Throughout the country, Americans are noticing something different about the weather. The seasons feel warmer, wildfires seem worse, and floods and hurricanes are more severe.
But when they turn on the news or pick up their newspapers, there is little mention of climate change. There is talk of more intense wildfires coupled with historic droughts and dry conditions, but silence about why. Reporters discuss never-before-seen damage from hurricanes, freakish fire tornados, record breaking temperatures, and increasingly severe storms — but do not mention what is fueling them.
While the media fail to link our changing climate with extreme weather, scientists are quick to draw the connection. But how do Americans understand this relationship? Are they connecting the dots?
To find out, ecoAmerica surveyed a national sample of Americans to identify if and how they connect the weather outside their window to climate change. The following are highlights of the findings. The full report is HERE.
1. Americans who notice severe weather are more likely to attribute it to climate change. These results were most pronounced when Americans experience heat waves (80%). A majority connected an increase in severity of wildfires (75%), floods (73%), hurricanes (69%) and tornados (66%) to climate change.
2. Women and Democrats are more likely than other groups to notice weather and correlate it to climate change. For all of the five types of weather events included in the survey, noticing severe weather, and attributing it to climate change approached or were in majority levels. However, there were notable partisan and gender variations — with women and Democrats by far the most likely to notice more severe weather, and attribute it to a changing climate.
3. Americans see shared responsibility for preparing for extreme weather and climate change. While a majority of Americans feel prepared for a changing climate and more extreme weather, only half are confident that their community is ready. Climate action is about communities — the health and safety of families and friends, and Americans think both local and national leaders bear responsibility.
4. There is a wide range of emotions about severe weather events. People don’t just notice the effects of a changing climate, we experience emotional responses — especially when we hear about how climate is causing others their lives and livelihoods. While some Americans feel hopeless (11%) when they hear these stories, nearly twice as many feel motivated to help (20%).
While the media isn’t making the connection between extreme weather events and climate change, Americans are beginning to make that connection on their own. However, there is room to grow to help key constituencies make the connection, and this starts with communication.
For many, starting this conversation can be a difficult first step to take. To help, ecoAmerica’s Talking Points Series this month offers some quick, simple ways to get the conversation about Extreme Weather and Climate Change going, and to jumpstart climate action in your community.
Whether Americans are looking out their windows, or turning on the local news, we are increasingly confronted by severe weather events — unprecedented droughts, storms, floods and heatwaves are being seen and felt nationwide and around the world. The impact of this “new normal” is changing our lives. Destruction of property from ferocious weather, threats to health and safety, and increased costs to cool homes and workplaces are all realities now facing every American.
But for many, questions about the connection between climate change and extreme weather remain. Can we really attribute every weather event to climate change? Is there anything we can do?
While scientists are now able to more accurately make the connection between single extreme weather events and climate change, we don’t seem to be able to rely on our news to make this connection for the rest of us. To help, ecoAmerica has dedicated our August 2018 Talking Points to making the connection between extreme weather and climate, titled The New Normal: Changing Seasons, Changing Lives.
Communicating about the connection between a warming world and the weather should begin and end personally and locally, within communities, and with what Americans can see with their own eyes. It must be empowering and include positive, benefits-oriented actions we can all take to participate in the solution. These talking points will help!
Let’s not wait for a better time to have this conversation – now is that better time. With these talking points, you will be able to have productive conversations, and make the weather and climate connection, friends and family, colleagues, coworkers, and others in your community.
And, take a look at prior talking points to help you open the climate conversation, talk about clean energy, discuss the impacts on and the need for solutions for the sake of our children, and communicate with community, faith, and health professionals. Stay tuned for our next talking points, which will publish in October.
Everywhere we turn it seems we bump up against something political. The news we watch, the athletes we support and even the restaurants where we eat are all increasingly viewed through the lens of partisan politics. Climate change has been viewed similarly, but we have an opportunity to bridge the divide.
When it comes to trying to engage climate skeptics, too many scientists and advocates fall into the trap of debating the science — believing that just one more fact, one more chart, one more anecdote about the causes and consequences of climate change will persuade them. Alas, this approach falls short.
So for those who care about climate change, about creating happier and healthier communities, what is there to do?
Based on our research, we came up with 5 simple rules for climate advocacy in an era of intense political polarization. This guidance will help you feel more comfortable speaking to issues all Americans care about, while avoiding nasty debates that go nowhere.
Lead by Example: People are inspired when they see others taking action. Show them that climate action can come with a spectrum of benefits. Carpool, bike more often, or switch to hybrid or electric vehicles to decrease climate pollution while increasing health and dollars in the bank. There are a number of local, state, and federal programs that help lower the cost of all electric vehicles. Switch to clean energy. Weatherize. Vote. There are dozens of solutions that are accessible, affordable, and immediately beneficial.
Be Human, Relevant, Positive, Supportive, and Solutions Oriented: The goal of climate advocacy is to inspire others to take action. Connect with people personally, and highlight shared values and common ground. Inspire them to care by being positive, supportive, and solutions oriented. Listen as much as you speak.
Stick to the Basics: When it comes to climate advocacy — keep it simple and clear. We have everything we need to stop damaging the climate. Clean energy is cheaper and more available than ever. It creates good-paying jobs for Americans, saves money for families, and helps maintain cleaner, greener neighborhoods. These Clean Energy Talking Points are readily-usable, and Let’s Talk Climate: Messages to Motivate Americans offers deeper guidance for message personalization.
Location Matters: When you’re talking about climate, start local. Talk about how climate and pollution affects family and friends, neighborhood, work environment, and community. People care about what affects them and their loved ones directly. Equally, if not more important, is to communicate the local benefits of solutions. Americans need to know that climate solutions benefit their health, strengthen their community, and can put more money in their pocket.
Offer Concrete Action to Solve the Problem: Know what you are asking for when you engage others. If you are discussing clean energy with your congregation, have a plan for action. If you’re discussing sustainable transportation, improving energy use, or water conservation with your neighbors, provide a resource that empowers them to take the action you are seeking.
The fact is, most of us are surrounded by opportunities to cut waste, save money, and benefit our communities in almost everything we do. Improving our lives and strengthening our communities — while also making a difference on climate change — is one of the few big things we can do accomplish in little steps everyday.
The more we talk about climate change with our friends, families, co-workers and communities, the more comfortable it becomes. To help you get started, ecoAmerica offers the latest research on how to talk to people about climate change, and what to do to be part of the solution. Check out these guides and start to lead on climate in your community: Climate Talking Points, Let’s Talk Climate: Messages to Motivate Americans, 15 Steps, and our Moving Forward Guide.
Climate change demands big solutions that can scale up and truly match the breadth of this pervasive challenge. This includes technology solutions, financial solutions and -critically- social solutions. We have been working in Utah on all these fronts, but perhaps most exciting are the social innovations occurring with our stakeholders.
One recent example is a new training program called the Climate Communications Leadership Series that occurred in Salt Lake City throughout spring 2018. This four-part series brought together over 50 professionals across a variety of sectors and backgrounds to hone their skills as climate communicators and build momentum for collaborative solutions in Utah.
The Climate Communications Leadership Series leveraged information from national communications guides (thank you, ecoAmerica), along with local presenters who shared personal experiences and coaching to guide participants. The series was facilitated by staff from Utah Clean Energy and the Salt Lake City Sustainability Department and is a model that can be replicated in your communiity.
Each two hour workshop featured a keynote presenter and core learning topic that was complemented with participatory exercises and individual engagement. The program replication guide offers curriculum suggestions based on our experience and shares the exercises, design files and recruitment materials used to deliver a successful program. Below is a list of workshop topics offered within the replication guide that we iterated upon when delivering the series.
Tailoring climate communications to reflect local risks and opportunities is an essential step to scale solutions on this issue. Our training series experience was more inspiring and useful than we could have imagined. We now encourage you to create a climate communications series of your own that connects with and inspires local stakeholders.
Check out the training guide below and don’t hesitate to reach out with questions as you help build effective climate communicators and leaders in your community.
Author’s Note: Our training series primarily recruited participants from two Utah-based climate initiatives, the Utah Climate Action Network and an ecoAmerica partnership titled Path to Positive Utah. These efforts have enhanced connectivity and helped deliver solutions locally and we welcome questions about creating similar efforts in your community.
Americans’ attitudes on climate are changing, and the change is in a positive direction. To better understand how these views are evolving, and what that may mean, ecoAmerica has pulled together the most recent public opinion survey data from some of the country’s most prominent polling firms.
The data is encouraging. Americans are increasingly aware that climate change is having real, concrete impacts that affect their lives right now. They want to take action individually, in their neighborhoods, and across the nation — and there is growing support for a clean energy future from across the political spectrum. These are the key takeaways from the 2018 June American Climate Perspectives Mid-Year Summary:
1. A growing number of Americans report seeing and feeling the impacts of climate change.
2. Americans are concerned about global warming, and that concern is increasing.
3. Americans want to do something personally, and collectively, to reduce our contributions to climate change. And they want to start now.
4. Americans support producing more clean energy and less dirty energy
5. Recent efforts to rollback climate action by the Trump Administration have little support.
6. Overwhelmingly, Americans from across the political spectrum find common ground on clean energy, grid modernization, and a carbon tax.
The results are clear: the American public is feeling the effects of climate change, and ready to start taking action. But for many, that next step is the most difficult one — what is one to do about this global problem?
To help get started, ecoAmerica’s Talking Points Series lays the groundwork for climate action in your community. The first in the series, Opening the Discussion, is a helpful guide for reaching out to others in your community, and building local momentum for action. The subsequent topics in the series delve into more specific spheres, and include: Communities: Where We Can Live Our Best Lives; Clean Energy; and Caring for Our Climate and Our Children.
Together, we can make a real difference in advancing climate solutions. But we must start today. To dig into the full details of the report, click HERE, or have a look at ecoAmerica’s latest research — and become the best climate communicator in your community!
Within the climate community, one of the greatest areas of debate is the role of nuclear energy in the mix of climate solutions. Nuclear power already accounts for nearly 20% of America’s power supply, and there are growing voices of support for researching, developing, and building greater nuclear power capacity as part of a broader strategy for mitigating the causes of a changing climate. However, the topic is controversial.
Calls for growth are meeting stiff resistance. Questions about whether the risks of nuclear power outweigh the opportunities; whether it’s “clean” or “green”; or whether it is a necessity given the urgency of the climate challenge fill the debate.
It’s no wonder then that the public, too, has an uncertain perspective on whether nuclear energy, old or new, is a path that they support moving forward. To better understand where the American public stands on nuclear energy, ecoAmerica conducted our American Climate Perspective Survey in July, which sheds light on this issue:
The findings of the American Climate Perspective Survey show that concern about nuclear power readily exceeds support. What remains true is that there is robust and lasting support from across the aisle for renewable energy.
To learn more about the of results of the survey, view it HERE. And be sure to follow our Talking Points series, where we provide quick, simple, and effective tips and tricks about translating climate perspectives into climate action!
The discourse around a warming world often gets hung up on politics, but what Americans really care about — and want to hear about— are the challenges and opportunities that climate change has for their families and communities. Strip away the science, politics, and technology, and remaining are people, their families, how climate change impacts their health, wealth, and wellbeing, and how solutions can benefit all three.
As we move into summer, families will spend more time outdoors, and whether at the ballpark or a national park, being outdoors can provide profound benefits for a child’s physical and psychological health. However, a changing climate may present new and potentially harmful health consequences, which shouldn’t be taken lightly. While different people may have different opinions about the causes of climate change, we are seeing extreme weather impact our health, and that of our children, in multiple ways. And, every parent wants to do what’s best to keep their child as happy and healthy as possible.
But how does climate change specifically impact children? What can be done to address the health of our climate and the well-being of our children? And can our actions really make a difference?
To help navigate the sometimes tricky nexus between climate change and child health, ecoAmerica has dedicated our June 2018 Talking Points to Caring for Our Climate and Our Children.
Research shows that climate change disproportionately affects children, who are estimated to bear 88% of the burden of climate change-related diseases globally. Children living in low income families are exposed to greater levels of air pollution, community instability, and conflict. Fortunately, by acting now, we have the power to address climate change, and to protect the well-being of our children at the same time.
But we must start now. The climate that our children will learn, develop, and grow in is dependent on the actions we take today. In our April Talking Points, we explored how a clean energy future is well within our grasp. With smart investments in clean energy, Americans can create well-paying, stable jobs, decrease energy bills and put more money in their wallets. And, perhaps most importantly, we can leave our children and future generations an America where the air is clean and the water is safe, where families can have happy and healthy summers, now and for years to come. After all, caring for our climate is caring for our children.
A clean energy future is within our grasp. We can have locally-made energy from the wind and the sun that ensures our air is clean and our water is healthy. Communities across America are learning that smart investments in clean energy protect our health, attract new business, create jobs, and build stronger communities for our families. Hundreds of corporations have either committed to or are using 100% clean energy. And, the momentum for electric cars is gaining, with multiple car manufacturers in a race to compete for market share.
On top of this, Americans want clean energy. Just as Americans view clean air and water as a personal right, they may also start to view clean energy in the same light.
But, is transitioning to 100% clean energy possible? How do we get there? What are the costs, and what are the benefits? What is holding us back? These are the questions that are on Americans’ minds.
To help answer these questions, ecoAmerica has pulled together a handful of helpful resources, and is dedicating our April 2018 Talking Points to clean energy.
Because, despite the fact that oil and coal companies are trying to hold onto their power and profits, and doing what they can to slow the transition to clean energy, there are many in these industries that know the markets for these fuels are waning.
Clean energy is both possible and practical, and the pace at which we achieve 100% clean energy depends on us. The more we support clean energy (with our votes as well as our pocketbooks), the more available and cheaper it will become, and the faster the transition.
America has always been a yes-we-can kind of place. We led the way into space and onto cell phones and the internet. Today, the next big thing is clean energy: affordable, local, wind and solar power made here and now, all across America, in every state and territory in our great nation. Clean energy to power our lives at home and work, create high wage work in America, and free us from the outdated fuels that pollute our air and water and change our climate. America can lead again in the new energy future, with innovations that will fuel a cleaner, safer, and better world for our families. The choice is ours to make.
Note: Clean energy refers to wind, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, biomass, and next-generation nuclear energies. ecoAmerica is mindful that all of these energies need to be pursued in ways that protect nature and the health and safety of humans, wildlife, and habit
Over the past decade, Americans have placed climate change at the bottom of the list of public policy priorities. But, according to Pew’s January 2018 Public Policy Priorities survey, climate change is on the rise. Pew found that close to half, 46% of Americans, believe that dealing with climate change should be a top policy priority, a jump of 18 points since 2010, up 8 points in the last year alone, and the highest level since Pew started asking this question in 2007*.
Pew does not track nor report on the deeper rationale for this shift, but the answers may be self evident. Our changing climate is more visible, causing costly damage in lives, livelihoods, and communities. Federal actions to rollback progress, policies and commitments may have caused a boomerang effect among the American populace. And, last but not least, there is a formidable rising electorate placing much higher priority on addressing climate change.
Bridging the Political Divide
While the political divide on climate remains, there are signs of hope. Democrats and Republicans have both placed a higher priority on “dealing with climate change” over the past several years. A much higher percentage of Democrats versus Republicans prioritize climate (68% Democrats vs. 18% Republicans), but there has been a notable leap in Republican priority since 2010, when the results hovered at 11%.
This is a promising trajectory, however there is work to do to inspire Republicans on the issue. Nearly half of Republicans (48%) say that dealing with climate change is either “not too important” or “should not be done.” The climate movement faces a pressing opportunity to show Republicans that addressing climate change also addresses many other priorities at the top of their list, such as defending against terrorism, strengthening the economy, and strengthening the U.S. military.
Millennials and the Rising Electorate
ecoAmerica’s March 2018 American Climate Perspectives Survey found that a strong majority of Millennials (87%) are personally concerned about climate change, surpassing the national average by over 10 points. Pew’s results corroborated the report’s conclusion that Millennials are both a formidable rising electorate and also an importantly burgeoning climate constituency. “Addressing global climate change is the only issue, among 19 included in the survey, which is viewed by significantly more people under 30 (56%) than those 65 and older (37%) as a top policy priority.”
This year’s midterm elections may prove to be the most dynamic in recent history. Out of the 435 open seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, 36 Republican and 16 Democrat incumbents will be retiring. In the U.S. Senate, out of the 33 seats in contention, only 3 include retiring incumbents, all of whom are Republican. More than 2,000 candidates have filed or declared their congressional ambitions.
An enormous opportunity exists to ensure that climate change rises as a key election issue. In addition to motivating deeper engagement by the traditional environmental voter, the climate movement must harness and nurture the climate priorities of millennials, who are showing the highest interest-to-date for mid-term voting (at 62%, up from 39% in 2010).
Expanding Climate Constituency
Alongside bridging the political divide and engaging millennials, in order to achieve effective climate solutions we need to expand American climate constituency. Politicians and political candidates need a diversity of Americans to apply political pressure, beyond the traditional climate movement. ecoAmerica offers Blessed Tomorrow, Climate for Health, and Path to Positive Communities to this end. Through these programs we are forming coalitions for climate mitigation and advocacy to inspire, empower, and activate tens of millions of Americans for climate solutions. We hope you will join us in making climate change a personal priority, and climate solutions a personal right for all Americans.
*From 2007 – 2015, Pew used the language “global warming” in this question, and transitioned to “climate change” in 2015 – 2018.
Our communities are wellsprings of pride, security, and vitality. We’ve built them to be strong, prosperous, and livable so we can live our best lives. Climate change is challenging our essential built, social, and natural systems, and impacts are visible from our kitchen windows. Communities are promising places for progress on climate solutions, however, because the greatest potential for leadership and innovation is at the local level.
If we can inspire and empower local leadership on climate, we can reach every city and county in the nation with a new climate message, and new reasons to support solutions. If local leaders are talking about and leading on climate change, then Americans will see this as a normal and expected part of everyday life.
It isn’t very motivating to speak about climate change using environmental jargon, and too abstract for community leaders to talk about melting ice caps or international climate agreements. But they CAN talk passionately about creating good clean energy right here in our town, and making our community the best place to raise our children and families.
You can make a difference in your city or town, and ensure residents and future generations inherit a community where they can live their best lives.
The following talking points provide a starting point. Tailor and use them in your conversations, speeches, and writing to build support for climate solutions.
1. I care about climate change because I care about our community and everyone
in it. I do my part to make our community a better place to live.
2. Climate change is already affecting our community. Severe weather events,
droughts, health impacts, and increased energy bills threaten our community. (This
statement can be specifically tailored to climate impacts seen locally.)
3. Some groups in our city are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change,
including children, the elderly, the sick and poor, and disadvantaged
communities. Our efforts to stop climate-related pollution help all of these groups –
and all of us – live better, healthier lives, now and for years to come.
4. We can ensure our families and future generations live in a thriving, healthy
community where the air is clean and the water is safe. If we act now, we can
provide them with the opportunity to live their best lives and prosper.
5. Investing in climate solutions means investing in our community. We can prepare
for climate impacts, enhance our community, create good local jobs, and make our
neighborhoods more attractive places to live in for generations to come. By cutting
energy costs we can recycle the savings into our communities.
6. The greatest action on climate begins with us. We have the power to strengthen
our environment, health, economy, and community at the same time.
7. Of all the things we’d love to leave our children and future generations, a
healthy place for them to raise children of their own may be the most important.
Access the full guide here: Download
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope…. – A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens, 1859, p. 1)
Charles Dickens’ opening to A Tale of Two Cities seems uncannily relevant this January. It’s been a cold and dark month; it’s been warm and bright. It’s been rife with setbacks; it’s been filled with progress. Our darkest shadows have been revealed, our greatest potential uncovered. For those of us working in America to protect and heal our climate, the present period strains for comparison.
Rather than turn fatalistic – or rest on our laurels – it’s time to reset, apply lessons learned, and manifest new goals. It’s time to shift the storyline of climate change to solutions and success.
President Trump has been in office for just over one year, and according to ecoAmerica’s recent American Climate Perspectives survey (Fery, Speiser, Lake, & Voss, 2018), some worrying signs are emerging. More than 1 in 3 Americans believe there’s nothing we can do to stop climate change – an 8 point increase (from 28% to 36%) from last year – and 1 in 4 believe the costs and sacrifices of solutions are too high, a 9 point increase (from 34% to 43%). Not only that, more Americans support oil and coal than a year ago – up by 5 points for oil (from 42% to 47%) and up 7 points for coal (from 30% to 37%).
We have experienced a series of setbacks in 2017, including opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, removing climate change as a national security threat, and more than 30 federal environmental policy rollbacks.
And all the while our climate is changing, fast. Last year was particularly tragic with climate change-exacerbated extreme weather – storms, floods, fires, droughts and freezes – that pummeled countries, states, cities, and people’s health, wealth, and wellbeing globally.
America is waking up to climate action. Local governments nationwide, along with major corporations and large institutions are pledging to honor the United States’ commitment to the Paris Agreement, despite the United States withdrawal. From We Are Still In, to America’s Pledge, Ready for 100, and others, many American leaders are committing to climate action.
Clean energy deployment is rapidly accelerating. Solar power was the largest contributor to new electricity generation last year, contributing 47% of the newly installed renewable power capacity. Wind power is accelerating just as fast, and together, wind and solar have gone from virtually nothing to 10% of America’s electricity supply according to a report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The cost to produce solar energy has fallen below the cost to produce coal and gas, making solar the fiscally attractive option. Automobile manufacturers have begun competing for electric car market share. And China, the UK, France, Norway, and others have all announced bans on new fossil fuel vehicles in their countries by 2030 or 2040.
Americans want climate action, and to act on climate. Despite the uptick in support for coal and oil in 2017, support for clean energy tops the list, by a large margin. According to ecoAmerica’s 2017 American Climate Metrics Survey, a burgeoning constituency of Americans are taking action on climate, and want their local and our federal government to do the same. Majorities are also seeing the personal benefits solutions will bring to their health (67%, up from 58% in 2015), the economy (64%, up from 53% in 2015), and jobs (61%, up from 53% in 2015).
Action taken today can change the trajectory of climate change. It can improve lives in cities and towns, nationwide and worldwide. Committing to lead on climate, to do what we can to reduce our impact, and use the power of our leadership to voice the need for – and benefits of – climate solutions is one of the most pressing opportunities of our era.
There is immense power in people coming together from all walks of life – health professionals, faith leaders, and regional and city leaders as well as individuals and corporations, people of all ethnicities and backgrounds – to take the reins on climate leadership. Major institutions in health, faith, communities, education, business, and culture are committing to reduce their climate impact and advocate for solutions. Their leadership inspires tens of millions of Americans on climate change, in counties and communities nationwide including in our heartland.
And we can do more. We can nurture new leadership and take advantage of the growing accessibility of climate solutions like efficiency, clean energy, and restoring nature. We can share our learnings, best practices and resources with each other, to help us all go farther, faster. We can make the benefits of climate solutions visible and tangible by implementing them at a local level, engaging Americans in their daily lives. Most of all, we can share loudly a new vision on climate, one that eschews cost and sacrifice and embraces investment, benefits, and a moral responsibility to our children and future generations.
ecoAmerica can help. We help by providing strategy, tools, resources and collaboration opportunities to increase climate literacy, engage constituents, and build collective action and advocacy for climate.
To that end, we have started a new Talking Points series covering key questions and topics on climate. We will continue to publish our monthly American Climate Perspectives survey. Our Recommendations Report, from the American Climate Leadership Summit, identifies dozens of opportunities and priorities for climate action and advocacy. Let’s Lead on Climate is our guide with stories and recommendations on building climate programs at a local level, and our Let’s Talk Climate series offers comprehensive guides for communicating on climate. Finally, we are and will continue to find ways to bring the best research and practical guidance forward to help us all to be more effective.
“If our federal leadership won’t take up the mantle, the rest of us must. It’s up to us. We have to make the great transition happen now. And we can do it.”
– Bob Perkowitz, President, ecoAmerica
Let’s Lead on Climate, a new guide from ecoAmerica, features case studies in our sectors – Health, Faith, and Communities. In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day today, we highlight a success story from Raleigh, North Carolina and how the Community United Church of Christ took climate justice as a personal mission of faith in their community.
In 2007, the Community United Church of Christ’s (CUCC) congregation voted to make climate justice a priority and mission for the church. As Pastor Jenny Shultz-Thomas describes, the congregation felt that as people of faith the community was called to love one another and to honor all of God’s creation, which is not limited to humanity. In order to carry out the congregation’s goals, congregants created the Justice in a Changing Climate (JCC) Task Force to begin advocating and acting on climate. This group later became an interfaith and community-wide network that broadened and strengthened the impact of their various projects.
Pastor Shultz-Thomas says her congregation was eager to begin this work and took it upon themselves to form the Task Force. This group sought out local partners across the community to bring forth various climate projects and initiatives. For CUCC and other faith groups, their stewardship was ignited by their shared values, such as caring for creation and the poor. Establishing this common ground early on led to a collaborative effort, bringing climate solutions to those disproportionately affected by climate impacts.
“The congregation felt that as people of faith the community was called to love one another and to honor all of God’s creation, which is not limited to humanity.”
The Task Force also aimed to make an impact on policies within the community through its climate advocacy work. However, Pastor Shultz-Thomas explains these efforts also came with pushback: “As a larger advocacy community working for justice and advocacy, there’s always resistance.” To overcome this, CUCC and other groups
held meetings for the whole community to hear from government officials and candidates, allowing the public the opportunity to hold their representatives accountable for climate action and to involve constituents in the decision-making and planning process.
“Those who experience climate impacts more severely, such as communities of color and low-income areas, had been inherently left out of the conversation.”
Pastor Shultz-Thomas also notes that it was particularly difficult, “working systematically across all ethnic divisions and socioeconomic lines” within the community and her own church. Those who experience climate impacts more severely, such as communities of color and low-income areas, had been inherently left out of the conversation. “A lot of mobilization around combating climate change really goes hand-in-hand with privilege,” explains Pastor Shultz-Thomas. To involve all communities in advocacy and action, especially those formerly marginalized, CUCC developed a wider coalition to “honestly address environmental racism and combat climate change.” In focusing more on inclusion, CUCC helped low-income areas increase energy efficiency by pre-weatherizing homes and reduced the church’s carbon footprint by going solar at CUCC.
Leading up to the pre-weatherization and solar projects, the JCC Task Force primed its congregation and community for solutions by hosting various speaker events. Community members gather at these events to hear local leaders speak about climate impacts the community faces, challenges within the community, and how the community can benefit from solutions. These events not only inform and educate audiences, but also provide more support for other specific goals and projects the Task Force proposes later on.
Outside of the immediate community in Raleigh, Pastor Shultz-Thomas has also relied on larger organizational support from North Carolina’s Environmental Justice Network and the United Church of Christ to help CUCC form a congregational model and an organized response to the environmental injustices within the community. Support from a larger network coupled with a faith perspective and guiding values allowed CUCC to expand their efforts to communities across the state.
At ecoAmerica, we work with America’s religious denominations, national health and medical associations, and local communities to support their efforts to understand the implications of climate change, and to develop effective strategies for them to practically support and advocate for solutions with their many millions of members. Our work starts with people – we do a lot of listening to truly understand their values, concerns, and priorities. We’ve learned a lot, and will share what we’ve learned with you in this monthly Climate Talking Points series.
Each month we will pick a topic or theme related to climate change, provide a few positive talking points and some responses to key questions or criticisms. Our goal is to open up the conversation, focus on common values, and help us all move forward, together, on climate solutions. This guidance is grounded in ecoAmerica’s extensive research on climate communications, and our experience deploying it.
One note of caution: effective communication on climate change might sometimes conflict with what you think is “common sense.” For instance, “Big Tent” Democrats think “we’re all in this together” is an effective argument – but it doesn’t resonate with more conservative Republicans. Conservatives trust faith leaders on climate change and don’t understand why progressives would trust celebrities. In the end, the truly trusted messengers are the people in your family, of your faith, in your community, from your occupation – who tend to share the same political and social values as you do.
Reach common ground and take action. Each of us can make a big difference.
There are people in your circles who share your values, but who are not ‘activated’ on climate change. Use your connections, and this guidance, to reach out to your colleagues, community, and fellow congregants. Reach common ground and take action. Each of us can make a big difference. As we enter 2018, passions are high on both sides, and the stakes even higher.
