By Kermit Hovey

There is good news on the climate change front.

No, not the extreme heat wave and diminishing hydropower reserves in China, the drought punctuated by a torrential downpour and flash floods in Houston, or wildfires raging coast to coast. Climate change is indeed really happening, really serious, and really human-caused.

The good news is that we are really doing something about it.

In particular, as we increasingly recognize the importance of sustainability, the urgency of the climate crisis, and the need to do our part, we have major progress to celebrate and pursue. On Tuesday, August 16, 2022, the Middleton Common Council voted to approve the City of Middleton Sustainable City Plan 2022 (MSCP), and U.S. President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) into law.

And that Tuesday’s news doesn’t stand alone. From top to bottom and local to national, additional plans have been, and are being, put into motion. Let’s not forget the State of Wisconsin Clean Energy Plan (CEP ) and the Dane County Climate Action Plan (CAP).

What does this mean? First, we can celebrate good news and good movement.

We pursue major progress at every level of government. In broad terms, Middleton’s MSCP, Dane County’s CAP, Wisconsin’s CEP, and the United States IRA focus on “decarbonization” — switching to energy sources and technologies that do not release carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.

To focus on one, the MSCP specifies action to reduce the use of fossil fuels, and the carbon emissions their use releases, not only in city municipal operations, but also in our community as a whole. It encourages beneficial electrification, greenhouse gas reduction, and clean energy while addressing other areas of concern.

As the MSCP notes, success requires “all hands on deck” across city staff and the people of the city overall. The MSCP is not a plan of or for the Middleton Sustainability Committee alone. It is for all of the city to engage with and pursue, from municipal staff and government officials to community stakeholders. We all have a chance to celebrate and pursue measurable energy-saving and sustainability outcomes.

Like the original 2010 Middleton Sustainability plan and the more recent City of Middleton Comprehensive Plan, the MSCP is a high-level document. Given the Council’s approval of the plan, we must now develop the projects, cost estimates, and funding sources to implement it. We can move Middleton’s municipal operations and community life to greater sustainability and 100% clean, renewable energy. We owe ourselves and our future generations nothing less.

All of these levels — city, county, state, and federal — can and do complement each other. For example, the IRA provides resources to encourage and support actions implied or specified in the other plans. This includes tax credits for electric vehicles, solar power, and heat pumps to help us individually and collectively shift from dirty fossil fuels to clean energy and increasingly clean electricity.

For these initiatives to succeed, all stakeholders must engage with and be mobilized by them at every scale, and in any subsidiary plans, goals, and projects. After all, a problem that affects everyone needs everyone.

As much as possible, we need to view our challenges and opportunities through a sustainability and climate lens. We must never lose sight of the prize — a livable climate and a sustainable future with justice and equity for all.

We need to pursue this progress toward important greenhouse gas reduction targets and clean energy adoption goals now and over the long haul. We also need to pursue further progress not only to where these plans take us in the next several years but to where we need to go in the next couple of decades and beyond.

All of this takes persistence and consistency of political will. We need to select and support political leaders at every level of government who recognize the reality of the climate crisis, its seriousness and human cause, and the fact that we can do something about it. For the persistent and consistent progress we want to celebrate, we need to consistently and persistently support such leaders. Vote to get them in office, and call and encourage them once they’re elected.

Let’s continue to celebrate and pursue the major progress we have made, are making, and need to make! It’s not over yet, but it’s under way — with your help!

Kermit Hovey is a Climate StewardCitizens’ Climate LobbyistWisconsin Creation Care Ambassador, Advocate, and Middleton Sustainability Committee Member.

An earlier version of this post appeared in the Middleton Times Tribune.