Mountain towns, such as ours, have long been revered for their breathtaking landscapes, plentiful outdoor activities, and pristine environments. However, our economies and communities are some of the most vulnerable to ever-increasing threats from climate change. In response, a group of dedicated mountain communities have been taking action to secure a sustainable future. Mountain Towns 2030 is empowering a movement of mountain communities committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2030. The annual Climate Solutions Summit is a gathering of key stakeholders from mountain and outdoor communities, such as local elected officials, government staff and sustainability teams, ski resorts, business, and nonprofit leaders, all committed to achieving zero-carbon emissions in their communities.
The 2023 Climate Solutions Summit in Vail brought together environmental enthusiasts, community leaders, and innovators all oriented towards a more sustainable and climate-resilient future. Let's take a moment to recap a Summit that left attendees inspired and empowered to take change back to their home communities.
Keynote Speakers - Voices of Inspiration
The Summit boasted an impressive lineup of keynote speakers, including renowned climate activists and government & industry leaders. The first day of the conference opened up with several Eagle County community leaders, including Vail Mayor, Kim Langmaid, Avon Mayor, Amy Phillips, and Eagle County Commissioner, Matt Scherr welcoming the 400+ attendees to Vail. We also heard an energizing presentation from Molly Kawahata, former White House Climate Adviser under President Obama and the subject of the Patagonia Film, “The Scale of Hope”. Kawahata’s presentation on fostering hope as a catalyst for climate action left many feeling, well, hopeful. Kawahata’s engaging storytelling dove deep into her personal life and how through her own struggle with mental illness, she has learned to use positive psychology to empower people, and herself, towards climate solutions. She shared with us a tried and true formula for harnessing hope: having feasible goals, activating agency and willpower, and identifying pathways and strategies. In short, goals, agency, and pathways are the recipe for hope, and hope is what compels people to act. What gives you hope in our fight against climate change?
Day two conference proceedings were equally as enthusiastic. Eagle Mayor, Scott Turnipseed, took part in a keynote session with mayors who are meeting the moment on climate, sharing the stage with leaders from Salt Lake City, Utah, and Northglenn, Colorado. Town of Eagle has adopted a community wide net zero carbon emissions by 2030 goal, which was inspired by 2019’s Climate Solutions Summit in Park City, Utah. We also heard a deeply meaningful panel on equitable climate transitions with climate equity leaders Kathryn Grove from Western Resource Advocates, and Beatriz Soto from Conservation Colorado. Their panel presentation was a sobering reminder that despite “delay being the new denial,” we must move climate action forward with great thoughtfulness and intention, so as to not repeat systemic harms to historically marginalized communities.
Workshops - Learning from Peer Communities
The majority of the Climate Solutions Summit was spent in workshops, where attendees chose one of four diverse sessions to learn about challenges and solutions in an intimate setting. Workshop topics spanned the likes of federal and state grant funding, building and transportation decarbonization, responsible materials management, circular economies, and much more.
Walking Mountains staff and Climate Action Collaborative (CAC) partners were the focus of several workshop sessions, highlighting the abundance of leaders and progress Eagle County communities and organizations have to offer. A workshop on innovative waste solutions in mountain communities was led by Walking Mountains’ Amelia Kovacs, Vail’s Beth Markham, and Avon’s Charlotte Lin. Destination management and sustainable tourism were the topic of a conversation guided in-part by Walking Mountains’ Melissa Kirr and Vail’s Kim Langmaid and Kristen Bertuglia. Additionally, CAC staff sat on a panel discussing the role of nonprofits in climate action work, accompanied by Adam Palmer Sustainability Fund’s Laura Hartman, High Country Conservation Center’s Jess Hoover, and Park City Community Foundation’s Andy Hecht.
The Road Ahead
As all successful conferences do, CAC staff left the Climate Solutions Summit feeling energized toward the task at-hand, equipped with problem solving tools, and perhaps most importantly, celebrated for the amazing work happening in our community. We’re looking forward to what the new year will bring for our collective climate action work, and attending 2024’s Climate Solutions Summit.
Gina McCrackin is the Climate Action Collaborative Manager at Walking Mountains Science Center. The Climate Action Collaborative is working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Eagle County 50% by 2030 and 80% by 2050.