How you talk about climate change is as important that the specifics of what you say. You can have a positive conversation where everyone leaves more informed and more inspired on climate solutions if you start with common values, respect differences, listen well, and truly care about people. For more ideas, read our January 2018 Talking Points which includes Counterpoints – responses to common arguments against shifting to clean energy or addressing climate change.
Let us know what you think!
This is huge news.
Moody’s Investor Services, one of three major credit rating agencies, released an important report in November – Evaluating the impact of climate change on US state and local issuers – which cities, states and sub-national governments should take seriously. Note to local governments: step up your action to protect your cities and regions from climate change shocks – or risk financial consequences.
A city or region’s credit score affects its ability to receive bonds, which they pay back with interest to creditors over time. In the past, extreme weather events, like hurricanes, floods, and fires, have downgraded credit ratings after the fact, but now, it could happen before-hand based on risk.
This will be a growing negative credit factor for issuers without sufficient adaptation and mitigation strategies.
In a press release, they write:
Moody’s analysts weigh the impact of climate risks with states and municipalities’ preparedness and planning for these changes when we are analyzing credit ratings.
In other words, local governments need to plan for and prepare for climate shock events, like the extreme weather events that may come more frequently with greater and more costly damage than ever before.
In addition to loss of life and threats to public health and safety, these events present a multitude of challenges in the form of compromised crop yields, economic disruption, damage to physical infrastructure, increased energy demand, recovery and restoration costs, and the cost of adaptive strategies for prevention or impact mitigation. These challenges can result in lower revenue, increased expense, impaired assets, higher liabilities and increased debt, among other effects.
The report uses the example of Hurricane Katrina as an example of how climate change can affect a city’s ability to recover from a climate shock: the city of New Orleans revenue declined significantly and a large proportion of its population was displaced after Katrina.
Six indicators are used to assess the susceptibility of an area to the physical effects of climate change:
As a result, they indicate that coastal communities in Texas, Florida and Mississippi are particularly vulnerable to being downgraded if they do not step up their climate adaptation plans. Adaptation can include converting to renewable energy among other actions, and mitigation could include upgrading infrastructure such as storm drainage systems, seawalls and dams.
A blog from Environmental Defense Fund remarked that while Moody’s focused on the importance of enhancing infrastructure, they failed to explicitly mention the importance of protecting natural infrastructure – forested floodplains for example – and the role it plays in mitigating damage from extreme weather.
On the other hand, Moody’s risk analyses do consider the proportion of GDP coming from forestry, fisheries, hunting and other activities dependent on natural resources, which implicitly assumes protecting them is important.
An article at Bloomberg mentioned that Moody’s may be too optimistic as to cities’ desire to adapt to climate change.
On the other hand, with 67 city mayors signing the Chicago Climate Charter that Rahm Emmanuel started, and the regions joining the We Are Still In movement, we at Path to Positive believe we can continue to motivate cities to make positive changes in their communities for financial, as well as myriad other reasons.
Are you in?
We hope everyone had a very merry Christmas and a happy holiday season, and we hope you have a fun New Year’s celebration!
First, we want to point you to our blog post from yesterday, “How Can Cities Shape Public Views On Climate Change?” which covers some of the latest research on the best communication strategies to influence the public on climate change.
Below, we round up some of the topc stories over the holiday week:
That’s all for now. See you next week, and Happy 2018!
This week, we saw many stories highlighting local climate leadership and a few fun Christmas stories. Our favorites are below.
Don’t forget to check out our blog post from earlier this week summarizing 5 Ways to Garner Support for Climate Change as featured in our ACLS Recommendations Report.
LOCAL AND REGIONAL LEADERSHIP
Here’s a practical local leadership solution that can make cities cleaner, greener, and quieter, as highlighted in InsideClimateNews: Electric Trucks Begin Reporting for Duty, Quietly and Without All the Fumes.
“Talking about Climate Change in Trump Country” is an important article in Sierra Magazine that discusses the Rural Climate Dialogues in Minnesota, a successful program improving dialogue about climate change among rural residents. Also watch this 4-minute video that accompanies the article.
Cities are poised to make rapid changes to reduce emissions. Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) announced the Urban Transitions Alliance in which ICLEI will help cities from the US, Europe and Asia transition from industrial to clean energy economies. Seven cities are participating, including Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Buffalo in the US.
We thought these were the best climate-related holiday stories to enjoy on Christmas week.
If some of these holiday stories bum you out, don’t despair, all those local leadership stories should offer hope and inspiration for the new year! We are here to bring you the best, most inspiring and helpful ideas to help local leaders implement climate solutions. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
Our ‘Hot off the press’ Recommendations Report summarizes the results from several working sessions from the American Climate Leadership Summit, which we convened October 25 and 26, at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. with more than 300 national leaders from across sectors and society.
Today, we highlight actionable results from the Summit, which are also highlighted within the report. Below are five actions you can use to accelerate public support for climate solutions.
We will share more insight from our Report in the weeks to come, but be sure to download and read it yourself for specific recommendations for justice and inclusion, new frontiers of climate action, and priorities for the faith, communities and health sectors.
A top recommendation out of the Communities sector is to share success stories that are adaptable by other cities. We have been sharing these on our social media outlets, so please follow us on Twitter and Facebook!
Do you have any other ideas? Please share!
We’re back to rounding up the most important stories for each week that you might have missed. Local climate leaders, the latest in community climate action, and new climate research are all featured to highlight the good news coming out of cities. These are the top stories as we see it:
SALT LAKE CITY, Nov. 14, 2017 – Prominent Utah leaders from business, government, higher education, faith communities and civic organizations united on Nov. 14, 2017 to sign a declaration acknowledging shared responsibility for protecting Utah’s economy, air quality and environment, and safeguarding against the risks of climate change. The gathering kicked off Path to Positive Utah, a collaborative initiative sponsored by Utah Clean Energy and ecoAmerica, that represents a diverse group of leaders seeking to understand, prepare for and raise awareness about climate change risks and solutions.
Local notables who signed the declaration include Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, Zions Bank President and CEO Scott Anderson, Goldman Sachs Vice President Dean Soukup, Episcopal Diocese of Utah Bishop Scott Hayashi, former Director of the Department of Environmental Quality Amanda Smith, past chair of the Utah Public Service Commission Ted Boyer, and Gardner Company president and CEO Christian Gardner, to name a few.
Forty leaders have already signed the declaration, which is open to all Utah leaders interested in harnessing their leadership to advance conversations about and solutions to climate change. Path to Positive Utah will empower leaders through educational materials, trainings and seminars, and will help share participating organizations’ successes.
“Utah is a pioneering state, and in that innovative spirit, we hope to inspire and support communities to forge a new path toward positive climate change outcomes,” said Sarah Wright, executive director of Utah Clean Energy. “I am proud to stand with this group of Path to Positive Utah leaders and to demonstrate Utah’s leadership and ability to work together to address tough challenges, including climate change.”
Utahns are seeing the impacts of climate change now. The recent and unprecedented series of extreme weather events on American soil and around the globe have taken many lives, dramatically disrupted millions more and generated hundreds of billions of dollars in devastating property damage. A recent Dan Jones poll commissioned by the Salt Lake Tribune and the Hinckley Institute of Politics found that 64 percent of Utahns recognize that human activity is exacerbating climate change.
“The latest draft of the U.S. National Climate Assessment confirmed the long-standing consensus on climate change: it is ‘extremely likely’ that human activities have driven the majority of warming in recent decades,” stated Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski. “While this knowledge can be sobering in light of severe disruptions from recent hurricanes and wildfires, it can also motivate an inspired response to reduce carbon emissions in Utah, where we are warming at twice the global average.”
Wright said there are many affordable, proven strategies that businesses, government and individuals can put into place that will reduce carbon emissions, improve Utah’s air quality and deliver the long-term benefit of a stable climate. Advancing clean energy and energy efficiency measures in homes and businesses can make a significant difference in the short term, and over time.
“Utah is a hub for innovation in clean energy and energy efficient buildings,” said Christian Gardner, president and CEO of the Gardner Company. “As a developer, I know that advancing solutions to climate change and air quality will help bring new business opportunities and talent to our state.”
“Climate change is an important issue for our state’s economy and quality of life. It’s time to talk about it now, as businesses, policy makers and residents plan for our future,” concluded Scott Anderson, president and CEO of Zions Bank.
Business and community leaders interested in participating in Path to Positive Utah may visit https://pathtopositiveutah.org/ for more information.
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About Utah Clean Energy
Utah Clean Energy is Utah’s leading, expert, public interest organization working to expand renewable energy, electric vehicles, and energy efficiency in a way that is beneficial not only for Utah’s environment and health, but our economy and long-term energy security. Utah Clean Energy is committed to creating a future that ensures healthy, thriving communities for all, empowered and sustained by clean energy resources such as solar, wind and energy efficiency. www.utahcleanenergy.org.
ecoAmerica builds institutional leadership, public support, and political will for climate solutions in the United States. We help national mainstream organizations elevate their climate leadership, providing them strategy, tools and resources to: demonstrate visible climate leadership, empower climate literacy, engage all constituents, and build collective action and advocacy. We help our partners permanently transform into national climate leaders who inspire others on solutions and commit to climate neutrality. www.ecoamerica.org.
The 2017 America Climate Leadership Summit has brought hundreds of leaders to the “mantle,” to discuss the next steps for addressing our changing climate. Among them are local government leaders like the Honorable Greg Nickels.
The Hon. Greg Nickels is the 51st mayor of Seattle, Washington. Since taking on this role, Nickels has worked consistently to make climate a priority in his city and nationwide. He is the curator of the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement and recipient of the following awards:
In preparation for the two-day event, ACLS 2017, ecoAmerica distributed an inquiry to the summit speakers and Mayor Nickels responded to our questions. Here is what he had to say.
What do you wish more Americans knew about climate change?
Even though it is a Global crisis, each one of us can make a difference — in our home, workplace, and community.
What are current climate initiatives or efforts that inspire you/give you hope that we will effectively address climate change, even with the dearth of federal leadership on the issue?
Local action remains the key ingredient. One person, one city, one nation at a time.
What do you hope/believe the American Climate Leadership Summit will accomplish in moving the needle on climate action?
Seeing that we stand united on taking action to combat the climate crisis gives us the strength to move forward.
Mayor Greg Nickels is scheduled to moderate on the second day (October 26) of the American Climate Leadership Summit. The “Communities Mantle,” will feature four influential climate leaders.
Philosopher George Santayana famously said, “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” When it comes to planning and action around climate change, though, we need to flip his advice: If we wish to avoid repeating the past, we must learn from the future.
Recent extreme weather events underscore this point. The series of hurricanes that have flooded and even leveled communities in the Caribbean and U.S. Gulf Coast, along with the raging wildfires consuming forests, homes, and lives in the West, are not entirely without precedent. But their frequency and intensity are exactly what climate scientists have warned us will occur as our climatic systems become further destabilized.
The sorts of weather extremes we have witnessed this year alone, encompassing the whole range of impacts scientists have predicted, prove that we can no longer rely on our understanding of past climate patterns to anticipate and prepare for weather variations and their devastating consequences. Instead, we must heed the well-researched and prescient predictions offered by climate scientists, use that science as the rational foundation for sound public policy, and begin to incorporate beneficial climate solutions into our everyday lives, as leaders, as communities, and as citizens.
This paradigm shift is starting to take hold. From corporate boardrooms to town halls and state capitols across the country, leaders are increasingly taking up the mantle by instituting policies and programs that prepare for the type of climate impacts that we have learned to anticipate. Equally important, many of these initiatives aim to reduce greenhouse gas pollution today to avoid an even warmer climate tomorrow. The rise of this “distributed leadership” is critically important to the safety, security, and well-being of people and communities, and comes at a time when national leadership on climate has ebbed to an all-time low.
Distributed leadership is also gaining support from Americans whose awareness of – and concern about – climate change is on the rise. Recent research shows that Americans believe local governments and institutional leaders need to stand up to these challenges and to the lack of leadership from Congress and the Trump Administration. For example, a new poll released by the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs reveals that 57% of Americans support local government efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while only 10% oppose such efforts. The poll also revealed that:
Overall, 72% of Americans said they believe climate change is happening, and 63% think human activity is at least partially responsible. Eighty-two percent of Democrats and 43% of Republicans said they believe that climate change is caused at least partially by humans. (Interestingly, the survey was conducted before the recent spate of hurricanes). Eighty percent of Democrats and 43 % of Republicans think climate change is a problem the U.S. government should be addressing.
In light of such public support, this is an important moment for local elected and community leaders who have embraced their role as change agents in the climate-solutions movement. Not because that role is entirely new – it isn’t. Leadership from mayors, business leaders, educators, and – more recently – health care providers and the faith community has been essential to our progress to date. Rather, it’s because climate change is gaining personal relevance among an increasing share of the American public. The risks and impacts that they perceive for themselves and their loved ones will be a primary motivation for personal action, which in turn can form the basis of wider social change. Which, in turn, is what is needed to shift America in the direction of long-term climate solutions that benefit everyone.
How leaders from all walks of American life leverage this moment will be critical. Well-considered policies and programs are important, but will not gain the foothold needed without an equal emphasis on creative and convincing public engagement. Leaders who have seized the opportunity to shape solutions must redouble their efforts to make those solutions deeply and personally relevant to their constituents, members, patients, congregants, and clients.
ecoAmerica’s 15 Steps to Create Effective Climate Communications guide offers a simple but comprehensive, research-based process for doing just that. The first step? “Start with people, stay with people.” It’s up to all of us, individually and collectively, to ensure the safe and vibrant future we all want.
Taking up the mantle of climate leadership, cross-sector collaboration, improving communication, and more will be at the center of this year’s American Climate Leadership Summit, October 25-26 in Washington, D.C. There is still time to request an invitation.
Daniel Barry is Director of ecoAmerica’s Path to Positive Communities program.
The American Climate Leadership Summit is an annual event that brings together leaders from multiple sectors including ecoAmerica specialty sectors, health, faith, and communities. Each year, ecoAmerica publishes a report of recommendations to help move communities, health leaders, and faith leaders forward on climate.
Last year’s report provided key recommendations for expanding, accelerating, and increasing the impact of community leadership on climate. Here are some takeaways from the report.
Large policy goals have the potential to work better when supported by on-the-ground campaigning.
Activists who handle local issues can effectively reach the community and boost engagement on the subject of climate. Leaders who cannot be everywhere at once can benefit greatly from bridging relationships with activists.
Aside from employing people who bring diverse perspectives to the climate conversation, it is important to bring on spokespeople who have a rapport with the climate community and are well-known.
There are many staffers within local government, and many of them are not yet engaged in the campaign for community climate action. Connections should be made at the local level which allows people to begin conversations that leads to climate action.
Local concerns later become national concerns. To get results on big policy goals, communities must first tackle local climate issues.
This year’s summit will bring together 350 climate leaders who are already working toward climate solutions. Now responding to the limited climate response by the Trump Administration, leaders have committed to Taking Up the Mantle.
The most recent recommendations report from the American Climate Leadership Summit of 2016 also gives recommendations for engaging societies and getting help from ecoAmerica to begin your Path to Positive transition. Read the report here.
Communities can come face to face with mental health issues during and after disasters. This is a reality that was made clear after Hurricane Katrina – when survivors showed signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Now, Harvey, Irma and Jose have arrived and in places like Houston, evidence of mental instability can already be seen.
“There’s a great deal of fear and anxiety about the future. And so we’re seeing a lot of very anxious people who are not sure what they’ll find when they return to their homes,” said Annalee Gulley, Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs, Mental Health America of Greater Houston
In a recent ecoAmerica report, Mental Health and Our Changing Climate, we have pinpointed ways to prevent mental instability in the community and build resilience after traumatic events.
Most cities and municipalities have disaster procedures set in place, but few of them take precautions based on evident changes to our climate. This means the disasters will occur, but by preparing for them, communities can limit poor health outcomes and boost resilience.
Preparing mentally for traumatic events on the community level requires key steps. Here are some tips directly from our recent mental health report:
Community preparedness doesn’t fall onto the shoulders of one person. It must be a joint effort in order to limit anxiety and make survival more likely.
A common thread among survivors is the ability to prioritize and maintain focus on the task at hand. –Kyle Allred
Although natural disasters and other traumatic events are out of our hands, survival is partly controlled by our mental state. Getting through the event requires focus, support, and action. Is your city or municipality checking all of these boxes?
Survival means making it through the event but doesn’t always mean the community is well. The human mind is multidimensional. In order for disaster survivors and communities that have experienced a disaster to be resilient, communities have to target all mental factors including, health disparities.
As stated in Mental Health and Our Changing Climate; Building resilience for disasters and confronting the gradual changes due to climate change will help communities alleviate adverse health outcomes. Communities can:
These tips on preparedness, survival, and resilience ensure that the community is well, thriving and resilient. By taking each of these tips, it also ensures that no member of the community is left out of the preparation or healing processes.
Today, ecoAmerica announced the launches of partnerships with two major organizations, the National League of Cities (NLC) and the Local Government Commission (LGC), to accelerate local climate leadership. Through the Path to Positive program, both partners are activating mayors and other local leaders to lead on climate and engage their communities on solutions.
“NLC and LGC are where community leaders and managers go for training and advocacy on important issues,” said Bob Perkowitz, ecoAmerica’s president. “Americans are concerned about real climate change impacts happening now in their hometowns. NLC and LGC leadership here will help cities and towns across America engage their citizens and address the challenges.”
The partnership with NLC will empower its members and affiliates in nearly 19,000 American cities and towns to engage their citizens and communities on climate. The program is now a part of NLC’s Sustainable Cities Institute (SCI), which provides convening opportunities, direct technical assistance and leadership training for cities to mitigate and adapt to the effects of a changing climate. SCI helps cities identify and implement proven strategies to preserve clean air, clean water, and clean land.
“The National League of Cities is dedicated to helping city leaders build stronger, better communities,” said Clarence E. Anthony, CEO and executive director of National League of Cities. “Cities across America are discovering that we can clean our air and water, improve our health, protect our homes, and create good local jobs by investing in climate solutions. We are pleased to announce a new partnership with ecoAmerica, which will introduce more resources for cities to take action on climate.”
The partnership with LGC will support its members and affiliates in cities and towns throughout California and beyond to build capacity and empower local leaders to communicate about climate within their communities, and to build support for climate preparation and solutions.
“Local leadership and community engagement are critical to address these impacts and to prepare our communities for future climate changes,” announced Kate Meis, LGC’s executive director. “LGC is pleased to announce a new partnership with Path for Positive Communities which will provide local governments with tools to lead on climate change and mobilize residents to take proactive steps now, to protect our most vital resources, and position our communities for a prosperous future.”
The first resources released for NLC and LGC members include these ecoAmerica guides:
The partners will collaborate to regularly release resources, host webinars, and provide additional programming for NLC and LGC members.
The National League of Cities (NLC) is dedicated to helping city leaders build better communities. Working in partnership with 49 state municipal leagues, NLC serves as a resource to and advocate for the more than 19,000 cities, villages, and towns it represents. www.nlc.org
Local Government Commission (LGC) works to build livable communities and local leadership by connecting leaders via innovative programs and network opportunities, advancing policies through participation at the local and state level, and implementing solutions as a technical assistance provider and advisor to local jurisdictions. With roots in California and a national reputation, LGC offers inspiration, information, and partnerships for local and regional champions dedicated to building thriving communities that integrate civic engagement with environmental, social, and economic priorities. www.lgc.org
ecoAmerica is a national nonprofit that builds institutional leadership, public support, and political will for climate solutions in the United States. Path to Positive Communities is a program of ecoAmerica. www.ecoAmerica.org
Each week we share the stories that shouldn’t be missed. Local climate leaders, the latest in community climate action, and new climate research are all featured to highlight the good news coming out of cities. These are the top stories of the past week:
Across the nation
This week’s blog
Last week, leaders from Los Angeles to Washington DC came together to discuss how they are tackling some of the greatest climate challenges in their communities. The event, Climate Day LA, invited business, community, faith, government, and nonprofit leaders in order to present a forum and sounding board for effective climate solutions.
Climate Solutions are Intersectional
Climate action isn’t about polar bears. In fact, it’s not even just about a warming planet or changing long term weather patterns. Climate change is about people, and climate leaders must focus their rhetoric and actions to reflect this reality.
Those living in underserved communities are the most likely to be affected, both directly and indirectly, by a changing climate. Clean air, clean, drinkable water, green spaces and healthy, local food are all luxuries in demand for those living in lower income communities. Nourbese Flint, of the organization Black Women for Wellness, connects the dots, emphasizing at Climate Day LA that: “affordable housing, economics, and women’s health intersect with climate change.”
Climate solutions must be focused on improving the lives of people. That can mean access to cheaper energy bills, well paying jobs, community gardens, housing that’s more affordable, and more opportunities for residents to live healthy, better lives. These are solutions that are universal in their appeal, but can be tailored to meet the specific needs of any community.
Have a Plan
Developing a plan is perhaps one of the greatest hurdles to climate action. Leaders must access resources, assess costs, benefits, and the needs of their communities. Whether it is solar powered cellphone charging stations in Raleigh, or expanded bike lanes for workers and residents in Long Beach, CA—leaders have to account for their own community’s specific needs.
“The largest population of bike riders in LB are undocumented people getting to work. We need them at the table.” Robert Garcia, Mayor of Long Beach
Learn to Communicate Effectively
Once a plan is developed and underway, it is important to know how to best communicate with residents, and all members of the community to show how climate action affects their lives. This is important for making the community a part of the solution, and increasing the resiliency and acceptance of the plan.
Communicating about climate can be a tricky endeavor, and doing so incorrectly can have some serious consequences—making climate skeptics more set in their beliefs. Fortunately, ecoAmerica has done exhaustive research to identify the most effective ways to talk about climate. A brief summary of the research can be broken down into 15 simple steps:
Have an Ask
One of the key takeaways from all of the speakers at Climate Day LA is that one must always have an ask—some actionable request so that respondents aren’t left feeling hopeless, but can take climate action into their own hands. The ask here is simple, sign up to receive our weekly blog and to keep up to date on what’s going on in communities and climate!
Stuart Wood is a writer at Path to Positive Communities and an adjunct professor. He has a Ph.D. in Political Science from Claremont Graduate University, where he focused on climate change, political communications and psychology. Email him at [email protected]
Each week we share the stories that shouldn’t be missed. Local climate leaders, the latest in community climate action, and new climate research are all featured to highlight the good news coming out of cities. These are the top stories of the past week:
This week we had an incredible turnout at Climate Day LA, where mayors, community, health, religious, business and higher education leaders inspired action for climate solutions. Check out Climate Resolve’s great recap.
In our weekly blog, we continued to highlight leaders who attended and spoke at Climate Day LA. This week we turned to the work of Araceli Campos, Executive Director of the Miguel Contreras Foundation.
Araceli Campos is Executive Director of the Miguel Contreras Foundation and is a speaker for Climate Day LA.
Tell us about your work on climate change.
We serve working families in LA County. This includes strengthening the wellness of communities where people migrate, go to school, work, and become civically engaged. Climate justice is part of community wellness, too.
What inspired you on your career path? And what or who inspires you now?
My mom. She’s an immigrant from Mexico who fought for her and my safety, economic security, and independence. Since I got more involved in gender equity work, I am inspired by all the fierce working moms in LA.
What are the barriers you face in work — and what could make your job easier?
An intersectional empowerment — for me and everybody. It’s not surprising that we silo issues — like environmentalism, gender equity, LGBTQ liberation, civil rights, organized labor and workers’ rights, education reform, economic opportunity, immigrant rights — when we tend to live in fragmented societies, often even with fragmented lives. We’re not always as kind or supportive of each other or each other’s movements as we could be, just as we don’t always have the ability (because, the world right now) for kindness or support for ourselves. It’s so hard in the current energy field, but the challenge is to shift the energy field itself, which is only possible together.
A genie grants you two wishes that will help fight climate change. What do you ask for? The third wish is for anything you want (sky’s the limit!).
1. A global treaty with compassionate policies to elevate humankind by ensuring nature is protected, food is pure and abundant, workers are respected through dignified and organized labor, and all have equal success across the religious, gender and sexuality spectrum. 2. An enforcement mechanism for said global treaty that works. 3. Representative Democracy … and that year all the LA sports teams win championships.
Robert Garcia is the Mayor of Long Beach and a speaker at Climate Day LA.
Tell us about your work on climate change.
I’ve made protecting our climate an important part of my agenda as Mayor. Long Beach is a coastal city, therefore more susceptible to the harsh effects of climate change and sea level rise than inland regions. The Port of Long Beach is a vital economic engine but is also one of the largest sources of air pollution. I set a goal to transform our port into a zero-emission goods movement system. I’ve pushed for the planting of 6,000 new trees to rejuvenate our urban forest, converting all streetlights to energy efficient LEDs, adding our first zero-emission buses to our transit service, and a large expansion of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, to name a few.
What inspired you on your career path? And what or who inspires you now?
I was inspired in large part because my family and I came to this country as immigrants from Peru. Becoming a citizen is one of my proudest achievements. This country has given me so much, so many opportunities, that I want to give back. My first career was in education and I continue to teach because it gives me an opportunity to help students reach their goals through education. I am inspired by leaders and teachers who work to improve opportunities for young people.
What are the barriers you face in work — and what could make your job easier?
Currently, our federal government’s retreat on climate change and efforts to increase use of coal and oil are serious threats. California is a progressive state leading the way with statewide and regional targets for emission reductions and other sound green policies. Concerns about the cost of implementing new technologies and loss of business to less restrictive environments is another challenge, but Long Beach is committed to making significant progress to slow climate change.
A genie grants you two wishes that will help fight climate change. What do you ask for? The third wish is for anything you want (sky’s the limit!).
My first wish would be to provide zero-emission energy and transportation systems in our region, including goods movements at our Port of Long Beach. My second wish would be to clean our ocean of all the pollution and trash that have accumulated over far too many years. Our long coastal line would benefit greatly from this. My third wish is to fly like Superman.
Rachelle Wenger is the Director of Public Policy & Community Advocacy of Dignity Health and a scheduled speaker for Climate Day LA 2017.
Tell us about your work on climate change.
Our climate and sustainability goals include reducing waste, evaluating what we purchase, making facilities more energy-efficient, and promoting better food choices. We’ve also set targets for 2020 to reduce our GHG emissions by 40% and increase sourcing of renewable energy to 35%. We’re especially proud of our shareholder and legislative advocacy work: Our new investment policy integrates environmental sustainability into our investment goals, and we have advocated for landmark climate legislation in California, including SB 350, the Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act.
What inspired you on your career path? And what or who inspires you now?
As a five-year-old immigrant to this country, life’s journey has led to many paths — all of which pulled for something greater in me, of me. The environment — all of it, people, nature, our interactions — is both so informing and inspiring. It tells you when you’re home, how your voice is needed, what door to walk through, why it’s so important to stand up for the little guys and those in need. It’s quite a luxury (and, to be honest, uncomfortable) to think about what I do now as a career. It makes sense to me to think of work more as a calling. I love being about a healing mission that’s doing its part to care for human health and the environment and striving each and every day to be guided by values that squarely look at how to further dignity, justice, collaboration, stewardship and excellence. Our patients and the communities we serve inspire me; our Sponsors who entrust us with the ministry inspire me; the many men and women who commit day in and day out to the work of healthcare inspire me; the many organizations, business and community leaders who toil to improve the quality of life inspire me; and above all, those who have no voice and live in the margins of society, yet call out to us, move me most.
What are the barriers you face in work — and what could make your job easier?
The greatest challenge to work seems to be how we humans approach change and how to harness the power of diversity. I come across fear disguised in so many ways. I think we forget we’re on the same team, that there’s a common good to unearth. It would be great if we understood at the outset that work is about creating the possibilities for change — that we’re the changemakers to human kindness in the world. Misunderstanding, suffering, isolation, destruction — these are so palpable today. What are ways we can build from the cultural assets we have to sustain communities and lift us up as a whole? There is no one answer, but I bet it would help to be open to finding out.
A genie grants you two wishes that will help fight climate change. What do you ask for? The third wish is for anything you want (sky’s the limit!).
The first wish is for climate change to mean something personal — in the way that we’d want to give our all, our best thinking, our best way of caring, our best way of doing things together. The second is to fall in love with Earth. I guess that’s another way of saying my first wish. Lastly, since sky’s the limit, I’d like to be that wish-granting genie that can transport herself from place to place in a blink. How cool is that?! Just imagine all the GHGs from jet fuel I’d prevent not having to fly. So much of Earth to see, delight and relish in wonder. Make room for me, Barbara Eden — there’s another genie in town.
