Tina Folch represents Ward 1 on the Hastings City Council.

At a time when indisputable scientific evidence tells us that we must rapidly take action to alter the effects of climate change, this past week President Trump pulled our country out of the Paris Climate Accord. The goal of the accord is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent by the year 2025. Of the 196 countries, now only the Nicaragua, Syria and the United States are not committed to achieving this goal to slow global warming. Today more than ever, it is at the local level that we have to step up our efforts to lead the way.

Investments in sustainable energy sources and energy efficiency measures are vital to address climate change in the present, rather than paying far more in the not-so-distant future. Already we are experiencing the global dying of coral reefs. Ironically, just this past week it was announced that two-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef off of Australia, in the past 18 months, has died due to rising ocean temperatures.

As a new Hastings City Council member, I have been attempting to bring forward sustainability initiatives that can be implemented quickly. In the past five months, I have successfully advised the council to pass a letter of support urging our congressional delegation to support climate change action. In addition, I have requested that city staff investigate purchasing a solar energy subscription with a local solar garden provider which could potentially save us as taxpayers millions of dollars over 25 years. Lastly, I have requested that staff initiate the process of bringing a lower cost business loan program to Hastings for energy efficiency and renewable energy investment called the St. Paul Port Authority PACE Program.

We must all ask ourselves: "What can I contribute to this cause and help fix this problem?" I urge residents to take action by doing what you can and considering some of the following low-cost items:

• Conduct an energy audit of your home by using programs such as those offered through Xcel Energy's Home Energy Squad. These energy auditors will deliver customized energy solutions to your front door. The visit will even include a Home Energy Audit with thermal imaging and an assessment of air leaks. You'll be amazed by how much they can get done in two hours, and your new, more energy-efficient home will continue to provide energy savings for years. Request an enhanced Home Energy Squad visit by calling 651-328-6221 or email hesscheduling@thenec.org.

• Sign up for Xcel Energy's WindSource program or a solar energy subscription. Visit xcelenergy.com/Windsource or call 1-800-895-4999.

• Install a rain garden or recycle rainwater by using a rain barrel.

• Talk with elected officials about needing to be more proactive on climate change.

Together in Hastings, we can bolster local efforts to slow climate change and be leaders by doing what we can as individuals. Please feel free to contact me with your concerns at 651-304-0652 or tfolch@hastingsmn.gov.