Administration convenes climate change meeting
Alaska Gov. Bill Walker's administration convened government bureaucrats, environmentalists, Alaska Native leaders and oil company lobbyists Wednesday in an unusual public discussion about climate change — an effort that's expected to inform a forthcoming state action plan.
The meeting, at the Dena'ina Center in downtown Anchorage, included several dozen participants — representatives from villages, state and federal agencies, Alaska Native corporations, and industry and environmental groups. They spent more than two hours brainstorming ideas about how the state should approach the problem of climate change from different levels — adapting to it, mitigating its effects, and research and response.
"This issue is with us — it's one that we need to address," said Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, whose office has been working on the Walker administration's climate policy.
The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, with thawing permafrost and erosion threatening coastal communities with flooding. But the state's efforts to address the problems have been sporadic: Former Gov. Sarah Palin convened a climate change subcabinet in 2007, but it went dormant under her successor, Sean Parnell.
Walker hasn't resurrected the subcabinet, but he announced an effort to develop a climate change "framework" in a speech early this year.
At Wednesday's meeting, representatives from groups sometimes at odds with each other — like the conservation group Ocean Conservancy and the Alaska Oil and Gas Association — sat shoulder-to-shoulder for a civil discussion about the threats posed by climate change and potential responses to them. They assembled a long list of ideas, from stronger energy efficiency standards to broader use of technology to capture carbon emissions, a major driver of global warming.
Political tensions occasionally bubbled to the surface, such as when one small group was weighing measures to slow global warming, like reducing emissions from burning coal.
"There's nothing going on in Alaska that's going to impact the needle globally," said Tom Barrett, president of Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., which runs the trans-Alaska pipeline.
The Walker administration plans to release its new climate policy later this month.