Much of the recent progress on climate in America has happened at the city and state level – and in the wake of President Trump’s announcement that he plans to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, local action will be even more important. Mayors, governors, corporations, and universities across the country have made public statements of their intention to uphold our commitments. Our future will be determined by what we do next.
Which makes our upcoming Climate Day LA event on June 27 all the more timely.
Our parent organization ecoAmerica and our partner Climate Resolve, along with KCRW and IHEARTCOMIX, are presenting this exciting, daylong event in support of our Path to Positive: Los Angeles initiative. Designed to both celebrate and inspire local climate leadership, Climate Day LA will bring together established and emerging climate leaders from the faith, health, higher education, business, and government sectors.
Join us for a free daytime conference (12pm-5pm) held in the historic Theatre at Ace Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles. The program starts off with a keynote speech by LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, and continues with interactive panel discussions featuring speakers like Tom Steyer, founder of NextGen Climate, and Jackie Dupont-Walker, Director of the AME Church Social Action Commission. The conference also includes a communications workshop by ecoAmerica’s Chief Engagement Officer, Meighen Speiser, and our own Dan Barry, Program Director for Path to Positive Communities.
Next up is a sunset benefit gala, featuring award-winning musical artist Moby, followed by an evening concert with a DJ set by Eric Wareheim and performances by Neon Indian and Weyes Blood. It’s a full day of innovation, collaboration, and great music, with over 1,500 local leaders and advocates coming together to ensure that Los Angeles, California, and America will continue on the path of progress.
Los Angeles is the perfect place for what will be one of the first large-scale conferences on local climate solutions following Trump’s Paris decision. According to a recent survey conducted by ecoAmerica, Angelenos are more aware of the impacts of climate change than the U.S. population as a whole – and more determined to work towards solutions. Here are just a few of the findings:
Download the full results of the survey here.
And if you’re in the Los Angeles area (or plan to be) on June 27, don’t miss Climate Day LA. RSVP for the conference and buy tickets to the gala and concert here.
See you there!
Each week we share the stories that shouldn’t be missed. Local climate leaders, the latest in community climate action, and new climate research are all featured to highlight the good news coming out of cities. These are the top stories of the past week:
Nearly 275 cities (as well as a dozen states and a multitude of businesses and universities) have pledged to move forward with the commitments of the Paris Agreement, regardless of Trump’s decision to withdraw.
CLIMATE DAY LA
We’re very excited about the second annual Climate Day LA on June 27. Presented by ecoAmerica, Climate Resolve, KCRW, FORM, and IHEARTCOMIX in support of our Path to Positive LA initiative, this full-day event is designed to both celebrate and inspire local climate leadership. The day begins with a free conference featuring interactive panels with rising and established leaders, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Jackie Dupont-Walker of the AME Church, and NextGen Climate’s Tom Steyer. Next is a sunset benefit gala with an exclusive performance by award-winning musical artist Moby, followed by an evening concert featuring musical guests Neon Indian and Weyes Blood. RSVP for the conference and purchase your gala and concert tickets here.
For many people, whether they accept the existence or seriousness of climate change is not so much about science as it is about identity. People define themselves in large part by the social or political groups they belong too – which means Americans who identify as conservative Republicans tend to express less concern about climate change and are more supportive of Trump’s climate policies than other Americans.
However, one of the most persuasive arguments for accepting climate science is seeing the evidence with your own eyes – and in many parts of America, the impacts are increasingly hard to ignore.
Exceptionally heavy rains in late April and early May of this year caused major flooding in five Midwestern states, reaching record levels in 14 locations. Historic floods also occurred in Louisiana and Mississippi in 2016, and Missouri in 2015.
Extreme rain events have become more frequent across much of the U.S. in the last 60 years, especially in the Midwest and Northeast. As the National Climate Assessment points out, warmer air can hold more moisture than cooler air, leading to heavier precipitation.
Though the Mississippi and its tributaries run through largely red states, the unusually heavy rain and severe flooding of recent years is causing many locals to rethink their climate views. Aside from the rain, they’ve also noticed milder winters, and the start of the hunting season has shifted later and later each year. As Reuben Bellamy of Cairo, IL, says, “Our hunting is nowhere near as good as it used to be. I think climate has something to do with that.”
Farmers in the Midwest are also seeing extreme shifts from severe drought to heavy rain, adding an extra level of uncertainty to a profession that “lives and dies by the weather.”
Conservatives in these communities may be more accepting of climate change, but that doesn’t mean they’re eager to talk about it. As this article points out, they may admit privately to their beliefs, but continue to express doubts when among their peers.
For public officials in these areas who understand the need for climate solutions, the key is to avoid talking about “climate change” and instead talk about resilience and preparedness. Bruce Bartlett, a former policy and economic aide to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, calls this “treating the symptoms.” Where sea levels are rising, don’t get sidetracked debating about the cause – focus on building a seawall.
Infrastructure also happens to be a major priority of the Trump administration, making now a good time to call for new investments. In March the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative, a coalition of 75 mayors and associations, outlined a proposal for $7.93 billion to improve storm and flood resilience along the waterway.
Our focus has been: How do we really increase the number of solutions that are on the table?
But when talking about solutions, it’s also important to choose your language carefully. When people don’t like the solution to a particular problem, they are more likely to deny that the problem exists. Conservatives often object to climate solutions because they think they will be damaging to the economy – so advocates of clean energy, for example, should talk about job creation, cost savings, and health benefits. Across the country, from Sweetwater, TX to a coal museum in Kentucky, locals have embraced wind and solar not because they are concerned about climate change but because of the economic advantages. Energy independence and freedom of choice are also benefits that resonate with both parties.
For more tips on how to effectively communicate about climate issues and make climate action a priority where you live, download our report Let’s Talk Communities & Climate: Communication Guidance for City and Community Leaders.
CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS
Your city’s climate leadership deserves to be celebrated and shared! Inspire other community leaders to follow your example by submitting your story for inclusion in Path to Positive Communities’ upcoming Let’s Lead guide. Send us your accessible, replicable story by May 15.
The American Public Health Association has named 2017 the Year of Climate Change and Health. In accordance with their April theme, Transportation and Community Design, APHA is hosting two community-related webinars next week:
CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: TELL US YOUR SUCCESS STORY
Climate change is already affecting us in many ways. Around the country, communities are dealing with and preparing for the physical impacts, including sea level rise, extreme heat, flooding, and drought. But there’s another side of climate change that community leaders also need to be aware of – the toll it takes on mental health and social cohesion.
A new research report compiled by the American Psychological Association (APA), our parent organization ecoAmerica, and our sister organization Climate for Health takes an in-depth look at the psychological impacts of climate change. These impacts range from acute (for example, the stress and mental trauma created by a climate-related natural disaster) to more lingering effects such as depression, anxiety, and feelings of helplessness. Both types of impacts can put strain on social and community relationships, leading to increased levels of aggression, violence, and crime.
As the infographic below explains, the mental, physical, and community health impacts of climate change are intertwined. Compromised physical health can affect mental health, and vice versa. Climate impacts can also create social instability by disrupting livelihoods, causing forced migration, and impacting the ways in which people interact with one another. Anxiety and uncertainty about the future can erode interpersonal relationships. Extreme heat has also been linked to increased aggression and violence – a big concern when cities from Anchorage to New Orleans are breaking high-temperature records.
While climate change affects everyone to some degree, the impacts are not equally distributed. Some people will experience a climate-related disaster firsthand, some will be gradually impacted, and some will experience the effects only indirectly. Additionally, some populations are inherently more vulnerable to impacts: children and the elderly, low-income communities, those living in risk-prone areas, those with disabilities or chronic illnesses, and those whose livelihood and/or culture are directly tied to the natural environment.
Many communities are responding to the physical threats of climate change by strengthening the resilience of their infrastructure – for example, building sea walls or upgrading their storm water management systems. But improving their community’s psychological resilience is also important. A number of climate solutions have the added benefit of enhancing mental health: active commuting such as walking or biking improves physical and mental well-being, good public transportation creates opportunities for positive social engagement, and green spaces have been proven to reduce people’s stress levels.
In addition, communities that have a strong social fabric, an effective disaster plan that involves community members, and have taken efforts to reduce social disparities are better equipped to respond to and quickly recover from climate impacts. According to Dr. Susan Clayton, an author of the study, one of the best ways to defend against threats to mental health is to strengthen social cohesion. "Social connections are very important to individual well-being in the best of times, and are a key indicator of resilience following negative events," says Clayton.
See below for 13 tips for building a more resilient community. These tips are explained more fully in the report, which also outlines what individuals and health professionals can do to build personal and community resilience. Visit ecoAmerica’s research page to download the report, Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance, and watch a recorded webinar featuring Dr. Clayton and APA’s Howard Frumkin.
CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: TELL US YOUR SUCCESS STORY
CLIMATE DAY LA
The lineup for Climate Day LA is getting more exciting all the time, with speakers like LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, and musical performers including Moby. Reserve your space now for the daytime conference, featuring panels of emerging and established climate leaders from health, faith, higher education, and local government, and purchase your tickets to the Sunset Gala and evening concert.
CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS
Your city’s climate leadership deserves to be celebrated and shared! Inspire other community leaders to follow your example by submitting your story for inclusion in Path to Positive Communities’ upcoming Let’s Lead guide. Send us your accessible, replicable story by May 15.
CLIMATE DAY LA
CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS
CLIMATE DAY LA
WEBINAR: MENTAL HEALTH AND OUR CHANGING CLIMATE
CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS
Climate change affects all of us – but some more than others. Women, children, people of color, the poor, and the elderly suffer the impacts more acutely.
The reasons vary. Some populations are dependent on industries like agriculture, which can be disrupted by drought or extreme weather. Low-income communities are more likely to be located near power plants or other sources of pollution, and may also lack adequate health care services or infrastructure. Children, because of their small size, growing bodies, and rapid metabolisms, are more vulnerable to extreme temperatures and dehydration, and more sensitive to pollutants in air and water. For the elderly. carbon pollution and extreme temperatures can worsen their existing health conditions, while mobility challenges can make it difficult for them to get the care they need.
These populations may be vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean they’re silent. Latino Americans, for example, are considerably more aware of and supportive of climate solutions than Americans overall. And just this week, we’ve seen numerous examples of women and children speaking up and demanding climate action.
Globally, women are more susceptible to climate change than men – in many countries, they do the majority of agricultural work and water gathering. Women are more likely to be economically disadvantaged. And because of their roles as caregivers, women may be more affected by the stress and trauma of natural disasters. This is not just an issue for developing nations. When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, 80 percent of the residents left behind after the storm were women.
Perhaps because of these reasons, women are also statistically more likely to believe that climate change is a serious threat. And women are increasingly active and influential in advocating for climate solutions.
On March 15, women mayors and business leaders from around the world gathered in New York City for the inaugural Women4Climate conference. Hosted by Anne Hidalgo, Chair of C40 Cities and Mayor of Paris, the event officially launched the C40 Women4Climate initiative, which pledges to motivate and inspire women to become climate leaders. Mayor Hidalgo stressed the vital role women are playing and have the potential to play, whether in politics, business, NGOs, or as innovators.
All around the world, in city halls, corporate boardrooms, and on the streets of our cities, women are demanding action to protect the planet from the threat of climate change.
Cities contribute 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions – but they’re also uniquely positioned to move the needle on addressing climate change. As Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who attended the Women4Climate summit, said in this interview, "We know in cities we can use our procurement power, our power in building codes, and our bully pulpit to say we must fight climate change. More than ever when federal policies are uncertain, we know cities can get a lot accomplished – and influence national policy.”
One reason children are more vulnerable to climate change is that they are often dependent on the behaviors of adults – it’s not always possible for them to take matters into their own hands. But some young people are doing just that.
In the small Minnesota town of Grand Marais, a group of five students aged nine to 16 years old brought a “climate inheritance resolution” before their city council. Demanding that action be taken now to safeguard their future, the resolution called for a climate action plan to limit greenhouse gas emissions, and for the “youth voice” to be considered when making climate policy decisions. The students came armed with an assessment of the city’s current climate efforts, which they said could be substantially improved.
The resolution was accepted, and favorably received. Said Mayor Jay Arrowsmith DeCoux, “The City is viewing this as an investment in future cost mitigation and planning that we will have to undertake anyway when climate change begins to affect us more than it does now.”
Communities and local governments may well be our best hope for continuing meaningful progress on climate change – and now is the time for all of us to speak out and help ensure a safer, healthier world for our children, our loved ones, and ourselves. Download our new communications guide to discover the most effective language for engaging your community on climate solutions.
CLIMATE DAY LA
WEBINAR: MENTAL HEALTH AND OUR CHANGING CLIMATE
We asked Path to Positive: Los Angeles members, What inspires you to take action on climate change solutions in Los Angeles? Here are some of their answers.
John Beynon, United Nations Association and Whittier Area Environment Coalition
“Information coming out of UN Panel on Climate Change.”
Stuart Cooley, Santa Monica College
“Seeing the positive changes to date: cleaner air, electric vehicle uptake, coal company bankruptcies, and seeing the interest among the decision-makers and political leaders.”
David Eisenman, UCLA
“I am inspired by the growing momentum for action across so many sectors and fields!”
Cinzia Fissore, Whittier College
“Understanding the relationship between soils and climate inspires me and motivates me. With my teaching and research work, I am very much invested in the discourse concerning the role of soils in mitigating climate change while continuing to secure food and resources for a growing population. LA, and California more broadly, is a hotspot for carbon consumptions and emissions. While this can be interpreted as a challenge, in reality LA and California have the potential to develop effective strategies to mitigate climate change.”
“L.A.’s need to capture and use our stormwater in this “new normal” of drought boom or bust (mostly bust) cycles. My other big concern is the urban heat island effect, and cooling measures we can take to create a cooler ground temperature in our dense areas.”
Loraine Lundquist, California State University Northridge
“Protecting my children’s future.”
Daniel Mabe, American Green Zone Alliance
“When setting out to take action on air, land, and noise pollution, I learned how my mission could be a significant contributor to fighting climate change. It is really about preserving the planet for future generations.”
Keith Malone, California Fuel Cell Partnership
“A shared responsibility to my family, community and the world. The idea that I can contribute to reducing the effects of or preventing climate change by my individual actions and my contributions to larger actions.”
“Knowing that younger generations are more aware, educated and active in their lives, actions, lifestyles — and teaching older generations that global warming/climate change is real and needs to be addressed now.”
Ron Milam, Los Angeles Funders’ Collaborative
“It’s linked to so many issues I care about — transportation, land use, housing, equity and health.”
Duane Muller, The Playa Group, LLC
“Living in LA, I have great affinity for our region’s breathtaking coastline and magnificent mountains and would like to maintain them for future generations, but I feel like we are running out of time. While I love the cultural vibrancy that comes from megacities, I also recognize the need to balance our population growth with sustainable solutions. For me, LA represents a unique challenge to preserve the region’s natural beauty, while also managing increased population pressures — whether from transportation, housing, energy and/or water use.”
Nancy Pearlman, Trustee, Los Angeles Community College District
“As an environmentalist for over 46 years, I recognize that climate change is a serious problem affecting all other ecological issues. We must deal with overpopulation, wildlife extinction, pollution and toxics in our environment but climate change must be dealt with to create a green, healthy environment and economy.”
Los Angeles is an incredibly diverse and vibrant city and I’m inspired by what this region has to offer me and my children so much that I want to ensure its resiliency and sustainability for future generations.
Casandra Rauser, UCLA Sustainable LA Grand Challenge
“Los Angeles is an incredibly diverse and vibrant city and I’m inspired by what this region has to offer me and my children so much that I want to ensure its resiliency and sustainability for future generations. I’m inspired by the forward-thinking of our policy makers both statewide and locally, and want to continue the momentum built to create positive change and serve as a model for other cities worldwide in fighting climate change.”
Laura Rosenthal, City of Malibu
“I am trying to preserve a livable earth for my children and all future generations. I am both distressed at the current state of things yet inspired by so many positive initiatives and results that are currently happening.”
David Rosenstein, Intex Solutions
“I love Los Angeles and it is my home. Though I try to be involved in regional, national and international efforts to mitigate climate change, I figure it is worth some time and energy to do the same in my backyard. As things go to ‘hell in a hand-basket,’ as the saying goes, I want to feel I have done as much as I can to prevent or reduce the harm.”
Allen Schuman, Green Business Council of Southern California
“As a native Angeleno, I have seen how Los Angeles has grown over the years with little or no control regarding our growth, the lack of use of public transportation system, our electrical grid, etc. I strongly feel that through our everyday actions we are all having a direct impact on climate change here in Los Angeles. No man is an island onto himself.”
Jim Stewart, PhD Sierra Club, Ocean Foresters
Sr. Mary Joseph Suter, Daughters of Charity
“I have been reading Edward Abbey, Wendell Berry, and Pope Francis on the environment.”
Janet Valenzuela, USFS
“What inspires me to take action is having an upbringing in an urban city with parents with an agricultural background who have raised me to be concerned with all the changes that are happening in our climate and the systems that depend on it.”
“I’ve always been concerned about the environment, but I recently watched an episode of Chelsea Handler’s show on Netflix about climate change and it downright terrified me. I had no idea America was running out of resources as quickly as it is and, at the rate we’re going, several cities will be under water by 2030. That is less that 15 years away, and I had no idea about it. Which leads me to believe that a lot of people have no idea about some of these things. Thus I felt compelled to join a movement and get the word out and advocate for change.”
Thomas Wong, President, San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District
“Knowing that our actions, or inaction, today will have impacts on the world and community we live in 30, 40, 50 years down the line.”
Learn more about how Angeleno leaders and advocates are advancing climate solutions at the second annual Climate Day LA event on April 21.
On March 9, Michael Bloomberg, Co-Chair of the Global Covenant of Mayors, and Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris, met with French President Francois Hollande to discuss the progress cities are making on climate change. Mr. Bloomberg gave his assurance that American cities, states, and businesses would fulfill the U.S. commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement.
Solar job training programs in Appalachia are helping coal workers transition to new careers. (Yale Climate Connections)
For local officials in conservative communities, addressing the ever-more-visible impacts of climate change requires a delicate balance. Ignoring their regions’ vulnerabilities is not an option – but in many cases, neither is uttering the words “climate change.” So polarizing and politicized has that term become that it can shut down conversations before they even begin.
So, how do you tackle an important issue that you can’t even talk about? As is so often the case with sensitive topics, it’s all about the framing.
A recent survey of 200 local governments across 11 Great Plains states asked how they are helping prevent and prepare for climate impacts. With federal climate policies in doubt, these mayors, public health professionals, county commissioners, and other officials feel an increased responsibility to take action locally.
To engage members of the community who may be doubtful or actively dismissive about climate change, the officials favored a strategy that emphasized co-benefits and common sense. For example:
The focus on benefits has garnered support for such forward-thinking solutions as a methane-capture system on a landfill in Fargo, North Dakota. Not only is that community helping cut greenhouse gas emissions – they’re also generating revenue by selling the methane to the local electricity company as a source of renewable energy
Public officials aren’t the only ones seeking ways to promote solutions without saying the phrase-that-must-not-be-named. As this New York Times article explains, midwestern teachers, journalists, and even farmers themselves are navigating this tricky middle ground.
Kansas grain farmer Doug Palen firmly believes in no-till farming, which helps prevent erosion while also conserving water and trapping carbon in the soil. He’s a climate pioneer in many ways, largely out of necessity – yet “climate change” is not a concept he embraces.
Carl Priesendorf, a community college science teacher in Kansas City, MO, begins by discussing the benefits of science that we enjoy every day – such as electric power – to create a sense of positivity and acceptance before introducing any climate-related topics like rising temperatures.
And when Kansas state representative Annie Kuether advocates for clean energy before the Republican-controlled legislature, she focuses on job creation and other economic advantages – like the extra income farmers receive for hosting wind turbines and solar panels on their land.
For people to embrace climate action, it’s not always necessary for them to accept that climate change is happening, or that it’s caused by human activity. It’s often more convincing to show them how climate solutions can solve a problem or protect against an impact they’re facing, whether that’s drought, air pollution, floods, severe storms, traffic congestion, or high energy bills. When viewed from this angle, solutions like clean energy or smart infrastructure shift from political to practical – and the concept of “being prepared” tends to resonate with Americans regardless of political affiliation.
Our new messaging guide, Let’s Talk Communities and Climate: Communication Guidance for City and Community Leaders, echoes this approach. Download it for research-tested language and easy-to-follow processes to help you have more productive, less divisive conversations about climate.
Each week we share the stories that shouldn’t be missed. Local climate leaders, the latest in community climate action, and new climate research are all featured to highlight the good news coming out of cities. These are the top stories of the week:
AROUND THE WEB
Each week we share the stories that shouldn’t be missed. Local climate leaders, the latest in community climate action, and practical climate solutions are all featured to highlight the good news coming out of cities. These are the top stories of the week:
AROUND THE WEB
Upton Sinclair once wrote, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” And for many Americans working in extraction industries throughout the country, it can be difficult to imagine changing one’s lifestyle in the face of what can seem an abstract, long-term problem—climate change.
For several years now there has been tremendous growth of jobs created in the renewable industry. These include technicians servicing the wind turbines going up throughout the nation, solar industry sales persons, installers, service techs, and developers. The growth of these industries is so robust that one of every fifty jobs created today is in renewables, which now employ more Americans than the fossil fuel industry.
However, not all regions are benefiting equally from this new economy, and families in many neighborhoods and communities that once relied on fossil fuel extraction jobs to pay their bills are now faced with a disappearing way of life. These individuals, who are often left behind by the changing economy and by the investments in renewables, don’t always have access to jobs and opportunities in the green sector.
The challenge is to help empower extraction workers with well-paying jobs they can take pride in that don’t rely on fossil fuels. And the small city of Pikeville, KY may have just cracked that code.
In a program developed by the owners of Jigsaw—an engineering firm—former coal miners are now being presented with the opportunity to receive professional work training and employment. This is being facilitated with the creation of Bit Source, a software company that hopes to provide permanent, well-paying jobs to former coal miners in Pikeville.
To accomplish this, the company is training miners to code. And the program is showing strong signs of progress. The startup has already successfully trained and employed nine former coal miners.
But the startup didn’t act alone. One of their keys to success has been a concerted effort to work with the city’s workforce development agency. The agency helped to develop the job call to recruit applicants, bringing in over 900 applications for just 11 open positions. These positions garnered further support from the U.S. Department of Labor in the form of a wage subsidy—allowing Bit Source to hire more employees at better pay.
While the program is still in its infancy, it is providing a strong proof of concept—that communities can transition their economies away from extraction industries, build a stronger standard of living for residents, and create stable, well-paying jobs of the future. Similar private-public partnerships can be facilitated in communities who depend on jobs within the industry. With businesses searching for driven, hard-working employees, communities eager to host and retain well paying tech jobs, and local, state and federal government resources going towards jump-starting such programs—a transition away from fossil fuels is made increasingly possible.
As neighborhoods, communities and cities slowly transition to renewables, it is important to not leave large segments of the population behind. By offering miners and refinery workers, surveyors, and employees throughout the fossil fuel sectors with better opportunities, it is possible to create allies in the pursuit of climate solutions.
Learn how to make a similar transition in your community by joining with climate leaders at Path to Positive Communities. And be sure to take advantage of our recent webinar and communications guide for talking about climate with residents in your city.
Stuart Wood is a writer at Path to Positive Communities and an adjunct professor of political science and environmental politics. He has a Ph.D. in Political Science from Claremont Graduate University. Email him at [email protected]
Each week we share the stories that shouldn’t be missed. Local climate leaders, the latest in community climate action, and practical climate solutions are all featured to highlight the good news coming out of cities. These are the top stories of the week:
Climate leaders in Los Angeles just announced what may seem like an impossible task. Rather than pursuing the typical laundry list of climate solutions, Mayor Eric Garcetti and his team are starting with a bold goal—lowering the city’s temperature. Over the next 20 years, the city aims to cut temperatures by 3 degrees. But can one city alone really slash temperatures?
The ambitious goal is addressing a phenomenon known as the urban heat island effect. Simply put, city infrastructure—streets, buildings, sidewalks—soak up heat and then radiate that energy, creating a landscape with warmer day and nighttime temperatures. In Los Angeles, the effect is particularly potent, and temperatures can be as much as 19 degrees higher in the city than in surrounding areas.
These hot zones aren’t just uncomfortable—they are also costly. Residents, business owners and industry have to spend more money on air conditioning. Increased city temperatures can additionally pose significant threats to those without access to air conditioning—including young, elderly, and working-class residents. These vulnerable populations are particularly susceptible to warmer environments, making the temperature-reduction plan a potential life-saver.
While the challenge of decreasing temperatures locally as the planet warms is a big one, there are several simple, proven, low-cost solutions available. Planting trees and increasing urban canopy helps purify air, shades city streets and buildings, and decreases the amount of sunlight absorbed in urban areas. Likewise, drought-tolerant and native plants and landscaping are better suited to sustain healthy soil, which, city-wide, could reduce nighttime temperatures by over 5 degrees.
In addition to such simple, known solutions, the Mayor’s office brought together university scientists and municipal workers to work on a robust plan to tackle the causes and consequences of the urban heat island effect. The research collective has already begun to identify innovative new approaches, ranging from more reflective materials for constructing streets and sidewalks, to “cool roofs” that could reduce the city’s temperatures by 2 degrees alone.
The work of the research coalition and the city may be beyond what is possible for every city. However, their ambitious goals will identify what is possible, successful, and feasible for other cities to replicate.
As with any action, the first step is always the most difficult. Climate leaders in Los Angeles have already began their path towards cooler communities, and your city can be next. To get started, tune in to our free webinar on how to most effectively communicate with residents in your city about the challenges and opportunities of climate action. Inspired by your leadership, residents and city leaders can begin to pursue a cooler, cleaner, healthier climate.
Stuart Wood is a writer at Path to Positive Communities and an adjunct professor of political science and environmental politics. He has a Ph.D. in Political Science from Claremont Graduate University. Email him at [email protected]
Each week we share the stories that shouldn’t be missed. Local climate leaders, the latest in community climate action, and practical climate solutions are all featured to highlight the good news coming out of cities. These are the top stories of the week:
Drive through any city and you’ll inevitably happen upon neighborhoods that have seen better days. Older houses, run-down buildings, and antiquated infrastructure can blight any community. But where some see neglected neighborhoods, others see climate opportunities.
While less flashy than major new projects or infrastructure development programs, old construction presents a simple, affordable climate solution that benefits both residents and the environment. And the solution is simple: increasing energy efficiency.
Already underway in major cities across the country, bold new energy efficiency programs are helping residents in places like Chicago, where buildings represent the city’s largest source of pollution. Old construction lacks proper insulation and often has poor plumbing, requiring more energy to heat and cool homes, offices, and commercial spaces. That excess energy use increases both utility bills and fossil fuel consumption. Buildings are estimated to account for 40% of energy use nationwide, and over 15% of the country’s carbon emissions. With such a large energy footprint, cities represent a large target for cutting energy consumption.
Recognizing this growing problem, mayors from 20 cities throughout the United States have joined forces and are now collaborating in the City Energy Project. The group aims to help bring climate solutions to cities with a focus on energy efficiency programs—especially ones that target older construction.
Their first task is to simply identify areas ripe for improvements. To accomplish this, the City Energy Project provides onsite assistance to help mayors and sustainability directors develop and implement action plans and set obtainable goals. It also provides a space for mayors and city leaders to share experiences, successes, and failures. These can serve as models to emulate, lessons for pitfalls to avoid, or inspirations for making progress.
The City Energy Project also works to build private-public partnerships, and advises municipal leaders in enlisting private property owners to commit to efficiency standards. This is aided by providing clear information on where inefficiencies are, how they can be addressed, and what the benefits of action will be.
The climate consequences of inefficient buildings are clear – so, too, are the benefits of modernization. For residents, occupants and building owners, retrofitting old construction can lead to dramatic cuts in utility bills. Less fuel required for heating and cooling, and fewer leaky pipes mean more money in the pocket books to be spent on other, more important priorities. Those redirected dollars can help boost local economies, and recirculate resources that would’ve otherwise been spent on energy. Retrofitting buildings at scale also requires skilled workers, which can create well-paying jobs for residents who, in turn, are able to play a vital role in helping modernize their community.
