Faced with 'immense' public interest, Fargo's climate action panel expands

Ideal candidates for the Sustainability and Resiliency Committee are passionate about climate issues and taking local action, City Commissioner John Strand said.

'Climate Strike' event draws people of all ages to Fargo City Hall in 2019
Demonstrators rallied outside Fargo City Hall to bring awareness to climate change on Sept. 20, 2019.
Forum file photo

FARGO — Global protests over climate change inspired Fargo youth to demonstrate outside City Hall in 2019, demanding the city take action . In response, City Commissioner John Strand held a meeting the next month to hear citizens' concerns and ideas.

That meeting led to the creation of Fargo's Sustainability and Resiliency Committee, which is tasked with recommending actions and policy changes to city leaders that would create a more sustainable, environmentally-friendly community.

Despite initial enthusiasm, the committee experienced significant delays in getting down to work — delays that Strand attributes to the COVID-19 pandemic and police reform conversations that arose after the killing of George Floyd. The committee was created in 2020, according to the city, and held its first meeting in March of 2021.

“Change doesn’t happen quickly," said Strand, who chairs the Sustainability and Resiliency Committee. "It's never as fast as we want it. Our job, though, is to try and be as thorough as possible to keep our feet on the ground."

The committee has drawn a lot of attention from members of the public, according to Strand. “There is an immense amount of interest” in serving on the committee, he said.


This recently motivated the committee to seek to add four members. The Fargo City Commission unanimously approved this move during its Feb. 21 meeting.

Penelope Echola, 11, speaks of the need for Fargo to take steps to address climate change during a meeting organized by City Commissioner John Strand on Nov. 27, 2019, in City Hall.
Forum file photo

Two of these new seats will be open to the public and the other two will be filled by a representative from the local public transit agency and the Fargo Youth Initiative, respectively.

New applicants, as well as all previous applicants, will be considered for the newly created seats. The city received about 40 applications in 2021 when the committee initially sought community members to fill three available seats , Strand said.

Ideal candidates are passionate about climate issues and local actions and are eager to voice their thoughts and engage in the committee, Strand said. “Diversity also is an important consideration,” he said.

Those interested in applying can submit an application on the city’s website:

Currently the committee has 11 voting members, three of whom are members of the public . With this change, the total number of members will grow to 15.
The committee spent much of its first year taking stock of what Fargo has been doing already to promote sustainability , according to Strand.

Since then, the committee has prompted the city of Fargo to create carbon dashboards that will start tracking energy usage in a few city facilities and financially supported a plastic bags task force that encouraged residents to use reusable bags, according to Strand. The committee expects to see initial data on the carbon dashboards soon, Strand said.

Fargo City Commissioner John Strand welcomes people to a “Climate Action Town Hall Conversation” on Nov. 27, 2019, in City Hall.
Forum file photo

In the future, Strand expects the committee's work will focus largely on electric vehicles and other electric options.


Citizens Local Energy Action Network (CLEAN), a nonprofit group focused on shrinking Fargo’s carbon footprint, presented a petition for city action regarding electric vehicle chargers to the committee in November.

CLEAN asked that the city of Fargo require new apartment buildings to outfit at least 20% of their parking spots with the infrastructure needed to charge an electric vehicle . The group also sought the retrofitting of existing apartment buildings with electric vehicle infrastructure. These changes would give apartment residents the option of owning electric vehicles, CLEAN spokesperson Sonja Kaye said in November.

The committee has paused its examination of CLEAN's idea, according to Strand, until the Fargo-Moorhead Metropolitan Council of Governments (METROCOG) starts its examination of electric-vehicle readiness in the metro area.

Adam Altenburg, METROCOG's community and transportation analyst, told the committee during its Feb. 14 meeting that this examination will begin in May and take a year to finish.

National studies predict that over half of the vehicles sold in the U.S. will be electric by 2030, according to Altenburg, although he clarified that North Dakota is trailing far behind the national average in terms of electric vehicles on the road.

When the time comes, Strand anticipates that the committee might work toward creating incentives for developers to build electric vehicle infrastructure instead of requiring it.

Students display signs during a climate rally at Ben Franklin Middle School in north Fargo on Sept. 20, 2019.
David Samson / The Forum

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