobs as well and sort of be fit together to provide a lot of housing we need and might need even more in the future.”

Erick Shambarger, who heads the city’s environmental collaboration office, also serves on the task force. He shares “big idea” the task force developed.

He says greening the grid is the single biggest thing that has to happen. “We’ll have recommendations around that. Again we want to have more trees in the city and reduce the amount of pavement we have so we can not only cut our greenhouse gas emissions but pull carbon out of the atmosphere and help cool the city,” Shambarger says.

The task force is also recommending the creation of resilience ambassadors. "It’s a group of people on the ground educating residents about these issues and what they can do. And then again, the green jobs is so important. Getting young people excited about the trades again, showing them that these are family-supporting jobs, connecting them to the opportunities of training and then really expand out that workforce of the future is so important,” he says.

Shambarger will lay out the task force’s proposals at Thursday evening’s public meeting. He says its goal is to let the community know what the group is thinking, and to begin to dramatically increase public engagement in the effort.

The task force will ask residents to weigh in on the measures and help fine-tune a plan it proposes folding into city and county policy.

Shambarger says it’s imperative to build a robust call for climate and equity action.

“First and foremost, we want to build a coalition of people that care about climate change. Understand why it’s impacting Milwaukee — it’s not a far-off problem, that it’s affecting us right here at home. To understand what the working groups have been putting together and then to be a vocal coalition when it’s time to implement these things to get funding for these things to make them real the goals real," he says.

Residents can participate in Thursday night’s meeting by registering via Zoom. They also share their opinions at milwaukeee.gov/climateplan.

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Susan is WUWM's environmental reporter.
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