There is also a very important social justice element to energy efficiency programs. Low-income communities across the country are more likely to live and work in neighborhoods without the latest in modern efficiency standards. Because of this, they are disproportionately affected by pollutants sneaking through unsealed doors and windows, water making its way through tainted pipes, and higher energy bills due to old or nonexistent insulation. These shortfalls represent low-hanging fruit that can make major impacts, and should be high-priority targets for municipal leaders.
Cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, Reno, and many others have already begun to see the fruits of increasing energy efficiency. With organizations like the City Energy Project committed to the cause, now is a better time than ever to target inefficiencies to improve the lives of residents, to revitalize communities, and to make a dent in carbon consumption. Equally important to such policies is communicating the need, benefits, and opportunities of pursuing climate action. To get the latest communication tools and training, you can sign up for ecoAmerica and Path to Positive Communities’ free webinar on February 16. Sign up here!
Stuart Wood is a writer at Path to Positive Communities and an adjunct professor of political science and environmental politics. He has a Ph.D. in Political Science from Claremont Graduate University. Email him at [email protected]
Home to one of President Trump’s grand estates, perhaps the country’s most competitive electoral swing state, and host to some of the most divisive partisanship in the country, Florida represents an epicenter of hard hitting politics in America. You may be surprised, then, to learn that climate change has managed, in some parts of the state, to bring representatives from both sides of the aisle to common ground.
So how did members of Congress manage to set aside their differences and find common cause? The unlikely feat was accomplished through the development of the Climate Solutions Congressional Caucus.
Established just last year, the Climate Change Caucus is run by Republican Carlos Curbelo and Democrat Ted Deutch, and now includes 20 representatives. The bipartisan leadership has helped to depoliticize the issue for members, fostering a space for both Democrats and Republicans to come together in what the founders of the caucus describe as “the first bipartisan task force on climate change” in the House of Representatives.
“Our bipartisan caucus is starting off the new Congress by expanding our membership and showing our colleagues that Republicans and Democrats can put partisan politics aside to work on climate change.” Democratic Ted Deutch, Representative for Florida's 22nd congressional district
The caucus takes a multipronged approach in its handling of climate change. Members emphasize education first, detailing how a changing climate can threaten local economies, national security, environmental wellbeing, and infrastructure. And perhaps most importantly, the members help devise “bipartisan, economically-viable solutions to these challenges."
Thus far, the Caucus has successfully enlisted an even number of members from both parties, unlike some of the already existing environmental caucuses in government. And the reason for this is simple: improving the lives of constituents through viable climate solutions is good politics—no matter which side of the aisle you’re on.
Whether you are a mayor, local or state representative, member of congress, or just wanting to take the lead in your city, the precedent being set by the Climate Solutions Caucus provides a strong model to replicate.
“We have a lot of work to do on this issue, and communities like mine in South Florida are counting on us to come together and have productive discussions about what we can do to mitigate the effects of climate change and make our nation more resilient.” Republican Carlos Curbelo, Representative for Florida's 26th congressional district
First, it is important to set a clear mission, which members from all political persuasions can agree upon. These include committing to cleaner air and water, more green spaces, and updating existing infrastructure. These actions make cities and communities better places to live, help grow local economies, and bring well paying, stable jobs to residents. Second, have obtainable and identifiable goals so that residents in your community can track, see, and feel the benefits of climate action. And finally, communicate the need and benefits of climate action. Let residents know why developing and implementing a climate action plan is good for the environment, and for their neighborhoods and community.
Local, state and congressional leadership is needed now more than ever to push climate solutions forward. By focusing on the benefits of climate action, leaders can put politics aside and find common cause. To get started on this journey, check out our 15 tips for communicating on climate with your community, and keep an eye out for our soon-to-be-released communications guide made specifically for community leaders. You can also sign up for our webinar, and get the latest research on how to effectively communicate about climate solutions!
When we think of our nation’s strongest climate leaders, cities like New York and Los Angeles often come to mind. With vast resources, deep pockets, and environmentally conscious residents, implementing climate solutions in these cities often comes with broad public support.
But not all action comes from expected places, and residents in Utah are providing a model of robust climate action unparalleled in the nation. A recently implemented regional plan incorporates 90 cities across 10 counties, and takes on some of the greatest, and most difficult climate challenges that cities face. This includes efforts to slash water consumption, improve air quality, incentivize higher density-lower impact development, and plans to build expansive light and heavy rail networks throughout the state.
Such an ambitious climate action plan would seemingly require a strong federal and state presence, yet the effort was almost entirely community led. So how is such bold action possible at the city and community level? The answer lies with three key approaches that can be implemented throughout the country:
Thus far, the plan has performed beyond expectations. Despite a large growth in population, the region has successfully cut water consumption by 25%, air pollution by half, and the number of cars on the road has decreased. These improvements are estimated to have saved the state billions of dollars.
So how can you get started on similar plans in your city? First, learn how to communicate and connect with leaders in your neighborhood. Check out our communications guide and resources to get started. With an effective communication and leadership toolkit, you will be able to inspire citizen involvement and multi-sector action from across the political spectrum. So join with Path to Positive leaders today and help to bring climate solutions to your community!
Sun, rain, or snow, walking is an eco-friendly form of exercise most people can do throughout their lifetime. According to U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, walking has numerous preventative and therapeutic health benefits. It’s also easy: It comes naturally, requires little to no equipment, and can be adapted to one’s schedule and lifestyle. And needless to say, it’s greenhouse-gas free. Those are some reasons why, in 2015, the Surgeon General’s office launched Step It Up!, a national health initiative that “calls on Americans to make walking a part of their daily activity and to take steps to make every community in [the nation] a great place to walk.”
Inspired by that effort, America Walks, a national nonprofit working to increase walking and make America a better place to be physically active, established its Every Body Walk! micro-grants program. This program is designed to help grassroots efforts in municipalities across the country to create safer, more accessible and enjoyable ways to facilitate walking. America Walks recently announced the 22 winners of its second round of funding, which was supported by WalkBoston, a Massachusetts nonprofit pedestrian advocacy group; TransitCenter, a national foundation dedicated to improving urban public transit; and the American College of Sports Medicine.
Micro Grants, Macro Impacts
The winning projects use art, signage, social support, environmental design, and other innovations to facilitate and promote walking; about a quarter of them focus on increasing pedestrian access to and expanding public transit networks. The locations involved range from cities as large as Baltimore, MD (pop. 600,000+) to towns as small as Burke, SD (pop 604). Targeted communities include youth, seniors (or both); the visually or ambulatory impaired; LGBT people; Native Americans; homeless families; and people with HIV, among others. All of the initiatives provide models mayors and city leaders can use to enhance walkability in their cities and neighborhoods.
Several winning projects were created by community leaders. Here are just two of them:
Walking: The Climate and Health Connection
It’s particularly important for health care professionals to promote walking. In terms of climate, anything we can do to get out of our personal cars – walking, biking, or taking public transit (which usually involves some walking to and from a stop or station) – means reduced emissions of C02 and other airborne pollutants. It also promotes socializing outdoors – where better to spontaneously “talk climate” with others?
In terms of health, the official Step It Up! Call to Action report notes that one out of every two U.S. adults is living with a chronic disease (including heart disease, cancer, or diabetes, the leading causes of death and disability). Increasing one’s physical activity levels significantly reduces incidence and severity of these health risks, yet only 50 percent of U.S. adults get the recommended amount of aerobic exercise.
To remedy that situation, Surgeon General Murthy considers walking (or rolling, for wheelchair users) a bona-fide public health strategy because it’s a low-hanging fruit for both providers and most of the populations they serve. To that end, his Call to Action asks all sectors to encourage walking and walk-friendly community design as part of their missions. The Call points to the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommendation that medical staff counsel their at-risk patients about the need for physical activity, and then help them to create a custom walking routine – or even write a prescription for walking! Public health professionals can then conduct research on what works to promote and sustain walking and walkable communities, and then share their findings with other sectors that can implement them.
Getting More Involved
The application process for the 2018 round of America Walks micro grants will begin this fall, according to Heidi Simon, the group’s communications and public affairs manager. For more information, visit the America Walks website or contact Heidi at [email protected]
Meanwhile, the American Public Health Association has launched its One Billion Steps Challenge as part of its annual National Public Health Week. The goal: get participants to walk a collective total of one billion steps between Jan 9 and April 9 (the end of NPHW). Your practice or organization can become a Billion Steps Challenge partner, create a team to join a walking event, or even create your own event. If you do, it’s a great opportunity to apply the communications strategies found in ecoAmerica’s Let’s Talk Health and Climate guide.
Miranda Spencer is a freelance writer and editor specializing in environmental issues. If you have comments, questions, ideas, or would like to submit a blog of your own, feel free to contact her at [email protected]
On the list of areas in need of innovation and investment when it comes to community climate solutions, transportation ranks high. Accounting for roughly a quarter of man-made fossil fuel emissions, it can often seem like low-hanging fruit for mayors and sustainability directors looking for areas to make a difference. Unfortunately, installing or upgrading light rail, subways, and bus systems usually comes with a hefty price tag.
This need for improvement coupled with high investment barriers has led cities across the country to come up with numerous innovations. These are some of the promising new approaches:
Car-share programs also offer opportunities for cities to improve their mass transportation capacity, without the heavy investments required for infrastructure developments. Cities are taking bold steps to take advantage—Los Angeles, for example, plans to hire a ride-share and autonomous car advisor as the city considers the best path moving forward.
"It's about time the car capital of the world planned for the future of transportation in the digital age—moving beyond the car to bikes, ride-shares, and autonomous vehicles." Mayor Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles
Whether it’s a private-public partnership that encourage residents to utilize car-sharing rather than owning their own vehicle, or the promise of driverless vehicles, these programs are good for both residents and the climate. Fewer cars on the road translates to less air and noise pollution, less congested city streets, and even increased local tax revenue streams. But to build the public support needed for success, mayors and local community leaders must communicate the benefits of these programs to workers and residents in their city.
This year has been a tumultuous one for climate change. While progress was made, international agreements were put into place, and cities, states and countries have sprung into action—the political commitment to climate action at the federal and global stage seems uncertain at best. However, 2016 also showed us that action on climate begins at the local level. It is the mayors and community leaders who are closest to the people that are developing, implementing and reaping the benefits of climate-wise programs.
Action on climate can be found in cities and neighborhoods across the country, but what’s often most inspiring is how much can be done with so little. Over the past year, Path to Positive Communities has highlighted many examples of these local success stories, and even in the small city where I live, bold action can be found. These are some of the simple solutions that are already underway:
The City of La Verne has no sustainability department. There is no sustainability director, analyst, or coordinator. Climate has nearly no presence in council meetings or statements by the Mayor. However, what the community does have is a handful of committed leaders who recognize that they can improve the lives of residents through cycling, lower energy bills, less congested city streets, decreased air and noise pollution, and access to fresh produce from community gardens—and that these have the added benefit of being climate positive.
These commitments represent low-cost actions that offer significant climate impacts, yet have little or no costs. All that is required is leadership. And becoming a climate leader is easier than ever. Access the latest communications tools and research guides at ecoAmerica, join with committed leaders, and begin to take your journey in the Path to Positive Communities.
2016 has been a roller coaster of a year when it comes to climate action. Many of the positive developments now seem under threat, and there is a growing concern that hard-fought gains may be lost as we enter into the new year. However, while climate leaders must not lose sight of the challenges, there are countless cities, communities, and neighborhoods where climate action is being pursued more strongly than ever.
“The battle for climate change will be won or lost in the cities of the world.” Andrew Steer, president of the World Resources Institute
These are just a few of the reasons to stay hopeful about climate as we make our way through the holiday season:
"Cities bear the brunt of climate change, and cities produce the biggest part of the emissions in the world. So this will be up to cities to solve." Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti
Mayors are already hard at work developing and implementing ambitious and meaningful climate action plans. Through organizations like the C40, the Compact of Mayors, ICLEI, and Path to Positive Communities, mayors are able to leverage their resources and expertise to achieve climate success. To keep informed on the positive actions taking place, subscribe to our blog at path to positive communities today!
Developing new climate solutions isn’t always easy, and often times the clearest paths to making an impact are the ones that are most challenging. This is especially the case in cities, where climate action plans focusing on mass transportation, city fleets, and residential car use often require decades-long planning and implementation, expensive upgrades, and/or changing cultural norms.
"It's about time the car capital of the world planned for the future of transportation in the digital age—moving beyond the car to bikes, ride-shares, and autonomous vehicles." Mayor Garcetti
However, a growing number of mayors are finding innovative new transportation solutions that can be implemented both cheaply and quickly, with major climate and community impacts. These represent three main strategies for action:
These practical, yet ambitious policies are already underway and showing signs of success in communities around the county. Many of these programs have been implemented through executive orders, showing that mayors alone can bring about significant climate progress in their cities.
“We are leading by example as we pursue cutting edge solutions to our climate challenges. The Drive Clean Seattle Initiative is helping Seattle set an example for how cities can cut emissions even as they grow.” Mayor Ed Murray
By transitioning to electric vehicles, retrofitting existing fleets with new technology, and rethinking public transportation and how residents commute, mayors can slash fossil fuel consumption, decrease commute times, lower municipal expenses, and be a positive force for change. To learn more about implementing climate solutions, and to connect with ambitious climate leaders, head over to Path to Positive Communities and join today!
President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to reverse much of the progress our nation has made on climate. His recent appointment of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a fierce critic of the Environmental Protection Agency, to be the EPA’s administrator is a clear indication he intends to follow through on that plan. This is why almost 100 American religious leaders, health and medical professionals, business executives, community leaders, and educators signed an open letter to Trump calling for a clean-energy future in this country.
The declaration, which was spearheaded by ecoAmerica, was published this morning as a full-page statement in USA TODAY. It advises Mr. Trump that the multiple benefits of climate solutions align with his primary goals of growing the economy, bringing jobs back to America, and strengthening national infrastructure. The signatories added their voices to a growing list of mayors, scientists, business leaders, and environmental groups who have released major public statements urging Mr. Trump to heed scientific facts about climate change.
The Chairman of ecoAmerica’s Board of Directors, former U.S. Undersecretary of State Frank Loy, said the statement was placed to send President-elect Trump a message that everyday Americans are concerned about the future. “The diverse leaders in our extensive network are not environmentalists as such. But they strongly believe that America should keep its climate commitments, including the international Paris Agreement reached a year ago. We should be leading the world on climate solutions. Undoing the progress made to date would be disastrous for the future of our planet.”
ecoAmerica urges local, faith, and health leaders around the country to join us in raising our voices for climate progress. Read and sign the statement at AmericansforClimateSolutions.com.
Mona Telega is a Principal at the Monmark Agency and Chair of the Committee on the Environment at the American Institute of Architects (COTE AIA | LA). There, she and her team create programs to advance sustainable built environments and encourage sustainable lifestyles for city dwellers.
FACING A CHALLENGE
The architectural trade in Los Angeles and the AIA LA are very involved in designing, building and living in sync with our natural environment. Part of that involves preventing further fossil fuel emissions in our cities. To that end, COTE has been working to reward projects that meet these goals, pushing attendees to use negligible or no footprint transportation to our events. We therefore encourage people to walk, bike, take the bus or train to arrive to events like the AIA | LA’s annual Design Awards, which just celebrated the addition of the COTE LA Awards category.
For the COTE Awards this year, we had a large initiative for attending the awards via clean transportation, and were successful in encouraging many walkers, some bikers and a few “busers” and “trainers.” While we always strive to push alternate modes of transportation, for the awards we did a big social-media push complete with stickers, which participants received upon arrival. We are trying to have our constituents set an example in how walkable, bikeable and overall accessible our metropolis really is.
We at COTE are a small entity within the trade, so raising awareness has been our main goal. So this year we launched an online resource library including reference literature on green architecture, sourcing sustainable materials, and related organizations (wildlife, surfers, ocean, river and water, etc.)
By changing and redefining the way we design and build cities, we can transform our society’s wellbeing and, by extension, the planet’s.
FINDING A SOLUTION
We set up and launched a thorough social presence online: a professional group on LinkedIn, a page on Facebook and an Instagram account, where we have seen growth. We grew our numbers on the Committee with passionate and able people that have helped with our programs when we needed it. As a volunteer-committee, our budgets are non-existent, so we share our ideas, gifts and talents, and whatever possible contributions to achieve our goals.
KEY TO SUCCESS
Looking back, I learned that it is important to be sincere in your awareness of the climate situation. It is important to lead by example and walk your talk. I learned that this is a great fight, now greater than ever, and that together we can make a big difference, even if we start with small steps. By changing and redefining the way we design and build cities, we can transform our society’s wellbeing and, by extension, the planet’s. That happens when we all step in and share our inner genius and hard work with each other, for each other.
Thank you for bringing us even closer together into our resolve to find climate solutions.
Vermont is now home to the nation’s first 100% renewable-energy city. The largest city in the state, with 42,000 residents, Burlington has grabbed the attention of mayors across the country searching for a model they can emulate in transitioning to clean energy. Leaders in the city have long anticipated the consequences of a changing climate, and through careful planning, bold measures, and a strong commitment, have been able to implement an action plan that works for residents, businesses, and the climate.
“There’s nothing magical about Burlington, we don’t have a gift from nature of ample sun or mighty winds or powerful rivers, so if we can do it, so can others.” Taylor Ricketts, University of Vermont’s Gund Institute for Ecological Economics
While not directly transferable to all cities, the path the community leaders in Burlington pursued illuminates some key tactics that mayors, municipal workers, and sustainability directors can utilize to achieve 100% renewables in their city.
Push the Limits
While the city has successfully achieved a major sustainability milestone, leaders there are thirsty for further progress. EV charging stations, expanded public transportation, energy efficiency measures, and bike paths are just some of the new initiatives that the city plans to use to reach its new goal: net-zero energy consumption by the decade’s end.
The success of Burlington’s climate solutions is almost entirely rooted in the bold leadership of the city’s government. So how can mayors and community leaders replicate such success? It starts with showing that there are real, tangible solutions that communities can achieve together. The goals should be made clear, and the benefits of action must be effectively and powerfully communicated.
Find out the best way to achieve climate solutions in your city by joining with the broad network of climate leaders at Path to Positive Communities.
As families are still gathered for this long weekend, many are gearing up to hit the shops to find the best deals that follow Thanksgiving Day and kick off the new holiday season. However, the long weekend can be better spent enjoying some of the best natural spots the country has to offer.
In California, a new tradition has taken hold—Green Friday. A collaboration between Save the Redwoods League, California State Parks Foundation and California State Parks now makes entrance and parking to California’s 116 state parks free to the public on what is traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year.
The effort by the state to get families out into nature, and to appreciate the wonders of California’s green spaces is a noble one. But the benefits go further than many realize, and embracing parks and green spaces within city limits can help build better communities, while simultaneously improving the climate.
Mayors and community leaders must embrace the spirit of Green Friday, and work to incorporate the benefits of parks and green spaces within city limits. Parks, green zones, and urban canopy are powerful tools for improving communities, and addressing the causes and consequences of a changing climate.
To meet these green goals, city leaders can work with nonprofits that specialize in increasing access to parks. They can support local, state, and federal initiatives that help fund parks programs, like Measure A—which just passed in California and will go far to improve the county’s parks programs. And finally, leaders must interact with residents to communicate the benefits of natural and green spaces.
These tasks can be facilitated by utilizing the resources and joining with committed leaders at Path to Positive Communities.
The events that have transpired over the past two weeks have left most in the climate community shocked. ecoAmerica’s President, Bob Perowitz, spoke to these concerns last week, and helped us all rethink our path moving forward. But with a new administration, congress, and agency leaders coming into power—the situation is at best, uncertain. While many are already writing off any chance to move climate progress forward under these challenging new circumstances, it is important to remember that despite setbacks, there is already bold climate action underway in our cities and communities.
As we move forward, climate action at home, in neighborhoods, and communities will continue to be the epicenters for positive, ambitious climate action. And there are three reasons for hope:
International agreements like the bilateral commitments between the United States and China, as well as the most recent COP 21 Paris agreements are now feared to be on the chopping block. However, these international accords specifically enlisted mayors and local leaders to enact climate policies and programs.
This is true especially for the COP 21 agreements. Worldwide, over 7,000 cities have already implemented bold climate action plans to meet the terms of the Paris agreements. Groups like the C40 and the Global Covenant of Mayors are now taking the lead. Cities represent 70% of global fossil fuel emissions, and by 2050 will be home to two-thirds of the global population—thus putting cities on the frontlines of climate action. Stepping up to lead and improve the lives of residents in their communities, mayors are already investing in infrastructure, renewable energy, and clean mass transportation systems.
“The agreement will unlock innovation and investment to reduce emissions and help our communities adapt to climate change. We are far from done, however.” – Mayor Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles
By acting at the city and local level, mayors and regional leaders are able to sidestep the hurdles that pervade international agreements.
Economic forces may be the greatest ally moving forward. Leaders in states, counties and cities are increasingly aware of the opportunities that renewables present to their communities.
These include cheaper energy bills for residents and businesses from renewables like solar and wind, the growth of stable, well paying jobs in clean energy—which now outnumber jobs in fossil fuel extraction. The economics of climate action is a powerful incentive, which increase paychecks as well as the quality of lives for residents.
To this end, 19 states across the country have already made heavy investments in renewables in order to transition their energy supply and to curb fossil fuel emissions. For instance, Nevada has helped to facilitate the development of 29 renewable energy projects, California and New York both have called for 50% of generation to come from renewables by 2030, and Massachusetts has seen solar capacity increase by 781% in just 10 years.
With federal and international agreements less likely now than ever, it is important to empower local, city and regional leaders to implement bold climate action plans. And fortunately, many already are.
In California, this election saw the passage of statewide propositions to fund mass transportation developments, to invest in green spaces and parks, and to implement a plastic bag ban. These coupled with early commitments to explore making the transition to 100% clean energy in Los Angeles, illustrate tremendous progress and effective change at the local level.
“From new jobs, economic growth, better air, and a stable climate, this is a win-win for the residents and businesses of Salt Lake City as well as the rest of Utah.” – Sarah Wright, Executive Director for Utah Clean Energy
Leaders in Salt Lake City have long been working towards making their neighborhoods cleaner and greener. Under the leadership of Mayor Jackie Biskupski, Salt Lake City launched “Climate Positive,” an initiative committing the city to new clean energy standards and decreased fossil fuel emissions. The Mayor has also brought together business, nonprofits, educational institutions, and community organizations to identify ways of decreasing the city’s carbon footprint through a program called Utah Climate Action Network. These actions, coupled with commitments to make the city 100% reliant on clean energy illustrate how local action can succeed in bringing about meaningful change.
Now is the time for climate leaders to get to work. And many already are. By embracing and implementing international commitments, leveraging market forces to boost local economies while benefiting climate, and targeting action at the neighborhood, community and city level, leaders can be more effective than ever.
To accomplish these goals, leaders must arm themselves with the most effective and up to date resources. Communication guides, networking opportunities, and a shared community of committed climate actors will facilitate progress. So get to work, and join Path to Positive Communities today.
12 minutes ago, as I started writing this… it was reported that Hillary Clinton conceded the election to Donald Trump.
We should no longer have to argue, as we know and have always said, that people say what they think they are supposed to say in polls, that they decide in tribes, and that they believe and follow myths that support their own version of reality. It happens equally among liberals as it does conservatives, which is why some of us are now stunned. It will be a long time before anyone trusts the pollsters again.
Progressives have a strong set of facts to support their claim to leadership – better economy, greater job creation, lower federal deficit, cleaner environment, better care for our disadvantaged, better international relationships and less war. There are irrefutable and powerful facts and long term trends behind all these.
Conservatives have their set – we’re leaving rural and the middle class behind, focusing on the lower and upper classes. We negotiate trade deals that cost America jobs. We’ve gone from superpower to a nation lacking influence the Middle East, much of Asia, and we don’t even compete with the Chinese in Africa. We’re headed for the same long-term slow/no growth economy that pervades Europe and Japan. They can point to lack of income growth, the trade deficit, negative interest rates and other facts….
In any case, we wake up this morning facing a new reality. And the mid-term horizon does not portend different trends. 2018 could be an even stronger year for the Republicans. There will an amazing amount of historical and political analysis pouring out in the upcoming days, months and years. Our democracy (at this point) is not under question – it is resilient and just did what it is supposed to do, reflect the values and desires of the people.
This shift in political power presents progressives with the exceptional and existential question that only yesterday we thought faced the conservatives – are our values and perspectives relevant in America today?
No matter what, we’ll learn a lot. We need to step back and reconsider our positions and policies. But it would be hard to overestimate the fact that we face very risky consequences. The global markets will crash. They’ll recover a bit in upcoming weeks but then trend down further… depending on what Trump does (not sure how to equate that with Republicans). Domestic and international politics will be unstable and volatile.
But there is one overwhelming threat here – and that is to our ecosystems. We can recover from the evils of economic isolation, racism and even fascism – given some time. But we will not be able to recover from the damage we are now doing to our atmosphere and oceans – to nature itself.
From an ecoAmerica perspective, we are an alternative strategy to what enviros just tried and didn’t work. Our concept of building the base vs. just activating it; of reaching out to other groups currently disengaged from the climate debate, from their values and perspectives instead of using them to further ours; and of connecting climate to their values and supporting their organizations is the way forward. We need to be a part of society, not a special interest. We need to join them, not have them join us.
There are some real ills in our democracy that allow groups to divide and manipulate us. We are feeling the effects of the loss of the Fairness Doctrine and the impact of the Citizens United ruling. We need to work on those. And as to our other values – justice, inclusion, just transition, and intergenerational equity – we need to double down and make them more than just talking points. We need to make them happen. And ecoAmerica will be doing just that.
Here’s another piece on this. Like everyone else, here at ecoAmerica we’ll be talking and questioning ourselves… but at this point, nothing is certain, and as my granddaughter Ellie says when she’s distressed, “I need a hug.”
Richard Jackson, MD, MPH, is a Professor at the Fielding School of Public Health at the University of California, Los Angeles. A pediatrician, he has served in many leadership positions in both environmental health and infectious disease with the California Health Department, including the highest as the State Health Officer. For nine years he was Director of the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health in Atlanta and received the Presidential Distinguished Service award. In October, 2011 he was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. He is also a member of the Climate for Health Leadership Circle and the Path to Positive Los Angeles Leadership Circle.
Everyone remembers his or her first experience with extreme weather. I grew up in northern New Jersey and the early 1950s brought an especially active series of tropical storms. In 1955, Hurricane Diane roared through the Northeastern United States. I vividly recall the street where I lived crisscrossed with downed oak and elm trees and the city impassable for miles around. As a child, the storm was the most exciting show I had ever witnessed. Downed electrical wires sparked at the curbsides and neighbors scrambled to check on their homes and each other. I soon saw my neighbors pulling large branches from the roofs of their homes and covering the damage with tarps. I heard the fearful whine of chainsaws and the grunting and chugging of heavy equipment, backhoes, and grapple-skidders. The roadways were slowly cleared. For some reason we had not lost water supplies, though electricity was out for about 10 days. I felt like quite the little frontiersman as I went out to collect scrap twigs and dried branches that could be burned in the fireplace to keep our home warm during the 10 days (although I don’t think we really needed the warmth, the adults probably needed some task to keep us boys busy).
My experiences were tame compared to those of the children in New Orleans in 2005 or those in Coney Island 2012. When bad outcomes ensue, such as the inundation of New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina, we initially blame them on an “Act of God,” but before long we realize that this act of nature has been amplified by shortsighted design and inadequate building codes. The disaster of Katrina was magnified by bad levees, slapdash building, and residential siting in inundation zones. All made worse by a dysfunctional system of local governance, especially the police department. The New York region is overall wealthier than New Orleans and was better prepared for Superstorm Sandy, but the populations at risk were far larger. Similarly, though, in the case of Sandy, many of the bad outcomes were predictable and could have been prevented, such as the inundation of NYU Medical Center and of the city of Hoboken, or the loss of $100 million worth of new railroad rolling stock because it had been thoughtlessly sidelined parked in a known flooding zone.
Extreme weather events allow us to see our communities at their best, and sadly at their most unseemly. The communities that are the most resilient—the ones that function well and recover most quickly—bring to their recovery an important mix of financial and infrastructure assets that are perhaps the most critical element in resilience and recovery. In “Tornado Alley” people living in brick homes with basements and with steel tiedowns for the foundations and roofs survive violent windstorms better than do the low income persons living in trailer parks. People with financial assets, such as a remote vacation home or a large SUV to help evacuate them in order to stay with unimpacted relatives, managed Hurricane Katrina far better than those with few resources. Those with adequate homeowners’ insurance policies rebuilt far sooner, and they rebuilt homes that were “up to code” and more resilient than the ones damaged or destroyed. And in the same way, those living in countries where national assets can be rapidly deployed to assist also manage more effectively than those with more limited assets.
