Editor’s note: This story was updated at 2 p.m. July 13 to reflect that the Montgomery County Planning Board and Planning Department will conduct assessments for legislation related to planning.
The Montgomery County Council voted unanimously Tuesday to require that proposed bills be reviewed for their climate impact.
Sponsored by council President Gabe Albornoz and District 5 Council Member Tom Hucker, a bill approved by the council calls for the county Office of Legislative Oversight to prepare a climate impact assessment for proposed bills starting in January.
The bill also calls for the Montgomery County Planning Board and Planning Department to conduct climate assessments for zoning text amendments and master plans beginning March 1, according to an email from Chris Peifer, digital marketing manager for the planning department.
The bill also requires the legislative oversight office to specify what should be included in a climate assessment and require an annual report from the legislative oversight director. Additionally, the bill generally amends the law governing legislation enactment.
The bill’s goal is to enhance the council’s understanding of how proposed legislation may potentially impact climate change, according to the economic impact statement prepared by Stephen Roblin of the legislative oversight office.
As a result, the council would be able to more comprehensively understand the climate impact of proposed legislation.
The bill falls in line with the county’s climate action plan, which aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions 80% in five years and to eliminate them by 2035. Last month, the county school board voted unanimously to adopt an “aggressive” sustainability policy.
Hucker described climate change as an “existential threat to our society.”
“We have an obligation to ensure that the policies we’re introducing will have a positive impact on our county community for generations,” he said.
Albornoz said he hopes future councils consider the various consequences of critical climate bills such as this one.
“All of us feel unanimously about the importance of addressing the existential threat that is climate change and acknowledging steps that we have to take here at the local level,” Albornoz said.
Senior legislative analyst Elaine Bonner-Tompkins anticipates that the bill will benefit residents of color and low-income communities.
Considering how legislation impacts climate can benefit people of color and low-income residents, she wrote, because these communities are the most vulnerable to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
“Efforts aimed at making the Council more cognizant of the potential negative impact of policy decisions on climate change are likely to narrow racial and social inequities related to climate change,” Bonner-Tompkins wrote in the bill’s racial equity and social justice impact statement.
Christine Zhu of Gaithersburg, a rising junior at the University of Maryland who is studying journalism and Spanish, is the Bethesda Beat summer intern.