City of La Crosse Environmental Planner Lewis Kuhlman discusses climate action plan

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Jenasea Hameister, General Assignment Reporter

“The City of La Crosse cannot prevent climate change on its own. We need to work with the county, the state, and the national government, and kind of align our priorities and our actions so we are making the most bang for our buck,” said Lewis Kuhlman, the environmental planner for the City of La Crosse.

On Tuesday, Oct. 18, Lewis Kuhlman discussed the newest draft of the La Crosse Climate Action Plan. According to the La Crosse Climate Action Plan website, “This process will establish GHG emission reduction targets through 2030 that align with recommendations from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.” The website also includes a schedule for the planning efforts.

In 2009, the La Crosse City Council passed a resolution to be carbon neutral by 2050. This resolution established the “Strategic Plan for Sustainability.” Kuhlman’s task as the city’s environmental planner is discovering, “How do we get there?”

As a part of his plan, alongside his team, Kuhlman’s department has set incremental goals that align with the city’s 2050 goals. If the city does not reach a goal set for 2030, they can adjust accordingly to keep on track.

As recently as August 16, 2022, President Joe Biden signed into law H.R. 5376, The Inflation Reduction Act, which allocates a large portion of the money to combat climate change. Kuhlman said, “Whether or not our goals are explicitly aligned with the federal government, matters less than our actions taking advantage of these federal programs, and sort of aligning what we’re doing with the funding that is available.”

Upon viewing the La Crosse Climate Action Plan, you will find nine subsections addressing different areas of climate action. These include:

  1. Transportation and Mobility
  2. Land Use and Housing
  3. Buildings and Energy
  4. Waste Management
  5. Water and Wastewater
  6. Food and Agriculture
  7. Greenspace Trees and Ecosystems
  8. Health and Safety; and
  9. Economy

Embedded within these nine subsections are 280 tasks. Kuhlman said, “We are going to need help from the community, I think that is one of the biggest things about the Climate Action Plan.”

Currently, the City of La Crosse is acting on the urgency of climate change by installing solar panels, getting more efficient boilers, chillers, and HVAC, and doing light retrofits on all of La Crosse City Hall. The City of La Crosse will need to work in conjunction with the State of Wisconsin along with other partners. The city is already partnering with Xcel Energy.

“We really need people to take collective action and talk to each other about what’s possible and what we are all doing. Otherwise, it just doesn’t seem worth it,” said Kuhlman.

In reference to the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, Kuhlman said, “I sincerely appreciate the organization Students for Sustainability (SFS) [and] their passion and interest in making the community better.” One event that was noted by Kuhlman was the Oktoberfest Clean Up, where students in SFS volunteer their time cleaning up trash from Oktoberfest weekend.

“I don’t need everyone to take every action, but I do need everybody to think about what they can do and what they want to see me do,” said Kuhlman. For further questions or comments, contact Lewis Kuhlman at [email protected] or (608) 789-7361.