Protecting health and being resilient in the face of extreme weather requires more, however, than solid financial resources. It requires a narrative of survival and of recovery. And that narrative must be personal and connected not just to the family, but also to the community, municipality, and jurisdiction. Studies of recovery after disasters demonstrate that families and neighborhoods where there was strong pre-existing social capital, namely community organizations, churches, and a strong volunteer culture, as well as competent and effective local governance, recovered from calamities more quickly than those without this. Communities that lack financial and social capital are more likely to fail to recover from disasters and end up in a diaspora; with persons and families scattered thousands of miles in every direction. This is what happened to many of the poor in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. At times a diaspora is exactly what is needed—not all locations are suitable for human habitation or redevelopment. For example, swampy areas subject to regular flooding may be good farmland but they are unlikely to be ideal for residential building. Desert areas can be turned into agricultural land, or even cattle feedlots, but only with enormous inputs of energy, water, and agricultural chemicals, including fertilizers and pesticides. Creating habitation on unsuitable land is rarely a good long-term investment.
In my role in public health I have had substantial experience in health leadership roles following various crises and disasters. When I was with the California Department of Public Health, we had to address droughts, immense wildfires, floods, earthquakes, mudslides, as well as civil insurrections. When I was head of the National Center for Environmental Health at CDC we had to address hurricanes in Florida, massive floods along the Mississippi Valley, and inundations in the low country, and even the Piedmont on the East Coast, particularly the Carolinas. My Center developed and administered the National Pharmaceutical Stockpile, which was directed and funded by Congress to be mobilized in the event of terrorism and pandemic threats; it was first deployed on September 11, 2001. In addition, CDC’s Refugee and International Health group was located in NCEH; it was frequently called on to respond to refugee crises in many parts of Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and elsewhere. Each of these crises brought its own set of needs and different demands for response. And each of the various assistance groups tended to bring its own set of skills and supplies, ranging from drinking water and meals-ready-to-eat, all the way to temporary shelters and portable surgical hospitals. But in my own experience, the assets and help most often needed more than any other were: good intelligence (what is going on with whom, where, when, and for how long), solid management, and robust communication.
While these needs seem self-evident, they are rarely concurrently present, and I assert, the most commonly neglected need following these crises is effective communication. Many times I have been in the room with elected officials, physicians and health leaders, public safety personnel including police and fire, and emergency management experts, where each one narrowly focused on his or her own expertise. And then each looked to a third-party “expert” to confront a critical and urgent element of the response—that essential element is: communication. Yet, each of these leaders would delegate the task of communications to someone else: a public relations expert, or to a writer, or to a telegenic junior staff member. These “experts” frequently persisted in the belief that providing distressed disaster victims a list of facts once a day is adequate communication. But they fail to realize that effective community engagement is a two-way process. This near-predictable behavior reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of communication. Communication is not merely talking to or at people.Communication is—not just talking—but listening. Communication only occurs as a two-way activity. Just as every child is told “you have two ears and one mouth because you’re supposed to listen twice as much as you speak,” so those responding to extreme weather events and disasters need to hear and behave in the same way. Those in leadership roles must be listening clearly and synthesizing information, planning ahead; not merely directing traffic or offering dictates. Members of the community who are suffering must be conversed with, not just in their own language, but also in their own dialect and educational level. It is important to understand the cultural aspects and norms of the communities as you plan to communicate and take action around extreme weather events.
When I was in North Carolina following Hurricane Floyd, I visited many of the shelters that had been set up in the school gymnasia and armories. I repeatedly heard the community members express anxiety about epidemics of typhoid. After listening to distraught members of the public express fears about a typhoid epidemic, we would patiently explain that there were no typhoid bacilli in the area and that the likelihood that this would occur was negligible. Our reassurances were dismissed. People who were frightened, isolated, and distraught repeatedly insisted that they wanted “typhoid shots,” an activity I considered worthless, especially compared to all the other more urgent needs that people had. Then I hit on it—the most common health threats in these situations resulted from drinking contaminated water and food; these needs were being well taken care of. But after major disasters such as earthquakes and tornadoes, the most common injury people sustained was puncture wounds to the feet. The landscape was covered with pieces of lumber, broken boards, and other debris with wood shards and exposed nails sticking up. After the wearing of personal safety equipment such as heavy-duty work shoes, the most important health protective contribution we could make to these folks was to raise their immunity to tetanus, or lockjaw. Yet puncture wounds were seen as a personal threat and liability, perhaps the result of carelessness, rather than a community or public health threat. To respond to an actual public health danger to the community, we then set up clinics to administer a tetanus toxoid vaccine in the form of TDap shots. The immunity to tetanus would be far more useful and last ten years, and also to the good, they received boosters against diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough). The act of waiting in line with one’s neighbors and receiving this useful injection carried far more benefit, both medically and in terms of anxiety reduction, than almost any other action we could have taken. Listening is what created this community benefit. This kind of clinical management at a community level is somewhat similar to actions taken in clinical medicine, where what the patient is saying they are worried about, and what the doctor knows they should be concerned about, are not in agreement. In these situations the patient needs to feel listened to and well cared for, and the doctor must with good conscience do what is best for that person.
Climate experts say that extreme weather will be on the increase because of planetary warming and our ignoring the community health signs and symptoms of global, unchecked dependence on fossil fuels. Sea levels have been rising at the rate of about a centimeter per decade, which means that oceans are about a third of a foot higher than they were during Hurricane Diane. Storm surge and saltwater intrusion into freshwater resources create greater threats to safety, health, and infrastructure. Warmer atmospheres hold not just more energy but hold more water vapor, and the combination of more heat and more humidity can be deadly in our densely populated cities.
Experts say these weather extremes will become not just more frequent but more violent. And weather will not impact merely little neighborhoods but will lead to impacts on large populations. Where droughts prevail and arid lands expand, wind storms will carry even more dust around the world to downgrade air quality and exacerbate respiratory consequences.
Diminution of the Himalayan glaciers and the relative drying up of the Ganges River and the Brahmaputra River, combined with sea-level rise in the Bay of Bengal, will lead in this case to large population migrations. Increasing numbers of drought events worldwide would combine with sea-level rise, and the inevitable salination of aquifers used for drinking water, livestock, and irrigation will drive ever larger population migrations. Population migrations always come with major health impacts, and too many start with war and terrorism. And as with everyone’s early life experiences with violent weather, the impacts will be unforgettable. Sadly, the children of tomorrow will have many more weather stories to tell; stories with little charm and a great deal of preventable terror.
Extreme Weather, Health, and Communities offers a sample of how society has dealt with extreme weather events, concerns for human health using interdisciplinary approaches to community engagement. It tells of life-threatening moments of terror and of chronic, life-restricting consequences of extreme weather. It takes us through the painstaking cycle of research, education, and payoff, with fewer lives at stake, healthier communities, and a higher regard for climate and weather. Significantly, it reminds us of the need for interdisciplinary and cross-cultural participation in coping with weather extremes.
The above chapter appears as the foreword to Extreme Weather, Health, and Communities, Springer (2016).
While more often than not our news feeds are filled with the devastating impacts, seemingly insurmountable challenges, and overwhelming reality of climate change, progress is being made at every level. And this year in particular has seen great strides forward when it comes to climate progress.
Just this month the Paris Agreement was signed into law—marking the boldest international climate agreement to date. In Montreal, leaders gathered to establish new aviation emission standards, and mayors recently met in Ecuador at the United Nations’ Habitat III Conference of Cities to identify new avenues for financing climate investments at the city and local level.
Nationally, the clean energy revolution is proving to be more successful than ever. For instance, throughout the Midwest, farmers and rural Americans struggling with hurting economies are now turning to renewables for subsistence. Accounting for 70% of the country’s wind generation, low-income counties are now able to rebuild, and reinvest in their communities. Solar power has seen a similar boom. Now accounting for more jobs than the coal industry, solar panels are cheaper and more accessible than ever—helping to cut energy bills for cities, residents, and businesses.
Mayors are Leading the Way
International and national progress has been unprecedented. But equally impressive has been the work by local leaders in our cities, communities, and neighborhoods across the country.
In Los Angeles, the City Council is moving forward with plans to explore transforming the city to 100% renewables. In Seattle, Mayor Ed Murray is partnering with Mayor Gregor Robertson in Vancouver, B.C. to address the shared challenges of a changing climate that both cities will face. The mayors are putting communities front and center, and planning climate action that improves infrastructure, transportation, and housing for residents. And in Salt Lake City, Mayor Jackie Biskupski is leading the city as it transitions to 100% renewables. With a target year of 2032 to make the full switch to renewable energy, the city has already implemented policies to slash fossil fuel emissions.
What Is Your Community Doing?
Getting past the negative headlines and focusing on the successes that our community and city leaders have achieved can help keep the momentum going.
To fill this positive-news gap and highlight all the progress we’re making, Path to Positive Communities wants your help. Over the next two weeks, we are asking our readers to tweet a climate action photo including #P2Psustainability and our handle, @path2positive.
Show us what is happening on climate in your community, in your neighborhood, or on your commute. These can include community gardens, bike-share programs, solar panel instillations, water-wise landscaping, or any other climate-friendly action that you are able to spot in your city. Submit your tweet by November 15 (which just happens to be America Recycles Day). We’ll feature a selection of these tweets here on the Path to Positive Communities website, showcasing the climate creativity in communities around the country.
By sharing examples of bold progress, together we can spread the word that ambitious climate action can be a part of our everyday experience. We can inspire others to take similar action in their communities, and show what works when it comes to practical local solutions.
Just this week, a coalition of over 85 mayors met at the United Nation’s Habitat III conference on cities in Ecuador. Their message was simple: cities and local governments are increasingly responsible for the costs and consequences of regional and global challenges—and therefore must be equipped with the required tools to meet these emerging demands.
While climate headlines are typically dominated by international and national policies and agreements, it is mayors and city leaders who are usually tasked with the implementation policies to reach climate targets and goals. To meet these, city leaders and mayors are having to quickly alter how they conceive of their responsibilities and must adapt to find new ways of effectively rising to these challenges.
In the United States, cities of all sizes already have climate action plans underway, and many have become global models of success. However, bold climate action internationally provides several insights that could be replicated in the United States.
1. Push for Federal-Local Partnerships
Infrastructure developments like mass transit for residents, energy efficient buildings, and transitions to clean energy like solar have contributed to major strides in urban sustainability. In addition, improved technology and production have allowed the price of renewable energy from solar and wind to decrease at an accelerating pace over the past decade. However, the startup costs of such actions are still sometimes out of reach for cash-strapped cities and local governments. This has prompted a new focus on improving avenues for climate finance at the local level.
At the UN conference in Ecuador, there was a universal focus on developing new methods of getting funds from banks and national governments to localities and cities, where the action is. Leaders stressed the need for policy makers to streamline the process, so that climate action can more efficiently be put into effect. Barcelona's mayor, Ada Colau, stressed the “need to be capable of implementing the agenda, to put in place practical and concrete programs that will affect the lives of thousands of citizens," and to accomplish this, "Cities must have direct access to funds, direct access to financial institutions."
2. Pursue Bold Policy Initiatives
Cities and states throughout the country are beginning to develop climate action plans to meet agreements like the COP 21 Paris accord, and the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan. However, while these agreements represent significant climate progress, they simply do not go far enough to address the serious nature of the problem. This has prompted many mayors to push the boundaries of climate action.
In Oslo, city leaders are taking unprecedented action to slash greenhouse gas emissions by half in only four years. By focusing on transportation, banning private cars from the city’s downtown, building new bike lanes, and drafting 42 official measures to reduce emissions, the city is going further than any before it. As Glen Peters, senior researcher at Norway's Center for International Climate and Environmental Research, put it "[o]ther cities might say, 'Well, actually you can do this.’ And there are all these other benefits with local air pollution and quality of life. So then you may see a lot of cities following. But it's really quite ambitious."
3. Take Local Action Overlooked by National and International Leaders
Mayors no longer have to wait for federal action to develop and implement climate action plans with national and international implications. In Paris, for instance, Mayor Anne Hidalgo this year moved forward with a policy to ban private cars in designated areas of the city center. The goal is to increase use of public transportation, cut noise and air pollution, and decrease traffic in the city. Mayor Hidalgo is demonstrating that ambitious climate action, which may be impossible to navigate through federal bureaucracies, is possible in our cities.
“We mayors are more agile because our governance is more horizontal, we are closer to people, we can enforce best practices of other cities.” Mayor Hidalgo
The actions of mayors across the globe provide insight into how mayors here in the U.S. can think about tackling climate challenges. By developing new avenues to allocate funds from national to local governments, policy makers can empower community leaders with the tools to act efficiently and dynamically on climate. Through bold goals, mayors can surpass the national and international standards—and push climate action to new limits. And finally, by acting locally, mayors can enact policies that wouldn’t otherwise be implemented due to political or bureaucratic constraints.
Around the world mayors are stepping up and leading on climate. With international partnerships like the C40, Compact of Mayors, and ICLEI—international collaboration on climate solutions is becoming more obtainable for mayors throughout the US. By learning from international partners, mayors and municipal leaders are able to provide the best path to climate success in their communities.
Find out more about community climate leadership by joining Path to Positive Communities.
Stuart Wood is a writer at Path to Positive Communities and an adjunct professor. He has a Ph.D. in Political Science from Claremont Graduate University, where he focused on climate change, political communications and psychology. Email him at [email protected]
Over the past year and a half, there have been bold and inspiring moves in the right direction when it comes to climate. The Obama Administration put forward the Clean Power Plan, a landmark policy that promises to move the country towards increased renewables and more efficient power generation. Just last December, over 170 nations came together at COP 21 in Paris and signed a landmark climate deal, pledging to keep global temperatures from exceeding the 2 degree threshold. Governors from California to Massachusetts have implemented ambitious new policies that are leading the way on statewide emission mandates, renewable energy goals, and even cap-and-trade programs. And in our cities, mayors have developed and implemented climate action plans that have successfully slashed fossil fuel emissions, increased energy efficiency, and improved the quality of their communities.
Each of these, and surely countless other, climate conscious decisions represent the possibilities for effecting positive environmental change at the local, state, national and international levels. They were also all developed, passed, and will be implemented by our elected leaders.
Climate Action Through Government Action
While elected representatives often get a bad rap, what is clear is that many of the greatest climate victories at all levels of government wouldn’t exist without their work. So with the 2016 election now right around the corner, it is incumbent on officials to make their commitments and achievements on sustainability known.
With the consequences of a changing climate becoming harder to deny, and more Americans being affected, the condition of our planet is now more salient than ever. For most Americans, this increased issue prominence isn’t simply about a cleaner environment, but about connecting the dots between climate solutions and better jobs, cleaner and healthier cities to live and raise a family, and economic considerations like lower energy bills.
What You Can Do
Fortunately, every year we are collectively given the opportunity to steer our cities, states, and country in a new direction by simply casting our vote. As simple a solution as this may seem, too many Americans neglect this critical component of climate action. The following are three simple ways to maximize your voice on climate through voting:
Climate change and the environment are still politically divisive, and elected leaders must be aware of the potential difficulties when it comes to communicating about these issues. What is also true is that climate action is a political winner. Americans want cleaner neighborhoods. They want healthier cities where they can live and raise a family. They want stable, well paying jobs that can’t be outsourced. And they want lower energy bills and higher home values.
Mayors and elected leaders can communicate these benefits with their communities through well-researched and tested methods. Through effective communication, elected officials can benefit politically from the benefits of climate action—like a better economy, more jobs and cleaner, healthier cities.
This November 8, Americans will be given the opportunity to exercise their ability to choose the climate direction of the country. Office holders must make their positions clear, and voters must make their voices heard. So be sure to get out and vote for climate solutions!
Stuart Wood is a writer at Path to Positive Communities and an adjunct professor. He has a Ph.D. in Political Science from Claremont Graduate University, where he focused on climate change, political communications and psychology. Email him at [email protected]
Every few weeks I jump on the Metrolink Train in Southern California. From the station a block from my house to Downtown Los Angeles is about 45 minutes, much preferable to the near 90 minutes that I might otherwise spend sitting in traffic were I driving. It’s convenient, it’s fast – but it’s expensive. At around $20 for a round trip ticket, it's a luxury that I, and surely countless others cannot afford to enjoy regularly.
For public transportation to be a viable climate solution, it needs to be affordable as well as convenient.
Why Public Transportation
Public transportation networks, like the Metrolink, light rail, and buses in Los Angeles, exist in nearly every major city across the country. While varying in size, quality, and scope, they offer city officials and mayors an existing infrastructure that can be transformed into an active ingredient in any climate action plan.
The benefits of public transportation transcend socioeconomic lines and have a direct impact on residents, cities, and the climate.
Why Go Free
While the benefits of public transportation are clear, what is also apparent is that too many potential riders are being priced out. One simple solution: make participation free.
With already constrained city budgets, offering public transportation for free may seem like a tall order. However, many cities have begun to experiment, to varying degrees, with dropping fares. The results have been encouraging.
In Salt Lake City, residents and public transport users are able to take advantage of a Fare Free Zone located in the city’s downtown. The system incorporates buses, paratransit, and the city’s TRAX train. All riders have to do is simply tell the operators that they intend to stay in the Fare Free Zone, and they are free to hop on and hop off as needed.
In Missoula, MT a 3-year, zero-fare program is underway to test the effectiveness of dropping fees. With the goal of increasing ridership by 400,000 users, the free line includes one of the city’s most popular routes, along with door-to-door pick up and drop-off for elderly residents and those that may have disabilities.
Finally, in Pittsburg, local officials have established a fare-free zone. The idea was to encourage public transportation downtown to reduce congestion. Officials were able to eliminate the delays caused by ticket purchases and checking, making intramodal transportation more efficient, while also increasing ridership.
The number of cities considering these options is growing, and the benefits are being felt throughout communities.
While a growing number of cities are already pushing for free transportation options, mayors and city leaders must identify the particulars of their communities to see which options work best. For some, simply reducing fares can go a long way in increasing ridership. For others, fares can be changed or dropped to encourage use at off-peak hours, weekends, or holidays. A third alternative is to simply have designated free zones in high-traffic, congested downtown areas.
As with any climate action plan, community involvement is key. In Salt Lake City, the Fare Free Zone is part of a larger effort to make communities cleaner, healthier places to live and do business. In Missoula, the costs of dropping fares was covered by community partners and investors—it was a true collaboration of interested parties from multiple sectors of the city. And in Pittsburg, free downtown transportation helped bring in workers, shoppers, and tourists—thereby facilitating the growth of the downtown economy.
When considering your options, it is important to identify the needs of your community, and to communicate the benefits of action. Fortunately, a growing number of tools are being made available to help mayors and city leaders with this task too. So to kick-start climate action in your community, check out the great resources and communication guides at Path to Positive Communities.
For too many mayors and municipal leaders, climate action remains a task that seems out of reach. Cities often have limited resources to devote towards developing a comprehensive climate action plan, the absence of funds to allocate to a full time sustainability office, or simply may not know what the best course of action towards sustainability solutions is. These factors prevent far too many cities from taking that first step towards climate action.
However, getting your city on the path to sustainability is a worthwhile pursuit. Investing in climate solutions has proven to grow local economies, and provide stable, well paying jobs for residents. Cleaner air and water make cities healthier places to live and raise families. Climate-wise infrastructure and investments can help decrease commute times for workers, connect neighborhoods, and provide new options for getting around. And finally, climate action is a political winner—with a growing number of Americans reporting that they want and expect their leaders to commit to more environmentally conscious policies.
Fortunately, there are some initial first step any mayor can take to bring these benefits to their community and residents. Here are just a few:
1: Identify Needs
One of the most challenging hurdles in developing a climate action plan is simply identifying areas within your city that need addressing. For some, the low-hanging fruit may be obvious. Water conservation, recycling programs, and increasing energy efficiency standards are almost universally needed. However, in many cities, solutions may be less clear.
One new tool that community leaders can add to their climate action toolkit was just introduced at last week’s Climate Week NYC. A collaboration between C40, the Compact of Mayors, and the World Bank, the new tool—CURB: Climate Action for Urban Sustainability—gives local leaders access to an innovative new resource for planning climate action. CURB helps city and community officials lay out the best plan of action by examining the unique situation of each city. It gives mayors the ability to identify the most effective course of climate action, the anticipated costs, and the potential economic and environmental benefits.
A similar tool developed by Siemens, the City Performance Tool (CyPT), has already proven itself here on the West coast. The program analyzes and identifies where resources can be allocated to make the greatest impact. In San Francisco, CyPT is being put to use to help the city reach its bold climate goals—targeting areas to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, like transportation, energy consumption in buildings, and power generation.
These new tools provide a starting point for cities that want to take action, but are unsure of which course will be the most economically feasible, and will have the greatest impact.
2: Build Relationships
To make that first step towards action an easier one to take, organizations have begun to help cities collaborate, learn from one another, and share resources for effecting change. For instance, groups like ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, the Compact of Mayors, and C40 Cities all represent coalitions of large and small cities devoted to sustainability and making communities cleaner, greener places to live.
Cities can also partner with groups outside of the municipal sector. School districts and institutions of higher education are already investing in school and community garden programs, installing solar panels, and encourage educating their youth about the importance of climate action. The faith community and church leaders are inspiring their congregations to consider the moral and theological imperatives to being active stewards of the environment. And the business community is investing in energy efficiency to reduce costs and increase profits. The expertise of members in your community that are already engaged in climate action should be leveraged to make any city climate action plan the most effective possible.
Path to Positive Communities, in particular, provides a landing pad for mayors and leaders from all sectors of communities—including business, health, the nonprofit world, and faith. The organization creates a network for connecting with leaders with proven track records, sets up forums, and provides valuable resources.
3: Include Your Community
The key to a sustained and successful climate action program is having residents active and involved. The best way to accomplish this is to establish clear lines of communications. Residents should know why acting on climate is important, how projects in the city are going to affect them, and how they can do their part.
Fortunately, an increasing body of research conducted by ecoAmerica provides some simple guidelines for accomplishing this. Let’s Talk Climate and 15 Steps to Create Effective Climate Communications are two indispensable resources that can be put to use immediately. Together, they provide a simple guideline for effectively communicating the need to take climate action, the benefits of acting, and how residents can get involved.
Climate change is already underway, and as a leader in your community, you have a unique opportunity to improve the lives of residents and the environment. Begin by targeting the best course of action, collaborating with others who have shared experiences and overcome many of the challenges of taking action. Communicate the importance of action with residents in your community. The time to act is now. To get started today, check out the resources and join with likeminded climate leaders at Path to Positive Communities!
This has been a banner week for climate. While community leaders, mayors, and local officials throughout the country work to develop and implement climate action plans—several in particular stand out. The common thread between the approaches these cities are taking is that through bold action, mayors, councils, and municipal leaders are able to significantly address a changing climate, while improving local communities.
Setting Bold Goals
In an historic announcement this week, the Los Angeles City Council set fourth one of their most ambitious moves on climate yet. Simply put, the plan sets the stage to transform the city to 100% renewables. As the second largest city in the United States, making the switch from traditional energy sources to renewables is no easy feat. While still in its early stages, the motion by the Council instructs the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to develop a plan to cut the city’s dependence on dirty energy. The details and a timeline have yet to be provided, but such actions by city leaders demonstrate a commitment to climate action. The possible transition to 100% renewables is just one in a long line of ambitious successes in Los Angeles—a city that has proven itself a climate leader.
“[T]he city has an opportunity to re-create its utility in a way that recognizes the potential for a fossil-free future, demonstrates global leadership in its commitment to clean energy, and protects ratepayers from the increasing costs of carbon-based fuels.” Los Angeles City Council members Paul Krekorian and Mike Bonin
Bringing Community Benefits through Climate Action
Leadership in Los Angeles shows that serious climate action can and must be accomplished at the city level. And for good reason. Implementing bold action plans is not only beneficial to the climate, but improves the lives of residents and builds strong communities.
Los Angeles has committed to long term efficiencies by replacing the familiar warm sodium-vapor lights with LED bulbs, saving the city $9 million per year in electricity costs, cutting 60,000 metric tons of CO2, and providing energy that is being redirected to EV charging stations. Measures like these save tax payers, make the air cleaner for residents, and provide valuable charging stations to reward electric vehicle drivers.
Just this week, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson announced a joint effort to address climate change in their neighboring cities. While the plan is being lauded as a win for the environment, it is being implemented in conjunction with efforts to invest in the regions infrastructure, transportation, and affordable housing. This multi-sector approach illustrates that acting on climate must be included in any municipal plan which seeks to build communities and improve the lives of residents.
“The challenges of addressing deeply complex issues like climate change, aging infrastructure, affordable housing, and inequity are better met when working in partnership.” Seattle Mayor Ed Murray
Similarly, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski’s office announced an historic agreement establishing unprecedented clean energy goals for the city. In conjunction with the region’s electricity utility, Rocky Mountain Power, the city over the next 5 years will establish a path to meeting Salt Lake City’s renewable commitments. This will aid previous groundbreaking decisions passed in July, which aim to source 100% of the city’s electricity from renewable sources by 2032, and slash fossil fuel emissions by 80% over the next two decades.
“We need to put strong action behind our pledges to clear our air and address the threat of climate change.” Mayor Jackie Biskupski.
Throughout the country, mayors and city leaders are increasingly taking the lead on climate action. Whether through retrofitting and developing infrastructure in the Pacific Northwest, partnering with utilities in Salt Lake City, or committing to 100% renewables in Los Angeles.
What each of these paths towards developing effective strategies share is a bold commitment to act on climate. To identify similar ways that you can affect change in your community, check out the resources and join Path to Positive Communities today.
When we think about the range of climate solutions, it isn’t often that we consider systemic choices made by city planners and commercial developers over a span of many decades. This may be beginning to change. Suburban sprawl is the process whereby residents, over long periods of time, radiate out from denser urban centers, to often more affordable, newly developed areas.
The costs and benefits of this phenomenon is something that has long been on the radar of academics and municipal workers. Suburban sprawl generates logistical transportation challenges like controlling traffic for workers needing to commute, the need for increased mass transit options for residents and city-dwellers, and a greater dependency on large-scale infrastructure for these complex transportation endeavors. Incidentally, these requirements put major strains on the environment—resulting in large carbon footprints, and higher levels of air pollution.
Due to the environmental and quality of life challenges presented by urban sprawl, many city leaders and mayors are beginning to consider possible solutions. Fortunately, bold leaders in some of America’s biggest cities are providing a roadmap for addressing urban sprawl.
While the challenges to a more diffuse population are clear, mayors and municipal leaders need to have real options for affecting successful climate action. Such work is already underway thanks to the commitment of city and community leaders in Atlanta, GA.
With its congested city streets, sprawling neighborhoods, and lack of walkable neighborhoods—Atlanta is finding new and innovative ways to transform the city. A massive new project is now underway called the Atlanta BeltLine, which promises to reinvigorate urban communities by connecting them with their suburban neighbors—all the while providing environmental and community benefits.
The Atlanta Beltline project is so innovative because it repurposes existing infrastructure to improve the lives of residents, the livability of the city, and helps address climate change. The details are simple; the BeltLine will transform roughly 22 miles of old rail line which circles the city, to a path for biking, walking and the development of a new streetcar line. With construction underway, the Beltline has already proved to be a success, and a major source of pride for the residents of Atlanta.
“The Atlanta BeltLine is the most transformational transportation project in the City of Atlanta… It is already connecting neighborhoods and changing the fabric of our city’s urban core…" Mayor Kasim Reed, Atlanta
The success of the Atlanta Beltline project is due, in part, to the multisector nature of the plan. The city worked closely with leaders from the local school district, businesses, and communities in the region to develop a project that would bring the greatest benefits possible.
The wide scope of the effort has paid off. Businesses have successfully relocated to be adjacent to the Beltline, gaining valuable access to the many residents and visitors. Property values for those living near the Beltline have increased, proving beneficial to residents. And the increased paths and public transport options have helped to make intercity travel quicker, more efficient, and enjoyable.
The benefits to residents are beyond question, and are often the impetuous for action. However, the greening of cities and addressing urban densification have the added benefit of bold climate action.
