Nothing to Fear From ICLEI Says RC Clear Chairperson

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A local homeowner undergoes an energy audit last year.
A local homeowner undergoes an energy audit last year.

by Gene Marrano

By the narrowest of votes (3-2), the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors voted last week to continue its membership in ICLEI (the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives), despite opposition from some local residents. Roanoke County spends $1200 a year for its ICLEI membership, which gives the locality access to software programs that can help analyze the reduction of carbon emissions, and enables it to network with other ICLEI localities about their success stories.

“RC Clear,” Roanoke County’s local citizen-led committee that is affiliated with ICLEI, has launched a “Save A Ton” campaign, urging every household and local business to do their part by reducing carbon emissions – the carbon footprint – by one ton a year. That’s about 26 cubic feet, or almost as large as a small home. Those who object to ICLEI, RC Clear or even its Roanoke City counterpart, the Clean & Green committee, suspect ties to the United Nations or “Agenda 21,” an international planning document that calls for clustered housing.

No one will mandate when you can turn on a light or where you must live assures Nell Boyle, the chairperson for RC Clear.  “There’s no association that reflects anything [about] our work,” said Boyle. Indeed, RC Clear has focused on promoting homeowner energy audits, working with TAP contractors to visit a hundred homes, showing people how they can lower energy costs using simple methods like additional insulation, caulking, plugging air leaks, etc. A round of free energy audits for local businesses is now underway. A small federal grant helped launch the audits and RC Clear.

“What we’re trying to do is educate as many people as we can that there is a real important need for us to monitor our use of energy and natural resources,” said Boyle, who now works part time for Roanoke City, helping businesses do just that. “Its really education as far as I am concerned. We also want to positively affect the greenhouse gas emissions. We live in a very beautiful area. That’s why I [want] to protect the environment. The members of RC Clear support that.” The Roanoke Valley’s air quality however has long been known as poor, with many calling for ways to reduce the carbon emissions that help degrade it.

Two Republicans on the Board of Supervisors – citing a lack of facts for any claim of U.N. dominance – voted with independent Charlotte Moore to keep the county’s ICLEI membership in place. Independents Butch Church and Ed Elswick voted against the membership. Moore has long championed ICLEI and RC Clear, and has made the environment a centerpiece of both of her runs for Cave Spring district supervisor.

RC Clear has appeared at several energy expos and has produced a list of ways to save on energy, starting with the use of compact fluorescent light bulbs, doing some weatherizing on the house, suggestions about making fewer car trips, etc. A modest marketing campaign and a new website (saveaton.org) has recently been rolled out. There is also a tool online to help homeowners calculate the carbon footprint reductions associated with changes they make. The Roanoke Regional Commission will help oversee the Save a Ton website, which spans several localities, including Roanoke City and Salem. “We think there are a lot of good success stories out there,” said Boyle; “we just feel like this is a really important community message.”

There are no mentions of United Nations mandates or mandatory cluster housing, although Roanoke County’s community plan has long called for “in fill” of areas already developed and planned housing developments as a way to reduce urban sprawl – which also leads to poorer air quality from longer commutes.

“We have to think about future generations,” said Boyle, who wants to assure residents that there is no ulterior motive attached to RC Clear or the ICLEI membership. “The whole idea is to make people more aware of their choices [concerning energy]. Nobody is mandating anything there. We’re all protective of our rights, and that’s a good thing. In terms of anybody mandating any type of behavior change- that’s just not what we’re talking about here.”