Breckenridge hosts second Climate Solutions Summit this week
gathering of mountain town leaders includes keynote by National Geographic journalist Pete McBride
The second Climate Solutions Summit is taking place in Breckenridge this week.
The event brings mountain town officials from around the country together to share strategies for addressing climate change in their unique environments, both economic and ecological.
The first summit was held in Park City in 2019 as one of a few initiatives launched by Mountain Towns 2030, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering mountainous regions to achieve net-zero carbon emissions at an accelerated pace. Park City was the first mountain town to commit to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2030, and the nonprofit was launched to help spread Park City’s strategy and get more towns on track to achieve similar goals.
Chris Steinkamp, founder of the climate advocacy nonprofit Protect Our Winters, is now serving as executive director of Mountain Towns 2030. He said that many of the larger, wealthier towns — such as Park City and Vail — have been able to spend time and money coming up with effective plans for countering climate change, but this is a privilege that not all communities have the resources to invest in. That is where the Climate Solutions Summit comes in.
“We just realized there was so much work that went into it that we should share this work with other communities that don’t have the capacity to try to do that,” Steinkamp said. “With climate change really bearing down on us, the window that we have is getting tighter and tighter, so if we can start talking and sharing all of this data, then that’s just going to move us forward that much faster.”
The three-day summit features over 40 speakers sharing insights and leading workshops that focus on the specific demands and challenges of climate change in mountain communities. The topics at the summit include creating zero-waste and plastic-free spaces, enacting environmental restoration, employing sustainable resort practices and lobbying for beneficial climate policies at the state and national level.
The urgency of the climate situation calls for immediate action, Steinkamp said, while adding that the summit is intended to serve more as a playbook than a think tank.
“I want to make sure that everybody leaves this summit with a very focused set of tools to get the job done when they get back home,” Steinkamp said. “We’re holding like 16 workshops on very specific topics that might address some challenges that a lot of these communities are facing and answer some of their tougher questions.”
A number of Eagle County communities, including Vail and the town of Eagle, will be leading sessions at the summit to share what has been effective in the area.
During the 2019 Climate Solutions Summit, Vail Resorts joined together with Alterra Mountain Co., Boyne Resorts and POWDR to form the Mountain Collaborative for Climate Action, a group committed to leading the ski industry in advancing climate objectives. Representatives from all four companies will be presenting how they have upheld this commitment over the past few years, and those officials are expected to lay out a framework for what lies ahead.
Representatives from the town of Eagle will be presenting on the creation of the Adam Palmer Sustainability Fund and how the town is working creatively to meet its 2030 goal of net-zero emissions.
The impacts of the pandemic on climate action goals will also be a focus point of discussions this week. Not only did the pandemic delay, by two years, the ability for organizers to gather town officials for the summit, but it dramatically changed the social and economic layout of mountain towns across the country, which have since been inundated with new populations as remote workers flock to the area.
“There was a goal that was set before the pandemic, and then all of a sudden we had tons of people moving to town. So we had to deal with a whole new vision of what transportation looks like and housing and how to deal with more people and growth,” Steinkamp said. “It has really forced us all to figure out how we are going to keep our attention on the goals that we set, but with a different playing field.”
Steinkamp said that navigating this transformation is another unique attribute of mountain communities — one that will be solved more efficiently if leaders are collaborating and sharing what they have learned.
The summit is designed for all stakeholders in mountain communities, which includes the public that live, work and enjoy these environments.
All-access tickets are available online at MT2030.org for $400.
In addition to the regular summit sessions, there will be a public keynote on Wednesday evening called “Chasing Water” presented by National Geographic filmmaker and photographer Pete McBride. McBride will be sharing his firsthand account of the climate change-fueled drought and its impacts on the Colorado River Basin with stories and images from over a decade of covering the area. The keynote will take place from 6-7:30 p.m. at the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge and is available to the public at $20 for adults, and free for students with an ID.
The plan is to hold this summit on an annual basis and have it hosted by a different mountain town every year. From coast to coast, Mountain Towns 2030 wants to get all mountain towns on sustainable paths since it believes that the fastest way to a solution is through regular and open collaboration.
“We want everyone to know that Mountain Towns 2030 isn’t a Utah thing or Colorado thing — that every mountain community matters,” Steinkamp said. “Mountain communities are being impacted by climate change in very similar ways, no matter where you are, and we want to make sure that we involve everybody.”
For more information or to purchase tickets for the summit and keynote speaker event, visit MT2030.org.
This story is from VailDaily.com.
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