Greener cities, thanks to programs like Atlanta’s Beltline, are better able to regulate air quality, energy use, and pollution. More trees and foliage are able to filter harmful pollutants from the air, leading to a decreased incidence of asthma and respiratory illness, and therefore healthier citizens. Green spaces provide shade, and counter the urban heat-island effect—decreasing the need to run the A/C during hot summer months, and saving residents and businesses money. Finally, with proper landscaping, green spaces can prevent harmful runoff into lakes, streams, and water supplies, all while helping to recharge local aquifers.
More Action is Needed
While providing a model example for city-climate action, there is always more that can be done—particularly when it comes to addressing city planning and urban sprawl.
In an attempt to stop sprawl in its tracks, cities like Reykjavik, Iceland are now implementing bold new requirements that all new construction be limited within designated, existing urban geographic zones. The goal is to increase urban density, thereby increasing the efficiency of mass transit and helping the country to reach its goal of becoming climate neutral by 2040.
"Cities play a key role in the fight against climate change. They can react quickly … and are more often than naught far more progressive than the world's governments." Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson
Whether a public-private partnership, like in Atlanta, or mandated action as demonstrated internationally, cities have multiple approaches to affect positive climate change in their toolkit. To sharpen these, mayors and community leaders can utilize tested communication techniques to relay the benefits and need for bold climate action. These resources, along with a community devoted to local climate action, can be easily accessed at Path to Positive Communities.
State and local governments are leading the way when it comes to the development and implementation of climate solutions. While each is pursuing different avenues to meet sustainability goals, they each are improving the lives of residents by fostering cleaner, healthier neighborhoods for residents to live in, creating stable, well paying jobs, and simultaneously helping to address global climate change.
States Leading the Way
California, which has been at the forefront of climate action, recently passed an ambitious new bill slingshoting the state into uncharted territory as an environmental leader—both here in the United States, and internationally.
First passed in 2006 by then governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, AB-32, or the Global Warming Solutions Act, set out to decrease fossil fuel emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The bill helped launch California’s cap and trade program, mandated energy efficiency standards, and required utilities to begin transitioning to renewables. And all of this was accomplished with a thriving economy.
A newer version of the bill, SB-32, will require the state to decrease emissions even further, 40% by 2030. While the first round of SB-32 has proven to exceed expectations, the latest incarnation and standards will prove more challenging. Lawmakers will have to redouble efforts at transforming power generation to renewables, investing in mass transit, exploring carbon capture technologies, and more.
"I don’t consider myself a climate change activist… I consider myself an advocate for my community." Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia
However difficult, California has proven that ambitious state climate goals can be met when leaders commit to climate solutions. But statewide solutions are not enough, and climate challenges don’t recognize borders. This is why many climate leaders are beginning to explore ways to get their neighbors in on the action.
Transforming state policy is certainly the first step towards meaningful action. However, many states throughout the country are extending the reach of their climate goals by partnering with others in order to affect regional change.
One of the models for this type of collaborative climate action is currently underway in New England. Already under the umbrella of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, Governor Charles Baker of Massachusetts is hoping to accelerate climate progress in the Northeast. To this end, the Baker administration has proposed a 5% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions each year between 2020 and 2031. While not every state within the existing regional agreement has made the pledge, the pressure and ambition of state leaders to act marks a bold commitment to climate action.
The Bigger Picture
What shouldn't be lost in this discussion is that leaders at the local, state and regional level are acting not primarily for the benefit of environmental stewardship, but in the best interests of their constituents. Climate action makes cities healthier places for residents to live and raise families. Cleaner air and less pollution is associated with a decreased incidence of asthma and other respiratory diseases. Transitioning to clean energy creates stable, well paying jobs for Americans. Already, renewable energy employs three Americans for every one job in coal. This is a sector of the economy that cannot be outsourced, and one that is projected to see increased growth over the coming decades.
The efforts by climate leaders at the local and state level have become an increasingly important aspect of the climate solution picture. The work by these state and regional leaders are becoming the envy of the world, and states are even finding themselves in the unique position of pressuring federal officials to ramp up national climate solutions. In order to implement effective climate action plans, leaders must equip themselves with the necessary materials and information. The most important element of such a toolkit is the knowhow and most up-to-date research on communicating with ones’ constituents. To this end, ecoAmerica has released 15 effective steps for effective climate communication that can immediately enrich or enhance your dialogue with residents about the benefits of climate action in your city.
The bad news is that western states are still hurting for water, drought conditions prevail, and climate-driven weather patterns appear not to promise relief in the near future.
The good news, according to one analysis, is that many communities have learned to conserve water, and that these efforts have lessened the severity of western drought.
While this good news has direct relevance to residents of the West today, it also gives weight to the possibility that ordinary citizens – when engaged in and educated about solving a looming crisis – can in fact change ingrained behaviors in order to avert disaster.
Does this bode well for local climate action, renewable energy choices, and a broadening sustainability agenda in local communities nationwide? While there are signs of hope, what we need more than hope is continued action, leadership, and community engagement.
Recent news reports from the Colorado Basin note that Lake Mead has avoided an official water-shortage designation, for the time being. A break from dry weather patterns is partly to credit for this, but more significant are water conservation efforts undertaken in the region that, while on their face seem contrary to local self-interest – as there are few incentives to save and plenty to consume – are providing water security in stressed communities that was unexpected as recently as a year ago.
In 1833, British economist William Foster Lloyd introduced the concept of the “tragedy of the commons.” In this theory, common resources are prone to exploitation because self-interested users acting independently are more likely to deplete a common resource than protect or conserve it. Simply said, why save water if someone else downstream is just going to use it up to serve their needs?
In a new book titled Water is for Fighting Over, and Other Myths about Water in the West, author John Fleck finds that a surprisingly upbeat and hopeful contradiction to the “tragedy of the commons” has begun to occur in the American West. While expecting to record gloom and doom stories about dried up communities – the kinds of stories that gain front page coverage – Fleck instead found numerous instances of farmers, citizens, and whole communities working together to conserve dwindling water supplies. More cooperation, and conservation, is needed, argues Fleck, but a narrative that features common purpose to preserve a common good is beginning to more hold water in a region where, traditionally, “whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting over.”
Water is not the only common resource that needs this sort of shift in narrative. Others include our forests, oceans, and our atmosphere.
With respect to climate change, there are, of course, plenty of front page/bad news stories, and they are serious. There are also a tremendous number of positive, empowering, and inspiring stories of local elected and community leaders who are moving forward with positive climate solutions that provide benefits to families, communities, and economies.
As leaders, and as advocates for the common good, we should make a concerted effort to share more positive, inspirational stories about the many ways that ordinary people are protecting our climate commons while also benefiting themselves through healthier, more vibrant communities.
Thirty miles east of Downtown Los Angeles is the city where I was raised and currently live, La Verne. A small community hugging the foothills, it has a long history in Southern California for its orchards of orange trees. Where the city once relied on the sun for its agricultural economy, it is now harnessing the plentiful resource with a host of new solar developments.
Most recently, the School District, Bonita Unified, which covers both La Verne and the neighboring San Dimas, moved forward on a project to install solar facilities at 12 schools throughout the district. With construction already underway, the project is slated to be complete at most schools prior to the beginning of the school year.
The aim of the program is simple: to provide a renewable source of energy that will decrease electricity costs and increase energy efficiency. Funded through a local measure passed by voters in 2008, in addition to numerous alternative sources, the project represents how communities can shape local policy and successfully implement climate solutions.
What they got right
Large-scale solar projects represent the best of how communities can work to bring climate solutions to their city. Local funding, approved through a countywide vote by residents in a local election, was able to transform uncovered school parking lots into hubs for renewable energy generation. These types of bold climate initiatives are exactly what allow cities to be cutting edge leaders when it comes to climate solutions.
The developments in La Verne and countless cities like it often fall short when it comes to simple communications. For many in La Verne, the first time that they became aware of the program was when visible signs of construction began popping up around each of the schools. And still, the nature, reason, and benefits of the project were left unclear for most. No fliers were sent out to residents explaining the project and there was no information clearly identifying the solar initiative on the city website.
I am a lifelong resident in the city. I write professionally on environmental matters in addition to being an adjunct professor teaching government, environmental politics, and even a course on cities. I am fairly plugged in to events going on in the community, yet the project was a complete surprise to me. When mayors and city leaders act, especially at the behest of residents and voters, it is incumbent upon them to relay their progress to the community. This can be done in a number of simple ways:
Mayors and community leaders need to act, but they also need to ensure that they communicating the “what” and the “why” of their climate action plans. If city lawns are dead—be sure residents know that it is by design, that it is saving water and their tax dollars. When bold new solar projects are installed—residents should know that the panels will shade parked cars, generate power, and reduce the tax and power burden for the local school district, allowing more money to be spend on their children rather than electricity.
There are multiple avenues for getting the word out, but equally important is how leaders craft their message. Fortunately, there is a simple, 15-step process that has been well researched and tested that can be followed to craft effective climate message. Check them out at ecoAmerica, and be sure to join with other climate leaders at Path to Positive Communities today!
City leaders are constantly on the lookout for programs that can be implemented to improve the lives of residents in their communities. While cost restrictions, political considerations, and logistical constraints are always limiting factors, there is one simple climate solution that seems to bypass all such obstacles: trees. Increasing tree canopy coverage is a simple, low-cost solution that improves communities by enlisting residents to green their neighborhoods, while bringing health, economic, and environmental benefits to cities.
Trees are a simple way to improve city life in a number of important and unexpected ways. Research has shown that cities that have adopted tree-planting programs have seen correlation linking more trees to decreases in crime. Tree-lined streets increase property values for residents, and communities with green spaces, gardens, and parks have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety—increasing the happiness and quality of life for residents.
There are also important health benefits. Trees help filter pollutants out of the air we breathe. Studies have found that trees, especially old growth canopies, can affect both local air quality and the quality of air throughout the region. There are also economic benefits to be had, such as decreased energy bills. Shadier cities can reduce the cooling costs for residents and business owners—especially in hot, arid regions where energy costs may be burdensome.
And perhaps most importantly, increasing tree canopy in cities is an effective climate solution. Lower electricity use due to increased shade, cooler temperatures, and less of a need to run an A/C drives down the amount of fossil fuel consumption. Trees, vegetation, and urban green zones help to catch rainfall and prevent rainwater runoff that can damage city infrastructure and clog storm drains. This is increasingly a concern as weather patterns change, and severe weather events become more common. Recent flooding in Louisiana provides an insight into just what the future may hold as the consequences of climate change become more pronounced.
To reap these benefits, cities must beef up their commitment to urban canopies. Research now suggests that nearly half of urban areas must be covered to enjoy the full scope of what trees can bring to communities. Fortunately, many cities are already pursuing bold new initiatives to increase the number of trees in their communities.
What Cities Can Do
For many cities, simply preserving their local forests and urban canopy can bring much-needed dollars to city coffers. In Oregon, for instance, the city of Astoria pledged to protect a 3,700-acre watershed as part of a statewide carbon credit program. By preserving the local forest//trees/…, the city was able to receive over $350,000 in their first year, and $130,000 for the next nine as part of the carbon credit program. These are dollars that can be put to use reinvesting in community development, infrastructure, and city services.
“Together, we're building our better neighborhoods, and projects like this are how we do it.” Mayor Faulconer, San Diego
Cities can also promote and facilitate the greening of communities. The city of Seattle this year is relaunching its reLeaf program, which aims to increase the canopy cover from 23 to 30% over the next two decades. Already successful in planting 6,300 trees, the program also offers information on tree maintenance, care, pruning, and free trees and mulch for participants. Such programs are a relatively cheap and effective way to bring communities together with the shared purpose of beautifying their neighborhoods while implementing effective climate solutions.
Like Seattle, in Los Angeles, several public-private partnerships have sprouted to continue a program launched nearly a decade ago, Million Trees LA. Now, in an effort to bring the benefits of trees to low-canopy communities, groups like City Plants provide free fruit and shade trees to neighborhoods throughout the city. Educational opportunities including tree care, mulching and planting techniques are being provided by groups like Tree People—who focus on increasing green spaces and urban forests. Organizations like the LA Conservation Corps are training young Angelinos to be the next climate leaders through tree planting and more. These efforts enlist the help of residents, students, businesses, and nonprofits—reflecting the importance of community-based solutions to community problems.
Tree planting programs are simple climate solutions for any city. Whether run entirely by a city department, facilitated through public-private partnerships, or entirely left to the nonprofit sector, they bring countless benefits for residents. As a mayor or community leader, you can encourage and implement these programs by effectively communicating the benefits of increased canopy coverage in your city. You can begin by checking out the well-researched and tested climate communication techniques at ecoAmerica, or our 15 step guide at Path to Positive Communities.
Over the past twelve months, governments have made enormous progress in working towards climate change solutions. The historic international agreement reached in Paris at COP 21, unprecedented bilateral agreements made between China and the United States to reduce emissions, President Obama’s Clean Power Plan focusing on transitioning to renewables in states and regions, and even local and citywide measures like the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative—all mark tremendous movement on advancing potent climate action.
Climate change is even making its way into pop culture. This year’s Academy Award winner Leonardo DiCaprio used his acceptance speech to spotlight the dangers and urgent need for climate action. Oscar winning director James Cameron used his celebrity platform at the Democratic National Convention to draw attention to the devastation that climate change is already unleashing worldwide. And most recently, the opening ceremony of this year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro highlighted how climate change is already affecting a growing number of nations, and that global problems require global solutions.
“Climate change is real. It is happening right now. It’s the most urgent threat facing our entire species and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating.” Leonardo DiCaprio
While all of these developments are nudging Americans in the right direction, and putting climate change in the spotlight, it is important to ensure that such messages are not wasted opportunities to do more. After all, raising awareness is not enough—action is what is needed.
Research tells us that merely focusing on the impacts of climate change, on the doom and gloom, can make people feel helpless. Providing statistics, facts, and figures can turn off listeners, who may feel confused or as though they are being lectured at. And respondents often feel alienated from abstract messages, with no real idea how they are supposed to address the problems of a warming planet.
Fortunately, research also points to some simple ways that all of us can effectively talk about climate. Most importantly, climate messages must start with people, and stay with people. Climate leaders must connect with their audience, and show that acting will improve their lives, make their communities better, healthier places to live, and help create stable, well-paying jobs. Leaders must empathize with the difficulties of acting, and recognize the local consequences that we are all seeing—but quickly pivot to what can be done to minimize the damage of these consequences. By showing the benefits of action, leaders can inspire members of their community to act.
Mayors, community and local leaders, who are on the frontlines of climate action, are often the most trusted public officials that residents interact with in their everyday lives. Because of this, it is important that whenever leaders are given a platform to speak about climate, they ensure their message is as potent and effective as possible. Hone your climate communication skills by joining with leaders at Path to Positive Communities.
Anyone following climate action over the past decade is well aware that some of the greatest strides in renewables have come from the broad acceptance and implementation of solar panels. The combination of decreasing costs, increasing generation capacity, and programs that incentivize its adoption have seen the solar industry soar.
While these developments are important, an under-covered part of the story is the role that cities and communities can play in expanding access to solar. By doing so, local government can lead their communities to achieve lower energy bills, more jobs, and a healthier, cleaner climate.
What Can Cities Do
Fortunately, city and municipal leaders play an important gatekeeping role when it comes to renewables. In many communities, the greatest barriers to implementing solar programs, and for residents to install rooftop panels, is simply getting through the red tape of constructing, permitting and funding the technology. In order to tear down some of these barriers, cities can implement programs that expedite the process.
Such a program is already underway in a number of cities throughout California, and the early results are encouraging. In 2014, the state passed a bill allowing cities the ability to expedite permitting for smaller-scale solar projects—like those used for residential or small business purposes. By streamlining the process, homeowners and solar companies are able to decrease the costs associated with longer, drawn-out construction schedules.
These fast-track programs have cut the permitting process, which now can be completed in as little as a few hours. To further increase the speed and efficiency of solar installation, cities are boosting the number of solar inspectors, and Los Angeles has even incorporated an online component to its permitting process. These efforts are aimed at making the process as painless and speedy as possible. And efficiency leads to cheaper construction costs for solar companies—cost savings that are passed down to consumers.
Bringing solar power to residents faster, cheaper, and more efficiently allows adopters to see the benefits of renewables. These benefits range from lower energy bills to creating clean jobs in underserved communities.
One of the most powerful reasons for cities to push solar development is that rooftop and community solar help drive down energy prices for residents. A recent report shows that rooftop solar installations will typically pay for themselves in 6-7 years. What’s more, over twenty years, depending on whether one leases or buys their solar energy system, residents can save anywhere from $40,000 – $60,000. These are real savings, and put money back into the pockets of residents—especially in low-income communities.
This groundbreaking new law will enable us to extend the benefits of solar power to many diverse populations – our seniors, our local small businesses, our nonprofits, and our residents and families living on a fixed income." Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser
More solar means more jobs. In Washington DC, a new program aims at installing 6,000 homes in low-income communities every year through 2032. The solar installations will help lower energy bills for residents, and will also provide stable, well-paying jobs for members of the community. D.C. officials, in conjunction with residents in the community and the solar nonprofit, GRID Alternatives, will provide at least 100 jobs in the first year of the program. This number is expected to grow over the term of the project, and employees will have access to cutting-edge technology and construction training.
Solar power is a winning climate solution. New technologies on the horizon are making panels cheaper and more efficient than ever. Researchers are even developing solar cells that are able to take CO2 from the air, and produce materials that can even be used in the construction of batteries, sustainable materials, and even fuel.
Cities can play a critical role when it comes to climate action, and solar power is a great place to begin. By streamlining the process for residents to adopt solar, mayors and municipal leaders can facilitate the growth of this renewable energy solution—bringing lower bills and jobs to residents in their communities. Americans want their leaders to act on climate, and a growing majority support climate-wise policies—making action a political and environmental win-win. Get to work in your community and lead residents to climate solutions by joining Path to Positive Communities today!
As anyone that lives in or visits Los Angeles knows, if you want to get around, you need a car. While this perception is especially true in LA, residents of cities throughout the country have a similar dependence on car ownership. For many, public transportation isn’t a real option due to a lack of infrastructure, limited access, or simply personal preference. However, a new solution is being implemented in a number of cities across the country, allowing residents to ditch their personal car and participate in growing car share programs.
Car shares are nothing new, but are increasingly sought after as one element of a city’s comprehensive climate action plan. While these programs vary, the idea is simple: provide easy, affordable access to a car for residents to replace individual car ownership. The number of companies offering such services are growing in terms of locations and scale—many of them now offering low-emission and zero emission vehicles.
Car share programs improve the lives of residents, and build stronger communities—and if it is possible in Los Angeles, it is possible everywhere. This sentiment from LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, captures the city’s outlook best: "It's about time the car capital of the world planned for the future of transportation in the digital age—moving beyond the car to bikes, ride-shares, and autonomous vehicles."
LA has a number of public transportation options, including a strong network of buses, the regional Metro-link, and a subway system, but these options are often disjointed—making for long commute times and inconvenient and expensive trips. Recognizing these shortcomings, leaders in Los Angeles are now using car-share programs to great effect by connecting existing public transportation options with car-share hubs. One way that this is being accomplished is by locating car-shares at subway exits, bus depots, and train stations. This allows passengers to seamlessly transfer from one public-transportation platform to another, without the need for a personal car.
Cities and communities can also open up their streets by facilitating car shares. A recent study of five metropolitan areas where car shares operate yielded some encouraging results. The data showed that in the five cities observed, car shares helped take 28,000 personal vehicles off of city streets. Residents who utilize these programs are more likely to go car free, or at least drop previous plans to get a new vehicle, due to their experience.
Fewer cars on the roads means fewer hours spent commuting, cleaner air with less pollution, and cities can even see a new revenue stream from taxes collected through private car share companies. Low-income communities can also share the benefits, with many new programs being specifically targeted to help improve access in their neighborhoods.
How Government Can Help
Like so many climate initiatives, car share programs require collaboration between leaders from multiple sectors to be successful. Government officials should lead the way—and many are.
A new program in the Los Angeles metro area is being funded by the California Air Resources Board. The goal: provide access to car-shares in low-income communities and neighborhoods that companies may otherwise ignore due to lower profit margins. In California, the state’s Environmental Protection Agency has directed $2.5 million dollars, raised through the state’s cap-and-trade program, to help phase in an increasing number of zero-emission cars over the next decade. And in Los Angeles, transit authorities can work with industry to identify hubs near public transportation outlets that would be best served by car-shares.
Car-shares are effective. They bring revenue to cities, decrease congestion on roads, cut air pollution, and bring down commute times for residents. These programs help improve cities, communities, and the climate. Find out how to effectively communicate the benefits of climate action by downloading tested techniques at Let’s Talk Climate, and join with bold climate leaders at Path to Positive Communities!
In our world of exponential population growth and rapid urbanization, environmental conservancy often takes a backseat to development. We see this happening all around the globe: in Asia, the Mekong River is being dammed to provide hydroelectric power to surrounding areas. Closer to home, the Colorado River has been rerouted, dammed, and harnessed to irrigate farmland and supply water for millions of people. The benefits of such actions come at a cost. Devastating environmental impacts, from loss of native animal and plant species to wide-ranging droughts and flooding, often go hand-in-hand with our efforts to harness our natural resources for our use, and our cities are the first to face these consequences.
It is not realistic to revert rivers and deltas to their original natural states, and we are dependent on how these spaces currently benefit us. However, people are increasingly coming to see the importance of cleaning up and rehabilitating our ecology, to the extent that we can.
Cities benefit tremendously from cleaning up and restoring natural habitats. Increased bike paths and walkways have been linked with clear health benefits – along with encouraging physical exercise, they also mean less car traffic, which means less air pollution. Clean, revitalized waterfronts with dedicated areas for business provide prime real estate for housing, restaurants, and shops. As our climate continues to change, ecological restoration can also translate into safer cities, since restored marshes absorb floodwaters that would normally inundate a city, and open waterways handle rain much better than buried sewers and runoff pipes do. In an increasingly warmer climate, trees and vegetation have been shown to reduce surface temperatures, especially in areas covered with a lot of asphalt or concrete. Providing enjoyable outdoor spaces for residents also improves quality of life. There are many, many reasons for re-investing in our natural spaces, and our communities are leading the way.
For example, the Los Angeles River, a forty-eight mile long river that was boxed in by concrete in 1938 and largely closed off the to public, is now undergoing a “habitat enhancement,” which includes restoring small creeks, planting native trees and shrubs, recreating 719 acres of wetlands, and removing concrete to create riparian habitats. City leadership, residents, and environmental groups have worked together with the federal and state government to set this project in motion. In New York the Bronx River, previously one of the most blighted waterways in the country, is getting a second chance as clean-up efforts take off and parks and green spaces are built. Community groups and residents jointed with local government and federal agencies to accomplish this. Three rivers that flow into Lake Michigan have been cleaned up from years of pollution, dumping, and sewage overflows. Parts of these rivers are now filled with people boating and fishing, wildlife has returned, and restaurants, shops, and high-end condos and apartments now line many portions of the rivers’ edges. This restoration effort could not have been possible without community leadership and regional cooperation.
These successful habitat enhancement projects all center on community collaboration.
Together, we can act on our climate challenge by taking steps that will also help us closer to home. Here’s how communities can collaborate for effective climate solutions:
Together, we can lead on healthy communities and a healthier environment. Join Path to Positive Communities for more resources.
California is known for its beautiful beaches, healthy lifestyles, and attention to all things green – so anyone who has visited the Port of Los Angeles may be surprised to see the environmental and health consequences that can result from such a major industrial operation. However, that may be about to change.
This week, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a new plan aimed at slashing fossil fuel emissions from one of the state’s largest single contributors of greenhouse gasses, the Port of LA. To accomplish this, the Mayor’s office has formed a new 10-member freight advisory committee, and will be working together with leaders in the nearby city of Long Beach. With representatives from industry, environmental organizations, and members of the community, the mission of the committee will be to identify avenues to reduce emissions from the Port.
Their focus will be on developing cleaner infrastructure and transportation systems. To accomplish this, local government and the state will invest in purchasing enough zero-emission vehicles to cover 15% of the ports traffic by 2025. A second component of the plan includes the construction of a new terminal. The Pasha Green Omni Terminal is a public-private partnership seeking to become a cutting edge example of how sustainable design can be applied to industrial infrastructure. It will include a 1-megawatt solar panel system and approach near-zero emissions.
Accomplishing these ambitious climate goals is no easy task. But these three elements are critical to the greening of the port, and the success of climate solutions nationwide.
3 Steps For Climate Success
Too often, competing interests can get in the way of municipal climate solutions. But the actions underway in Los Angeles are proof that climate action can be good for all sectors involved. As the mayor puts it: “We don’t have to chose between one and the other; we can have healthy communities and a healthy port.” Mayor Garcetti, in conjunction with local environmental, industry, and community leaders, is helping to transform the Port of Los Angeles from a climate plight to a shining example of sustainability to be replicated nationwide.
A growing number of mayors from around the country are committing to take bold climate action. Join with them and gain access to resources and guides to help you achieve climate success in your city by visiting Path to Positive Communities.
Developing and implementing an ambitious climate action plan is becoming more and more common for mayors and city leaders throughout the country. As an increasing number of Americans begin to see climate impacts in their everyday lives, and start to suffer the consequences, a growing number are inspired to support bold climate action.
For many, though, the perceived challenges and sacrifices of environmental policies can sometimes seem overwhelming, and the sacrifices greater than the possible benefits.
Fortunately, rapidly developing technology, innovation, and creative new policies are transforming climate solutions from costly burdens, to timely and economically favorable solutions. Developments in renewables like wind and solar have contributed to lower energy bills for families and have made the costs of clean power more affordable to more people. Green-collar jobs are now more numerous than those in coal extraction, and provide high-paying, stable employment. Mass transit projects and bike shares are decreasing commute times. Energy efficiencies are reducing the emission of harmful pollutants, and our cities are becoming greener, healthier, better places to live.
With the case for bold climate action on their side, mayors must be sure to clearly communicate the benefits to residents in their city. These are 15 tested steps to effective climate communication:
The 15 Steps
By following these simple steps, mayors and city leaders can inspire residents in their city. Community support is critical to a robust, effective climate action plan, and as climate leaders, mayors must inspire. Download your guide to effective climate communication today, and collaborate with climate leaders by joining Path to Positive Communities!
Confused about all the Mayoral coalitions and partnerships aimed at local climate solutions?
You’re not alone.
Just last week, two powerful new coalitions aimed at supporting mayors in the US and across the globe were unveiled, bringing together more powerful voices in the movement for local climate solutions.
But this is cause for celebration, not consternation, because this means that solutions to climate change continue to be deployed where they are most needed – where people live, work, play, and pray – aided by some of the best and brightest leaders and organizations working to solve climate challenges.
Mayors have long been recognized for their leadership in addressing climate change. The fact is, mayors in the US and around the world have little choice in the matter, as the anticipated impacts of our changing climate continue to powerfully manifest themselves in a range of impacts – severe weather and flooding, droughts, wildfires, and heat waves, economic disruption and food insecurity.
In the face of the imperative to lead communities towards positive solutions to this unfolding threat, local elected leaders have come to rely on the expertise, guidance, support, and encouragement of a growing group of policy and data management experts that have become active partners in local climate action. Fortunately, a range of organizations that are equipped to provide this expertise, from CDP to ICLEI, Urban Sustainability Directors Network to C40 Cities, and more – stand at the ready to provide policy and programmatic support to mayors and their local agencies.
Alliance for A Sustainable Future: The US Conference of Mayors and C2ES
The US Conference of Mayors’ focus on climate as a top issues started in 2005 when Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, in support of the goals of the Kyoto Protocol, launched the Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement. The MCPA spread rapidly, with 1,100 mayors eventually signing on, and found a home at USCM in 2007 when the Mayors Climate Protection Center was established.
Until this week’s partnership with C2ES, a national non-profit that engages businesses in climate and energy work, it was apparent that climate issues had largely fallen by the wayside at USCM. The list of MCPA signatories has not been updated recently, and content on the Mayors Climate Protection Center had not been updated since 2009.
However, The Alliance for a Sustainable Future promises to spur public-private cooperation on climate action and sustainable development in cities by bringing mayors and business leaders together with the goal of reducing carbon emissions, speeding deployment of new technology, and using sustainable development strategies to implement the Clean Power Plan and respond to the growing impacts of climate change. By building crucial links between cities and companies, The Alliance for a Sustainable Future hopes to spur innovative partnerships and increase participation in state and national climate efforts.
Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy: The Compact of Mayors and the EU Covenant of Mayors
Launched in 2014 by Michael Bloomberg and Ban Ki-Moon, spearheaded by Mayors Garcetti, Nutter, and Parker, and backed by former mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Compact of Mayors was established to generate domestic and international mayoral support for and attendance at the COP21 conference in Paris in December 2015. The goal of the Compact was to sign up 500 mayors globally by December 2015 to ensure an enhanced presence at COP21.
As a policy-oriented agreement, The Compact requests that mayors commit to developing a climate action plan within a year, and adopt a reporting protocol within three years. Formed with a base of subject-matter-expert partners, including C40 Cities, ICLEI, CDP, and Carbonn, The Compact quickly drew pledges of support from nearly 250 US mayors.
By combining forces with the EU Covenant of Mayors, the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy today represents the largest global coalition committed to local climate leadership. With 7,100 cities worldwide, from 119 cities and representing more than 600 million people, the Global Covenant includes cites where more than 8% of the world’s population live today.
So, how do these new climate “supergroups” actually help ordinary people? Numerous ways.
Developing and implementing a climate action plan is often a big task for mayors and city leaders. With countless demands, all requiring a share of already scarce time, resources, and attention, sustainability programs are sometimes seen more as a burden than a benefit. However, mayors from diverse cities throughout the country are coming to realize that climate action provides opportunities for improving communities and enhancing existing city programs.
Getting city and community leaders to take that first step towards developing and executing bold climate programs is the greatest hurdle. Fortunately, it may also be the simplest. It all begins with networking and collaboration.
Cities are where the action is on climate change. A majority of Americans live in cities, which are now responsible for producing more than 40% of the country’s fossil fuel emissions. And leaders of cities are becoming well aware that they have a unique opportunity to make a difference on climate change.
To address the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities presented by climate change, cities are collaborating to find sustainability solutions that are advantageous for their communities.
These networks range in scale and scope, and represent a growing opportunity for effecting positive climate action. For instance, last year a coalition of mayors from the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative signed on to an historic climate agreement signaling their commitment to building strong, prosperous, and livable communities. Nationally, cities have taken on the role of enacting the Obama Administration’s signature climate policy, the Clean Power Plan. Cities and states are tasked with developing and realizing solutions that work best for their residents’ unique needs.
And just this week, a groundbreaking new merger between the Compact of Mayors and the EU Covenant of Mayors was announced, creating the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate Energy. Slated to launch in 2017, the new organization is a collaboration of cities around the world that are committed to advancing climate solutions.
These organizations allow cities to network, share ideas, successes, and lessons from past challenges so that individual cities can implement the strongest action plan possible. Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg explains that the new alliance will facilitate “cities and local governments in setting more ambitious climate reduction goals, taking aggressive action to meet those objectives, and measuring their progress.”
And government networks aren’t the only option.
Some of the strongest partnerships are those created between municipalities and alternative actors in the community. Much of the most innovative, important and inspirational work on climate comes from the private, nonprofit, and faith sectors.
Already, cities are taking advantage of these various sectors. In Salt Lake City, Mayor Jackie Biskupski helped launch the Utah Climate Action Network. This program pulls together a broad collation of leaders from health, interfaith organizations, higher education, and businesses. The Network also works with municipalities and state officials. Already successful at increasing local rooftop solar programs, communicating the consequences of climate action with residents, and attracting talent in the push for climate solutions, the program represents what is possible with collaboration at its best.
Partnerships make climate action possible for cities of all sizes. By collaborating with cities, state and federal government actors, and even with international bodies, mayors are able to direct their resources to the most effective climate solutions. At the local level, working in tandem with faith, health, business and educational leaders, city governments can further hone their climate action plans.
Simply reaching out is the first step to climate action. You can start today by joining with leaders at Path to Positive Communities. Gain access to proven climate tools, learn the most effective ways to communicate with your community about the benefits and opportunities of climate action, and inspire residents to get involved in effecting positive change. Become the leader that your city wants and needs!
If you take a good look at any city, large or small, one of the first things you may realize is how much of our communities are dominated by infrastructure devoted to transportation. Roads, highways, parking lots, and the like all affect how well residents are connected with critical destinations in their city. However, for many cities throughout the nation, getting from one place to another has become more of a chore than a convenience.
Commuting and Climate
A recent report released by the Energy Policy Institute shows that for the first time in nearly four decades, CO2 emissions from transportation have surpassed those released by power plants. One element of this is the extent to which renewable sources of energy have exploded over the past decade. Wind power, along with rooftop and community solar have helped bring what used to be costly electricity alternatives to middle income and working class communities.
Power generation makes up roughly a third of greenhouse gas emissions. While it has been one of the focal points for climate action, transportation, which is an equally problematic source of CO2, has been largely ignored. For mayors and city leaders, building new mass transportation infrastructure like subways and light rail are often too expensive—they require years to develop and implement, and can burden tight city budgets. Similar prohibitive costs often prevent energy-saving upgrades in transit infrastructure, such as busses. Nevertheless, transportation’s contribution to climate change simply cannot be ignored.
Changing How We Get Around
However, cities have low cost, effective options in their climate toolkit that often are overlooked. Last week, we looked at how cities are beginning to implement robust bike-share programs. These can be implemented and maintained by local governments, or through public-private partnerships, which can help eliminate high start-up costs—and represent significant steps towards addressing transportation and climate.
Another transportation solution that promises to make a significant dent in citywide transportation emissions is to make cities car free. At first glance, it may seem a radical solution. However, many cities, of all sizes, are beginning to consider this as a real option.
Some of the places most ripe to become car free zones are, surprisingly, the areas with most traffic. Dense downtown locations typically have fewer full-time residents and are where commuters, workers, and city-goers often represent the bulk of traffic congestion. Because of this, some of the most bustling city centers offer prime opportunities to go car free. As Parisian Mayor Anne Hidalgo put it, urbanites “are not obliged to move around in a personal car, there are other ways to approach mobility in a city”.
By restricting or eliminating cars, city officials can open up city streets to pedestrians, cyclists, and public transportation services that can more efficiently and effectively move commuters and other would-be drivers from point A to point B. This approach is already being tested in major world cities, including Madrid, Milan, London, Copenhagen, and Oslo—all of which are finding car free zones to be effective climate and commuting solutions.
And going car-free is gaining ground here in the US. In Los Angeles, city streets are closed once a year for cyclists and pedestrians to walk and explore the downtown. In Little Rock, AK, the mayor took part in a car free challenge, pledging to give up his vehicle for a week while calling on residents to do the same. In Santa Monica, CA. large stretches of the city have been closed off to encourage visitors to use public transportation from different hubs around the city.
These efforts to decrease the amount of cars and traffic in our communities are simple, low cost climate solutions that can be implemented in any city. Encouraging residents to give up their vehicle for even a day, designating permanent or temporary car free zones for cyclists and pedestrians in major downtown areas, or even going to the extreme and eliminating cars altogether round out all the options for commuting solutions.
Ditching cars for walking, cycling, or public transit will lead to happier, healthier communities. Cutting traffic congestion means less air pollution, shorter commute times, and cities that are more enjoyable places to work and live. To boldly develop and implement your climate action plan, be sure to connect with climate leaders and get on the Path to Positive Communities today.
One of the best ways to clear up traffic congestion in our cities is to convert daily drivers into public transportation consumers. However, investing in new buses, subways, and light rail is often not a real option for cities due to prohibitive costs, long term planning, and zoning constraints. One solution, which is gaining more and more attention, is investing in robust bike share programs.
The concept of city-wide public bikes, or bike shares, is simple: provide residents access to bicycles, at a low fee, for use as needed. Whether for touring the city, commuting to and from work, or simply making point-to-point trips, these programs offer flexibility, easy access, and convenience for city dwellers. Because bike shares are relatively low-cost to implement and can be uniquely suited to each city’s needs, they have seen rapid growth over the past decade—and mayors are taking note.
Why Bike Share
Bike share programs build community connections. Whether in New York City, Los Angeles, or small cities throughout the country, public bike access helps to connect residents with the services they need most. By locating public bike access hubs near schools, shopping centers, museums, parks, and tourist attractions, community leaders are able to offer city dwellers a cheap, effective, and attractive way to ditch their cars in favor of cycling to their destination.
Philadelphia, whose bike share program is often used as a model of success for large cities throughout the nation, has been particularly successful at communites. The city’s mayor, Jim Kenny, speaks to this important element of public bikes: “It’s a public amenity, and for many people it’s a great way to connect with their communities, their families, jobs, and with health.”
And an increasing amount of research supports the health claims made by Philadelphia’s Mayor. Cycling instead of driving has been shown to improve the health of riders—with benefits ranging from decreased BMI numbers, weight loss, and even stress reduction among regular users.
On top of connecting communities and improving health, these programs are also good for the environment. By trading gas power for pedal power, cities are able to decrease traffic congestion, thereby reducing air pollution and cutting fossil fuel emissions. It is estimated that by trading your primary means of commuting from a mid-sized car to cycling, one could cut 1.3 tons of CO2 emissions, or 124 gallons of gasoline, per year. With more and more residents opting for the convenience of bike shares, these numbers can really add up.
Traditionally, bike shares have been confined to major metropolitan areas, where existing municipal departments have implemented and maintained the programs. Los Angeles, for example, is currently in the process of rolling out a robust program including 1,000 bicycles at 65 locations throughout the city. The program is under the control of Metro LA and the city, and has strong backing from the mayor.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti captures the goals of big city bike programs with these words: “We are always looking to help people explore our incredible city in new ways. Now, through Metro’s new bike share program, residents and visitors from around the world can to check out a bike and see downtown L.A. with a fast, fun, and affordable system.”
For small cities with limited funds, programs like the one in Los Angeles simply aren’t an option. Luckily, a number of private companies and non-profits have cropped up to work with cities and facilitate bike shares in places where they were once out of reach. In Fort Wayne, Indiana, a two-year Community Economic Development Tax was implemented, raising $45,000 per year to jumpstart their bike-share program. Leaders in the city then partnered with a private organization to build and support the program.
Mayor Henry of Fort Wayne credits the program as illustrating that the city is “a great place to live, visit, and work, and the addition of bike sharing is a great way to enhance our quality of life and keep our community moving in the right direction."
The variety of programs is matched by the diversity of cities that have now implemented or are in the process of implementing programs. Whether the program is run by the city or a private-public partnership, the terms of bike rentals, costs to users, and the number of bikes and hubs can all be tailored to meet the needs in each city.
As climate leaders, mayors must identify all leads that can help improve communities and positively contribute to climate solutions. Bike shares represent a perfect nexus of these interests. To find out more about communicating with residents in your city about the benefits of these programs, check out our communications guide at Let’s Talk Climate. Or, join with leaders to learn and share climate solutions at Path to Positive Communities.
Stuart Wood is a writer at Path to Positive Communities and adjunct professor. He has a Ph.D. in Political Science from Claremont Graduate University, where he focused on climate change, political communications and psychology. Email him at [email protected]
Across the country, city and community leaders have been making progress on developing and implementing climate solutions. Facilitating rooftop or community solar programs, incentivizing water-wise landscaping, and pushing strong energy efficiency standards for new construction are some of the actions already underway. Many big city mayors have begun to act in response to top-down pressure, such as the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan or the more recent COP 21 Paris climate agreements.
Any action at the city level represents progress, and it is clear that progress is being made. However, the seriousness of climate change and the consequences of inaction should inspire mayors to pursue bold climate action plans that go beyond what are often called for. And many are beginning to do just that.
In New York, a bill before the state assembly would reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2050. City leaders in Portland have committed to cutting carbon emissions nearly in half by 2030, and 80% by 2050. San Diego has implemented plans to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2035. There, Mayor Faulconer sums up what prompted him to act: “I pride myself on being fiscally responsible and environmentally conscious. The two aren’t exclusive. I’ve never seen it as a zero sum game. We want a [climate action] plan that is ambitious and leads the way for the rest of the country.” These represent a small slice of how mayors are beginning to boldly act on climate, and as Mayor Faulconer put it, climate solutions can be economic winners.
The commitments made by these and many other big city mayors represent progress for climate change, but also progress for communities. Increasing access to public transportation networks and bike-share programs help drive down commute times and hours spent in traffic. Fewer cars on the road means less pollution, and therefore improved health benefits. Increased access to wind and solar power helps drive down electricity bills for families, putting more dollars back into the hands of residents to spend on more important family expenses. Stringent energy efficiency standards for buildings can decrease costs of heating and cooling for businesses. And climate action means jobs. Already outnumbering jobs in coal, oil and gas—clean energy jobs created by investing in climate solutions bring well paying, stable employment to communities which need them most.
Mayors and city leaders should begin by first considering the type of community which they hope to live in and leave for future generations. It is easy to become overwhelmed by bleak statistics and the constant stream of negative discourse on climate change. Instead, mayors should focus their efforts on the benefits of action, which have already been well established. With opportunities working in their favor, mayors can no longer delay.
Mayors and local officials represent government leadership that is closest to the people. This facilitates opportunities for directly improving the lives of residents, businesses, and families in their city. Because of their unique situation, mayors must be bold. Mayor Biskupski of Salt Lake City, Utah, makes the case for action best: “Climate change may have once been the ultimate slow-moving and global threat, but our residents and our critical infrastructure are already feeling its effects. The threats to our economies are serious enough that the risks of continued inaction can no longer be ignored.”
Mayors can not afford to be content with piecemeal action, but must pursue initiatives that promise to forge immediate and efficient results. Reaching zero emissions, transitioning to 100% renewables, and creating healthy green communities is possible in big cities, and are possible in your city. Start that journey now learning the best ways to communicate about climate, and by joining with bold climate leaders at Path to Positive Communities.
Stuart Wood is a writer at Path to Positive Communities and adjunct professor. He has a Ph.D. in Political Science from Claremont Graduate University, where he focused on climate change, political communications and psychology. Email him at [email protected]
Early this month, I had the great opportunity to tour several environmentally friendly homes located throughout my community. The outing was part of a city garden tour featuring native and drought resistant landscaping, grey-water recycling systems, solar panels and a range of innovative, eco-friendly measures implemented by environmentally conscious homeowners. These homes each presented unique, practical actions that residents in neighborhoods across the nation could adopt.
From Neighborhoods To Cities
When considering which environmental action plans, elected officials often are inspired by successful examples tested by other countries, states, or cities that are on the path to meeting their unique sustainability goals. Often overlooked though, is the importance of spotlighting climate action already at work in one’s own community.
One simple way to highlight the local action of residents is through the use of sustainability tours in your city. Already underway at multiple universities and a number of cities across the country, these tours help identify the important, concrete ways in which all residents in a community can implement climate solutions—like renewable energy generation, water friendly and native landscaping.
Sustainability walking tours help residents identify ways in which they can apply practical climate solutions, and there is growing evidence that within cities, climate action is contagious. Recent research has identified a so-called “contagion effect,” showing that when one household installs rooftop solar, there is an increased chance that others in the neighborhood will follow. Mayors and community leaders should leverage this effect by encouraging residents to act, and by offering incentives for implementing tried & true plans.
How Mayors Can Help
The role of mayors and community leaders in facilitating these programs can vary depending on the size, access to resources, and needs of the community. For instance, in Claremont, California, local tours first sprung from the city’s Sustainability Plan and a Mayoral Task force. The program has since evolved into a nonprofit organization, Sustainable Claremont, which collaborates with and receives grants to help promote citywide sustainability efforts and plans the city’s Earth Day Celebration events.
Communities and cities are increasingly committing to act on climate: and their action can’t come soon enough. Walking tours represent one solution. They are simple, low cost, community building options that leaders in any city can implement. Access invaluable resources by visiting and joining with other climate leaders at Path to Positive Communities.
Mere months after releasing one of the country’s most ambitious climate action plans, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced a “down payment” of $127 million in spending to implement the measures laid out in the new policy.
In the world of local climate action plans, it is rare for a mayor to provide as detailed a spending plan as Mayor Faulconer has outlined. The funding, which the mayor admits is just the beginning, will pay for dozens of projects ranging from tree planting, to bike lanes, solar panels, and green roofs, to storm water and sewer improvements.
Now that Mayor Faulconer has put his money where his mouth is, will San Diego walk the talk? Can San Diego become the biggest city in America to not only implement such an ambitious climate and sustainability plan, but also include a powerful, public-facing campaign to bring the elements of plan into public view?
To come up with measures that could be counted towards reducing climate change causes and impacts, and the projected costs for implementing them, the mayor and his staff looked across San Diego’s local government departments to identify expenditures and identified funds that directly or indirectly reduce climate pollution and climate risk.
San Diego’s climate plan calls for improvements in several key areas of urban sustainability, including climate resilience, building efficiency (energy and water), clean and renewable energy, and zero waste.
The plan also calls for the tracking of results from these measures, as well as an annual report on greenhouse gas reductions that result from implementation of the plan. In addition to the direct and indirect climate mitigation and resiliency goals, San Diego’s plan – like all good sustainability efforts – also highlights the economic benefits that urban sustainability can provide to people, families, and businesses.
“This is a plan for creating economic opportunity for every San Diego family and community,” Mayor Faulconer said. “I believe that we have the opportunity to make San Diego one of the green energy and solar capitals of the world.”
In unveiling the spending plan supporting his city’s ambitious climate goals, Mayor Faulconer was joined by prominent local leaders from the Chamber of Commerce, Circulate San Diego (a transportation think tank), and others in an effort to generate visible support for the plan.
San Diego’s leaders deserve a great deal of credit for aligning behind the Climate Action Plan, and for agreeing to join forces in promoting the myriad benefits the plan will provide.
But some of this stuff is pretty wonky, and much of it will escape the attention of ordinary San Diegans
Other than annual progress climate action reports, filled with charts and graphs and technical descriptions of mitigation and resiliency measures, how can local leaders bring their commitments and accomplishments to human scale, making it accessible and easily understandable to anyone who walks by?
One effective solution is a “Sustainability Walking Tour” to showcase how the city is moving ahead, bringing its progress to street level for all to see.
Sustainability walking tours can be a wonderful tool for building public awareness and appreciation of local leadership on these complex issues. These tours are not a new idea by any means. Many colleges and universities have designed and installed tours on their campuses. A few cities, like Raleigh, NC, and Portland, OR, have also developed local sustainability tours.
Although they come in all shapes and sizes, a typical sustainability walking tour includes informational signage that includes a map of the tour, as well as detailed information and graphics that explain the sustainability features of each “stop.”
Just like university-based tours, a community sustainability tour could highlight a range of street-level sustainability features, from bike-sharing stations to new public transportation facilities, from LEED certified buildings to solar and wind energy installations, from community gardens to storm water bioswales, from green roofs to permeable pavement.
Information about climate mitigation, resiliency, and sustainability does not have to live in the rarified universe of policy wonks and engineers. The many tangible benefits of individual measures, taken alone or as a whole, can make perfect sense to ordinary people if local leaders think through how best to include citizens and stakeholders in the conversation.
Climate progress reports are certainly impressive. But to truly engage the community, Mayor Faulconer should consider going one step further by breaking those reports down, turning them into compelling storyboards, and posting those along the sidewalks of San Diego for its citizens and guests to read, learn from, and appreciate.
With a baby on the way, my wife and I last week met with a local, eco friendly cloth and compostable paper diapers company to set up our service. To our surprise, we were informed that the city of Los Angeles doesn’t allow compostable diapers to be placed in the designated compost bins. Upon discovering that our family was about to grow, my wife and I had made a conscious decision to be as climate-friendly in this new life transition as possible. However, we were confronted with the realization that often times, the city in which we live can either open up opportunities for climate action, or seriously constrain what we are able to achieve.
Waste Management in Our Cities
For decades now, municipal recycling programs have seen tremendous growth in the US. From blue-box programs, to curbside recycling and the now familiar three color-coded bins for residents and businesses: trash, recycling, and compost—the rate of recycling is greater now than ever. These measures have drastically slashed the amount of waste being sent to landfills, but there remains much room for growth.
One of the areas still needing improvement is managing food-scrap waste and composting materials. While mandatory in cities like San Francisco and Seattle, composting has not been implemented in other cities with the same speed and efficiency as recycling programs. The difficulty in getting markets and restaurants to properly dispose of scraps in composting bins, the challenge of educating residents on what’s to be included and why, and the costs associated with investing and maintaining proper composting facilities are all serious obstacles for city officials and waste management professionals. However, these challenges open up great opportunities for communities.
Connecting Composting and Climate
The benefits of investing in citywide composting programs range from the obvious to the obscure. On the most basic level, residential and commercial composting is a simple way for cities to divert waste from landfills. Landfills are leading contributors of groundwater pollution, and greenhouse gasses released from landfills contribute to a changing climate. And for cities, composting saves money. With space in landfills becoming more scarce and expensive, composting is now often cheaper than sending waste to garbage dumps, opening up resources and dollars to be reinvested in alternative sustainability initiatives or being poured back into the community.
Composting can also be used as a tool to generate clean energy. A growing number of new facilities are popping up around the country with the ability to harness the natural gasses released from compost and landfills and use them to power city transportation fleets. These innovations prevent the release of harmful pollutants and cut fuel costs for cities.
Composted materials can also be sold for agricultural purposes. Some of the greatest wine-growing regions in the world, Napa and Sonoma, are located just outside of San Francisco. Wineries in the region now represent some of the large-scale buyers of the city’s compost to help fertilize their vineyards. Landscapers are using the material to enrich soil, lay fertile ground for turf or gardens, and even city departments are able to utilize the resource for projects ranging from erosion control to wetland restoration.
How Cities Can Help
Most cities in the country are without a recycling program, much less one for composting. The first step for instituting a robust and sustainable plan is a commitment by city and community leaders.
In San Francisco, a citywide ordinance passed by the Board of Supervisors made it mandatory for residents and businesses to separate their trash, green waste, and recyclables. The city is now on track to be the first zero-waste city in the country. In New York, former Mayor Bloomberg addressed the importance of rethinking how major cities manage waste, saying the city buries "1.2 million tons of food waste in landfills every year at a cost of nearly $80 per ton. That waste can be used as fertilizer or converted to energy at a much lower price. That's good for the environment and for taxpayers."
City leaders must set up these plans with all the tools for success. Large green bins must be made readily available for residents. Families living in apartments or dense residential housing must be provided with containers suitable for transporting table scraps to the nearest drop-off point in their housing complex or neighborhood. And perhaps most importantly, residents must be educated on the benefits, dos, and don'ts of their new composting program.
Many Americans are ready to do their part, and to begin working towards greater sustainability. However, like my wife and I recently experienced, there are often unexpected roadblocks that prevent opportunities to contribute. Sustainability decisions made by municipal and city leaders must address the demand by residents for actionable climate solutions. Mayors have to ensure that the benefits of climate action are clear to residents, and the steps to meet climate goals are clear and attainable. Sorting trash, recycling, and compost is a simple first start, with clear benefits, and simple ways for residents to get involved. Now, city leaders must do their part to put these programs into effect.
To learn how to communicate about climate with residents in your community, download our Let’s Talk Climate communications guide, and join with other leaders at Path to Positive Communities!
This Tuesday, climate leaders in San Francisco made a major step towards making the city a model sustainable city. In its quest to become powered entirely by clean energy by 2025, the city’s Board of Supervisors approved a policy that would require rooftop solar panels to be installed on all new buildings in the city.
The new policy marks San Francisco’s commitment to becoming an environmental leader. It is estimated that for every 200 installations, the plan will provide enough energy to power 2,500 homes, and slash the city’s carbon emissions by 26,000 metric tons.
San Francisco is proving yet again that climate leadership begins at the local level. From banning plastic bags, to requiring rooftop solar, leaders in the city are showing that bold policy proposals can work for residents, and as climate solutions. Now, mayors and municipal officials must follow suit. Find out how to develop and implement a bold climate action plan in your city by joining with other leaders and getting on the Path to Positive Communities!
Beginning January 1, 2017, San Francisco will require rooftop solar systems on all new buildings under 10 stories – the first mandate of its kind in the United States.
The city's Board of Supervisors unanimously approved legislation Tuesday that will require all future commercial or residential buildings under 10 stories in height to install solar systems for heat, electricity, or a combination of the two. The California cities of Lancaster and Sebastopol, which have populations of about 160,000 and 7,600, respectively, have already enacted similar mandates, but San Francisco is the first city of considerable size to require solar roofs.
"This legislation will activate our roofs, which are an under-utilized urban resource, to make our City more sustainable and our air cleaner," Supervisor Scott Wiener, who introduced the legislation in February, wrote in a press release. "In a dense, urban environment, we need to be smart and efficient about how we maximize the use of our space to achieve goals like promoting renewable energy and improving our environment."
Philadelphia and New Orleans are two of America’s great cities. While their differences may seem greater than their similarities, both cities are on the frontlines of climate change.
New Orleans and Philadelphia, and countless other cities across the nation, are faced with the consequences of rising sea levels, more severe weather events, and the health and wellness consequences that are exacerbated by a changing climate. But community and local leaders are springing into action, no longer waiting for elected officials at the state and federal level.
In New Orleans, leaders are implementing bold new plans to mitigate the effects of flooding. These include maintaining undeveloped green spaces, ponds and lagoons that can absorb water during heavy rains and hurricane season. In Philadelphia, residents are working with city leaders to build rain gardens, tree trenches and green roofs.
While the threats have commonalities, effective solutions to climate consequences come in many forms. Philadelphia and New Orleans illustrate how mayors and local community leaders must work to identify the solutions for their city. Find out more about solutions that will work best in your city by visiting Path to Positive Communities!
Coastal cities across the globe are looking for ways to protect themselves from sea level rise and extreme weather. In the U.S., there is no set funding stream to help — leaving each city to figure out solutions for itself.
New Orleans and Philadelphia are two cities that face very similar challenges of flooding from rising tides. But they've chosen to pay for the solutions in very different ways.
New Orleans: Post-Disaster Payments And Grants Pave Future
"One of the biggest challenges of the next several decades is going to be water — either too much of it or not enough," says Jeff Hebert, chief resilience officer in New Orleans.
In New Orleans, the problem is too much water. Hebert's job is to help the city prepare for disasters like hurricanes and rising sea levels.
Several years ago, as a graduate student, I participated in a school-based community garden serving at-risk students in a working class community. Since then, I have witnessed a tremendous growth of public gardens sprouting up in and around the community in which I live. Churches, schools, and what were previously empty lots are now lush with raised bed gardens and busy green thumbs. These suburban and city farmers are continuing a long tradition in America—one that can empower communities and promote climate solutions.
Community gardens have a rich history in the United States, and have roots in the victory garden movement that began during the First World War, when produce and other food was scarce and expensive. In a time of great urgency, Americans were called on to take action, and residents in neighborhoods throughout the nation answered that call.
Today, we are in a similar situation, but this time the challenge isn’t war, it’s climate change. More and more communities are facing the challenging consequences of climate change, and they can see the effects in their daily life. Americans are skeptical that representatives in D.C. are serious about climate action, and are looking to mayors and members of their community for leadership. One climate solution that any mayor can add to their climate toolkit is support for community gardens.
Community gardens are powerful climate tools, and just as powerful at building stronger neighborhoods. Families enjoy living near green, natural spaces, parks, and community gardens, where their children can play and where they can gain the psychological benefits of being closer to nature. Such spaces have all been found to increase property values for homeowners, too. Gardens also facilitate educational opportunities. They are outdoor laboratories for students and residents to hold educational programs, to learn about gardening, local flora and fauna, and connect with nature. Extensive research has been conducted linking gardening to better educational outcomes, including improved performance on scientific literacy tests, higher grades across all subjects, increased nutritional awareness, and better classroom behavior. Community gardens also yield healthy, local, often organic produce which can be sold at local farmers’ markets, integrated into school lunch programs, or donated to families or shelters. All told, more gardens in our neighborhoods make cities better places to live.
Community gardens empower residents by providing more choices for nutritional produce, better educational opportunities, and a way for residents to improve the livability of their community. They also offer powerful tools for communities to address the causes and consequences of climate change. For instance, growing produce locally cuts carbon miles, and reduces the consumption of fossil fuels necessary to stock the aisles of your grocery store. Vegetation and greenery reflect solar radiation, which has been shown to decrease the heat island effect experienced in suburban and downtown areas—decreasing the need for expensive air conditioning during warm summer months. More green spaces in our cities help to reduce pollution, decrease the scope of erosion, and can increase the local habitat for native wildlife. All of these are feasible, concrete actions that communities can undertake to address and minimize climate impacts.
Community gardens often pop up in schools, churches, or empty lots without the help of mayors or city leaders. However, having the full support of local government can help ensure that gardens flourish, and magnify the benefits that such gathering places can provide. These are three simple steps that you can take in your city:
What these gardens have in common is that they become a gathering point for residents and families. They bring diverse members of the community, who might never meet otherwise, together through a shared experience. Community gardens make healthier cities and nurture better-educated and environmentally aware students. But to get the most from community gardens, city action is needed. Mayors must work with partners from churches, nonprofits, schools, businesses, and the community to foster the best environment for strong, sustained programs. To learn more about collaborating and building a strong network for climate action, join with the bold leaders at Path to Positive Communities.
Salt Lake City is feeling the effects of climate change, and city leaders are taking note. For many cities and states throughout the country, the issue continues to divide politicians and residents, and exposes existing partisan cleavages. However, leaders in Salt Lake City, UT, are working to bring all residents together to act for climate solutions.
The Utah Climate Action Network, a coalition of 20 public and private organizations, is working towards a simple goal. As Mayor Jackie Biskupski puts it, “climate solutions in the form of clean energy, active transportation, and stewardship of our water resources will solve a lot more than our dilemma with rising temperatures.” And the mayor has strong support.
Investing in solar and wind energy creates well paying, stable jobs, increasing energy efficiency standards helps slash energy bills, and less polluted cities are better places to live and raise a family. These are values and goals shared across partisan lines, and actions that must begin by bold leaders at the city level. Find out what you can do to lead in your community by visiting Path to Positive Communities!
SALT LAKE CITY – The words "climate change" can heat up a conversation, but a group of public and private organizations are working together to find common ground.
The newly formed Utah Climate Action Network gathered Wednesday to lay out their vision for confronting what they see as a global problem.
"The convening organizations were Salt Lake City, Park City, Salt Lake County Health Department, University of Utah and Alta Ski area," said Tyler Poulson, SLC Sustainability Program Manager.
That list now includes 20 public and private sector partnerships. The variety of voices will address the realities of climate change.
In San Diego, California’s second largest city, Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer was thrust into the middle of a decision that could potentially chart the city’s climate path for the coming decades. After winning a special election, and defeating a Democratic mayor, Faulconer inherited a bold climate action plan—one that aimed to slash the city’s carbon emissions in half and to make a complete transition to renewable energy sources. Many suspected that the newly elected mayor would axe the plan, however, Faulconer embraced it.
Like many mayors across the nation, Faulconer put partisanship aside, and reflected on which actions would be best for the residents of San Diego. "I look at it from a quality-of-life standpoint for us in San Diego; protecting the environment … that's part of what makes us special in San Diego, our clean air, our water, our sunshine, our open space. So protecting that for future generations, that's incredibly important."
Mayor Faulconer is helping to set the tone on climate change, and to steer action away from partisanship. Mayors and city leaders must embrace climate solutions and empower their communities. Find out how by visiting Path to Positive Communities!
SAN DIEGO — Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer confronted the issue of climate change not long after taking office in this coastal city.
Faulconer, 49, became mayor in 2014 after winning a special election to replace former Mayor Bob Filner (D). The list of decisions for the new GOP leader included whether to support an expansive climate action plan.
Every city in the state is required to have a climate road map as part of its general plan. When Faulconer took over, San Diego had a draft blueprint crafted by an interim mayor who was filling in after Filner resigned following allegations of sexual harassment.
The temporary mayor, Todd Gloria, was a Democrat, and his climate plan had ambitious goals. He wanted to switch to 100 percent renewable power and cut the city's carbon emissions in half. Both would be done by 2035. It was unclear initially whether Faulconer would accept those aspirations.
The consequences and opportunities of climate change are local, and it is the imperative of mayors to inspire their communities to act on climate. This is the message of Jackie Biskupski, Mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah, and Cindy Lerner who is the Mayor of Pinecrest, Florida. While there is not much that these two cities have in common, both are expressing a shared commitment to climate action.
The reason that these mayors have sprung into action is the recognition that climate change is a local issue. Whether it is rising sea levels or more severe weather events, a changing climate threatens public health, public infrastructure, like roads and utilities, and can depress local economies.
So mayors and city officials have decided to lead. Mayors Biskupski and Lerner emphasize that “taking steps today to cut carbon emissions will save lives, protect public health, spur innovation and safeguard property.” Climate action is about jobs, creating a safe place for residents to live and raise a family, and protecting our natural resources for future generations.
When it comes to confronting the challenge of climate change, cities are on the front lines.
From rising seas submerging coastal property to precipitation changes in the desert, climate impacts are here—and undeniably local. Climate change may have once been the ultimate slow-moving and global threat, but our residents and our critical infrastructure are already feeling its effects. The threats to our economies are serious enough that the risks of continued inaction can no longer be ignored.
This was an important week for mayors and climate. Three seemingly unrelated climate stories reveal a stark picture of the increasingly urgent call to action facing US mayors. As the leaders most responsible for preventing climate risk and dealing with the consequences of climate impacts, mayors are on the front lines of climate action.
The Challenges of Climate Action
US mayors continue to face an uphill battle in their effort to stem climate change, while at the same time preparing their cities for the inevitable, and predictable, impacts that are to come. Despite the promising results of the Paris Summit in December, many state Governors and the majority of Congress are disinclined to take bold action on climate. A lack of political will, tight fiscal resources, and a reluctant constituency create an environment absent the necessary tangible support that mayors need to implement effective polices and programs in their cities.
Local and state leaders find themselves increasingly at odds over solutions to climate change. This was made apparent most recently by the developing divide between mayors and governors over the Clean Power Plan (CPP), President Obama’s flagship climate policy designed to curb emissions from power generation. In the face of a lawsuit brought by 26 states attorneys general, the National League of Cities, US Conference of Mayors, and a coalition of 54 local governments plan to file arguments this week in support of the CPP.
Mayor Jim Brainard of Carmel, IN, captures the collective mayoral and bipartisan reality of addressing climate impacts on the local level, saying, “I haven’t any Republican yet who wants to breather dirty air. We have the right to produce our own plan and figure out how to get there, and the state has refused to do that.”
Climate leadership from mayors like Jim Brainard, and the organizations that represent them, notably NLC and USCM, got boosts this week on two fronts. The first heralds progress being made to raise awareness and concern over climate issues, and the other a harbinger of things to come if we don’t succeed in generating solutions, and support for them.
Growing Public Demand for Action
A poll released by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute pegs climate concern among Americans at 75%, nearly unchanged from the previous year’s poll. Notably, however, the poll revealed that high levels of concern are growing – from 28 to 46 percent in a year – while moderate levels of concern are falling. Similarly, the numbers of respondents not at all concerned about climate change, or who do not believe that it is happening, fell to 8 percent and 4 percent, respectively.
"I think what these numbers are telling us is that awareness of global climate change is growing," said Leo Ondrovic, PhD, a Saint Leo science faculty member.
As elected leaders, mayors must not only grasp the immediacy of the climate problem to their communities – they must also take heart in the awareness that their leadership enjoys broad support, support that appears to grow with each new set of polling numbers.
Why We Must Act
No doubt awareness of climate change is growing because of the continuing tide of reports bearing analyses and predictions telling us how dangerous the future could be if we do not act, now.
The Obama administration’s release this week of a report focusing on the potential and anticipated health impacts of climate change, proves a sobering reminder. The link between air pollution and heat waves to respiratory disease, asthma and worsening allergies is projected to be responsible for hundreds of thousands of additional deaths, and increased hospital visits. And the effects of climate on health will be disproportionate. The elderly, the poor, and minority communities who have less access to quality and affordable healthcare will suffer most.
The political and logistical impediments to climate action at the city and community level are real. However, the public is increasingly expressing concern about climate change as the health threats and consequences become more and more dire. Mayors must now transform the rising tides of concern among residents into action. By engaging citizens, businesses and stakeholders to take local positive action, mayors can empower communities and make their cities healthier, better places to live.
In Southern Florida, the consequences of climate change are real. They threaten homes, businesses and are visible to residents throughout the region. In Miami, city and municipal leaders have been vocal critics of state and federal inaction, and have been racing to mitigate the effects of sea level rise in communities throughout the city. Recently, mitigation has transformed into opportunity. Now, businesses, in conjunction with local chambers of commerce and city leaders, are working together to capitalize on the opportunities presented by a changing climate.
Local action is taking on many different forms. Cities are implementing more strict building efficiency codes. Public-private partnerships are springing forward to prevent saltwater intrusion into freshwater supply and to protect the everglades. Infrastructure investments are being made to elevate roads, install pumping stations, and to retrofit and secure bridges throughout the region. These projects are just a taste of the multipronged effort to address climate change. Each of these efforts helps to put residents to work, and to ensure the safety and prosperity of local communities. Climate leadership starts in our communities, and Florida is leading the way. Find out what you can do in your city by visiting Path to Positive Communities.
MIAMI — The seas might be rising, but business continues to boom in South Florida, where local governments already plan to spend billions of dollars adapting to climate change.
The message was clear from the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce on Friday, in a place where the environment is the economy: Learn not just how to live with water, but how to profit from it. The Sea Level Rise Solutions Conference came two days after scientists released a study showing that glacial melt in Antarctica could double previous estimates of sea-level rise if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated.
That sort of news hasn't always been welcome in Florida or Miami, said Irela Bagué, the public relations executive who organized the conference. But the reality is difficult to ignore, and Bagué, a Republican who was appointed by then-Gov. Jeb Bush (R) to the South Florida Water Management District, sees business opportunity as a potential silver lining of climate change and sea-level rise.
Last year, the Obama Administration announced one of the country’s most ambitious climate action plans, the Clean Power Plan (CPP). The aim of the plan is simple: phase in major changes in the way that nation gets its power thereby decreasing pollution and slowing climate change. However, the CPP is now being challenged by a handful of states, and is now on hold until the DC Circuit Court of Appeals hears the case in June of this year.
Despite this setback, climate leaders across the country are continuing to implement the plan. Many are hoping that by acting fast, they can benefit both environmentally and economically. The economic benefits of climate action, and the recognition among city and community leaders of implementing climate solutions, has led to the formation of a strong coalition of mayors backing the CPP. This week, these leaders came together, and penned an amicus brief that will be presented to the court. The contents of the brief are simple: climate change is real and is affecting Americans, and the CPP is “critical to the safety and economic security of local communities across the United States.”
City leaders and mayors are yet again the leading voice on climate. Cities face the greatest consequences of climate change, and are presented to the greatest opportunities. Find out how you can pledge your support for climate action by joining Path to Positive Communities today!
U.S. Conference of Mayors | Market Wired | April 1, 2016
NEW YORK, NY–(Marketwired – April 01, 2016) – More than 50 city and county governments from 28 states, together with The U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM), the National League of Cities (NLC), and the mayors of Dallas, Knoxville, and Orlando have signed an amicus brief explaining why the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan is critical to the safety and economic security of local communities across the United States. The brief was authored by the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School, and filed in federal court on Friday, April 1st.
The signatories represent a diverse geographic, economic, and political mix and include Miami Beach, Miami and other southeast Florida cities; Tucson; Salt Lake City; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Houston; Jersey City; Pittsburgh; and Boston. Twenty-three of the signatories are local governments within states that have joined the lawsuit against the EPA. In all, the signatories represent 51 localities — home to more than 18 million Americans — and more than 19,000 additional cities, villages and towns that are part of the USCM and NLC networks.
One of the great triumphs across the country has been the realization among city and community leaders that climate change is real, it is happening now, and it is caused by human activity. More difficult though has been the task of getting leaders to act. For years, the common refrain in the discourse on taking climate action is that it will either hurt the economy, or cost jobs. However, neither of these has to be true. More and more cities are realizing the benefits to their local economies that follow investments into clean energy, retrofitting infrastructure, and providing blue collar jobs.
For mayors across the country, the long-term economic gains of climate action can sometimes be difficult politically. But job creation is always popular. Growing evidence shows that fighting for climate action is fighting for job creation. What’s more, the jobs created are often those that are needed most—well paying, stable, blue collar jobs.
Mayors and community leaders must learn to effectively communicate the employment benefits of climate action. By joining with coalitions of like-minded leaders, sharing success stories, and developing climate action plans, they can better serve and empower their communities. Get started today by visiting Path to Positive Communities.
The Great Australian Bight is a pristine marine environment. It’s a haven for humpback and sperm whales, blue whales and beak whales. It’s Australia’s most significant seal lion nursery and said to be the world’s most important southern right whale nursery. It sustains huge fishing and tourism industries – and BP is planning to drill it for oil.
Yes, that BP – BP of the “Deepwater Horizon” oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico back in 2010, in which a well exploded and sank, killing 11 people and creating the biggest oil spill disaster in US history. BP of that leak, 1.6km below the ocean surface, that took three months to fix. BP of the 100,000 barrels of oil leaked into the ocean per day, every day, for 87 consecutive days. BP now paying out $US18.7bn in claims to 400 separate local government entities damaged by a disaster that decimated the fishing and tourism industries of the five US gulf states.
Their shores, six years later, still receive the bodies of poisoned dolphins, whales and other dead creatures.
Large climate impacts like sea level rise will, for many cities, require investing in large infrastructure projects. However, some cities in low-lying areas may have another solution at the ready: nature. In an ambitious collaboration between Miami-Dade County, an environmental group, and an international engineering firm, climate leaders are devising ways to deal with rising seas by restoring local habitats.
The collaboration among local governments, environmental interest groups, and the private sector seeks to identify a solution to sea level rises by restoring marshes and protecting the Everglades. By identifying the capacity for natural solutions to mitigate encroaching sea water, and supplementing this with infrastructure projects that can prevent damage to existing structures, local governments can leverage natural habitats to decrease construction costs, target mitigating efforts, and revitalize natural environments.
Such projects may be just the beginning. Mangroves, coral reefs and wetlands can all help mitigate the consequences of a changing climate, especially in low-lying areas. Mayors and city leaders must embrace these solutions, which protect their communities in a low cost, natural way. Climate solutions can work for families, cities, and our local environments. Find out what you can do in your community by visiting Path to Positive Communities!
Miami-Dade County, long criticized for being too slow to take on climate change, is teaming up with the Nature Conservancy and global engineering firm CH2M to look at the region’s natural defenses to sea rise.
On Tuesday, Chief Resilience Officer Jim Murley unveiled two pilot projects for the modeling, including the county’s sprawling wastewater treatment plant near Cutler Bay, where about $1 billion in infrastructure is already vulnerable to flooding from high tides and storms. Earlier this month, a new study found that if South Florida continues growing as projected, more of its residents will be at risk from sea rise than in any other state. The state also has the most amount of property at risk.
The transition to clean energy can be an especially politically contentious issue. That is why focusing on economic impacts of clean power is so attractive. As state, city and community leaders look for ways to slash utility costs, clean power investments increasingly present a solution.
The Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) aims to nudge states to adopt clean power, but recent court challenges have put a hold on the new policy's chances for quick implementation. However, many states are moving forward nevertheless. State leaders have a simple decision to make: choose to stall investments in clean energy and wait for the courts to reach a decision, or simply invest in clean energy that will decrease energy bills, bring improved health and living standards, and create local jobs.
By acting fast, states are able, under the CPP, to sell excess energy across state lines to their neighbors who may not have adopted clean energy. This creates an incentive structure for local, regional and state leaders to get in quick and construct clean power sources—potentially bringing profits to state coffers.
The benefits of acting on climate are increasingly difficult to ignore, despite one’s political preferences. Mayors and state leaders must communicate the benefits of implementing climate solutions and get residents on board. To find out the best way of communicating with residents in your city, visit Path to Positive Communities today!
That’s right. Forget the red and blue, the heated tempers and rising rhetoric. Instead think about the coal factories that still power much of the country, and who pays for every pound of carbon they add to the atmosphere. Right now, your state is making bets on its future economy, by choosing whether or not to change those factories by acting preemptively on a contested emissions rule.
That rule is the Clean Power Plan, which is currently locked up in a Washington, DC circuit court pending legal review. The rules were set to go into effect in June, which would have required every state to submit their plans to cut emissions to the EPA by September 2016, or September 2018 with an extension. Last month, though, the Supreme Court decreed that states would not be obligated to comply with the rule until after it wins in court. And if it loses, never.
Solar energy has been growing to new heights over the last decade. Homeowners are enjoying the benefits of capturing their own power, and many who have access to net metering can even earn credit for excess generation. One of the major difficulties of expanding this technology is that many Americans, especially those living in apartments or densely populated cities, simply don’t have anywhere to place solar panels. Community solar projects may be the solution to the solar problem.
Community solar programs offer residents the ability to buy into a multi-family or community based solar project. These may be located atop apartment buildings, condo complexes, or even offsite where land may be cheaper. As technology improves, and the costs of solar decrease, more and more Americans are looking for a way to source clean, green energy—so much so that solar capacity and generation is expected to double by 2020.
With such a growing appetite for new solar projects, mayors and municipal leaders are looking for ways to facilitate this growth. One policy gaining traction is virtual net metering, which allows those buying into community solar the same net metering benefits as those with rooftop solar.
City leaders can help encourage and educate residents in their community about the benefits and importance of transitioning away from fossil fuels to solar. These newly empowered communities will enjoy the health benefits, the better air and water quality, and decreased utility bills that come with solar. Find out more about what you can do by joining Path to Positive Communities today!
Right now, there’s an odd thing about solar in the United States (and elsewhere). It’s either really big — at the scale of massive solar farms with the capacity to generate tens or hundreds of millions of watts of electricity — or pretty small: on your rooftop, with maybe as little as 5 kilowatts, or thousand watts, of capacity.
Solar has been growing extremely fast in these existing markets. But more and more, analysts say, there’s a middle-range market whose large potential is just becoming clear. It’s bigger than individual rooftop installations but smaller than vast solar farms. And it’s for a much broader and diverse range of people than fairly wealthy, suburban homeowners.
Often, in discussions of climate solutions, policymakers target mass transportation, clean energy generation, and changing consumption habits. All important aspects of a robust climate action plan. Less discussed, but perhaps as or more important than all other solutions, is the transition towards zero net emission buildings.
The concept is simple: utilize new building materials, technology, and design so the net output of emissions from homes, businesses and industry are zero. While the goal is laudable, to many, it seems out of reach. However, cities like Boston, San Francisco, Austin and many more across the country are already hard at work.
The move towards net-zero is a winner across sectors. Businesses and industry benefit from utility savings. Residents see their energy bills decrease. Well paying and stable jobs are created to retrofit and construct net-zero buildings. Mayors and municipal leaders see local economies boom. All of this as the root causes of climate change, fossil fuel emissions, are slashed.
By Johanna Partin and Michael Shank | CO EXIST | March 25, 2016
There is a movement happening all across America that few people are talking about. And while it may not be sexy, it is serious and substantial. The building sector, which comprises the majority of global greenhouse gas emissions, is moving toward zero net emissions.
That means the carbon footprint of commercial, residential and municipal buildings in leading cities will be zero. Zilch. Nada. Nothing. That means these buildings won’t consume more energy for heating, hot water, lights and appliances than they produce—and they may even be net energy producers.
Cities all across the North American continent—New York, Boston, Washington D.C., Vancouver, San Francisco, Phoenix, and Austin—and across the Atlantic Ocean are implementing plans now to eliminate energy waste, make buildings energy neutral or positive, maximize building energy efficiency, and decarbonize building energy.
Better known for the Golden Gate Bridge, sourdough bread and Alcatraz, San Francisco is now playing host to mayors and world leaders to show off the city’s new cutting edge recycling plant. As urban populations grow, and world cities become more densely populated, municipalities are forced to explore new ways to deal with growing amounts of waste. San Francisco is spearheading this effort.
Recology, an innovative new recycling plant, is helping the city cope with an ever growing amount of waste and recyclable materials. The plant receives daily deliveries, and the service costs are equal to, or less than, traditional recycling and waste management programs. The new features of the plant include improved sorting, the ability to recycle materials that were previously cost ineffective, and the ability to compost other collected waste. The progress represents how one city can take bold and lasting climate action.
The popularity and success of San Francisco’s recycling program has many around the world trying to follow suit. Already, the city offers a model that leaders in France, Italy, Canada, Switzerland and communities throughout the US are working to duplicate. Mayors in cities like your own can learn to follow San Francisco, and work towards climate solutions, by joining Path to Positive Communities!
SAN FRANCISCO — Robert Reed, who is enjoying a surprising career turn as a busy tour guide at the latest hot spot here, stood smiling one recent sunny morning before 10 foreign dignitaries and journalists. They included the mayor of Genoa, Italy, and the general consuls from Italy, Canada and Switzerland.
Each visitor wore a sport coat and tie, and a yellow safety vest to ensure they wouldn’t be run down by garbage trucks.
“It’s always nice to meet new friends from around the world,” Mr. Reed said in his introduction, beaming. “In fact, we’ve had visitors from 58 countries.” Behind him stood a warehouse filled with a 630-ton mountain of refuse being pecked by sea gulls. “Come on,” Mr. Reed continued, “I’ll show you the bottles, cans and paper.”
As many regions throughout the country continue to struggle from a record setting drought, city leaders have begun to search for tools to reduce consumption, improve efficiency, and increase conservation and storage. While many climate solutions depend on large investments and bold, complicated new policies made by governments, water related progress so often requires inspiring residents to act.
A new water reclamation technology would provide homeowners the ability to capture and clean grey-water for later use. The grey water could be reused for applications like irrigation or toilet water, and provides residents yet another way to take bold climate action.
Like rooftop solar, onsite water reclamation allows individuals to transform their homes into beacons of sustainability. City leaders and mayors must work to educate and facilitate residents on their journey to climate solutions. To find out how, be sure to join Path to Positive Communities today!
By Matt Richtel | The New York Times | March 23, 2016
Food from garden to table. Solar power from roof to outlet. And now soapy water from your own shower to your lawn?
One of the many new technologies discussed Tuesday at a White House Water Summit aims to reclaim water from showers and sinks, clean it and use it for irrigation and flushing toilets, among other non-potable uses in the same home. It’s not unlike the water recycling system used for golf courses, but it’s available to individuals.
The system, created by a company called Nexus e-Water out of Australia and now headquartered in San Diego, will be deployed for the first time in a major home development in Lathrop, Calif., a suburb 75 miles east of San Francisco. Soon after, the company plans to begin selling to individual homeowners.
This technology falls into a growing movement to enable homeowners to generate natural resources on site.
In Maryland, the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act of 2016 just made its way to the governor’s desk. The bold new policy aims to slash the state’s fossil fuel emissions by 40% over the next decade and a half. Already receiving strong support in the state legislature, the bill is only one element in a multipronged approach to address climate change in Maryland.
The actions underway in Maryland demonstrate a growing commitment by state and local governments to address climate change. As communities begin to see the challenges and consequences of more severe weather events, rising sea levels, and increasing temperatures, they are also becoming more aware of climate opportunities. By investing in climate solutions, communities, cities and states can boost local economies, create jobs, and create better places to live for families. Take the lead in your community by joining Path to Positive Communities today!
Last Thursday, the Maryland House of Delegates approved legislation that commits the state to cut its economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions 40% below 2006 levels by 2030, the Baltimore Sun reports.
The Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act of 2016 now heads to Gov. Larry Hogan (R) for a signature after the 100-37 vote. The Maryland Senate passed SB 323, its version of the legislation, by a 38-8 vote in February.
The new goal was proposed by the state's Climate Change Commission, which includes members from the legislature, businesses, nonprofit groups and agency secretaries appointed by the governor, according to the Sun.
It has been 100 days since the COP 21 talks in Paris, and the real work of developing and implementing climate action plans is already underway. The talks and the difficult work ahead have illustrated the importance of cities and mayors in implementing climate solutions. These are the 5 pivotal reasons why mayors are the key to climate action:
Climate action requires the dedicated leadership of officials at all levels of government. However, mayors are uniquely situated to address and connect with residents and families on a more personal level. As city leaders become increasingly critical to climate solutions, it is important that they have the best resources and networks to work effectively. Get your city on the Path to Positive, and join with climate leaders today!
The aspiration of the Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees may one day be recognized as one of the most important goals ever agreed by international diplomacy. We now have the political consensus and momentum to prevent catastrophic climate change —but we must move extremely fast in order to make the aims of the Agreement achievable.
Global emissions must peak by 2020 and yet the Agreement does not kick in until that year.
This means the next four years are critical, and cities have a major role to play: cities consume more than two-thirds of global energy and are on track to become home to more than two-thirds of the global population; at the same time, 70 percent of C40 cities are already experiencing the impacts of climate change. The agenda for a 1.5 degrees world must therefore account for rapid urbanization in the context of increasing climate hazards, whilst sharply reducing the amount of energy cities consume and the carbon intensity of their energy supply.
Mayors throughout the US are working through their climate tool-kit in search of effective climate solutions that can be quickly and easily implemented. One area that is often overlooked, perhaps due to its ubiquity, are streetlights. In a recent survey by the US Conference of Mayors, researchers found that transitioning to LED streetlamps is one of the top choices among city officials.
Simply changing how your city lights its streets can yield significant results. Increased efficiency can slash city electricity bills by up to 70%. LED street lights require less maintenance and can even benefit communities by increasing public safety.
With limited resources to develop and implement climate solutions, LED streetlights offer a proven, cost effective choice for mayors. To find out more about developing a climate action plan in your city, join and take advantage of the resources offered at Path to Positive Communities.
The Climate Group | March 11, 2016
NEW YORK: US mayors rank energy efficient LED lighting as the most promising technology for city managers to reduce their energy use and carbon emissions over the coming two years, according to a survey held at the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) in Washington DC earlier this year.
In the survey, entitled ‘How energy Technologies are Reshaping America’s cities’, LED lighting surpassed 17 other clean technologies and low carbon solutions as the technology of choice for mayors.
One of the challenges that mayors and city leaders face as they develop climate action plans is insuring that all communities are able to reap the rewards and opportunities that can accompany climate solutions. This is especially the case for plans that rely on heavy initial investments that may be prohibitive for poor and working class communities. This has long been the case for roof-top solar.
Rooftop solar is a sound investment that gives homeowners freedom and choice as to where they source their energy. Solar will eventually pay for itself, the technology slashes home electricity bills and homeowners can even sell back excess electricity to local utilities. Citywide solar initiatives also boost local economies and create stable, well paying jobs. However, for many communities, the initial costs are simply too high.
Community groups are now working to develop ways to bring the benefits of solar to low income communities. These leaders are rethinking the way that rooftop solar is metered and financed, and are working with state and local officials to explore ways of making such clean energy investments more affordable. Find out how to lead the charge in your city by visiting Path to Positive Communities!
Solar power has been criticized for helping the wealthy and punishing the poor. Some groups — largely, it should be noted, utilities and advocacy groups funded by fossil fuel interests — say only affluent people can afford solar, leaving less-affluent people to pay more than their share for the grid.
But it turns out that in the battle to transition to a cleaner, more networked grid, low-income communities are the next big front.
There is no question that distributed solar changes the way we get and pay for our electricity. It is a disruptive technology — something that can change the fundamental way business is done. That in and of itself creates resistance, but when talking about who can afford solar, it’s worth looking at a parallel example.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu spoke before the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority this week in an effort to urge action on climate. Louisiana is at the forefront of climate change, with much of the state threatened by rising sea levels and more severe weather events. Because of this, Mayors like Landrieu are working to get state leaders to invest in solutions that can be quickly implemented and have a real impact.
While addressing climate change, the Mayor is speaking to solutions that will positively affect the lives of residents, families and businesses in the state. Mayors throughout the nation must echo the powerful voice of climate leaders like Landrieu, and work for solutions in their community. Find out how to get started by joining the Path to Positive Communities!
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu on Wednesday (March 16) urged members of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority to address both the causes and the effects of climate change, which he described as an "existential threat" to the city.
"There is no greater threat to the future of south Louisiana than coastal erosion, and if it ain't there no more … you can't put up hospitals, build roads, build playgrounds," Landrieu said at the beginning of the authority meeting. "You're not going to have a place to work, not going to have a place to live. You cease to exist.
"Everybody in here has been a great champion of the fact that — I can see in my sleep — that we're losing a hundred yards every 45 minutes, now its 43 minutes, now its 30 minutes," Landrieu said. "We've lost the size of the state of Delaware.
A new proposal before the state house and senate threaten to derail climate action plans across Massachusetts. The new policy affects the State’s robust net-metering program, which allows residents who invest in solar the opportunity to sell excess power back to the operating utility that serves their region. Net metering offers an important incentive for households who are considering what can often be a large initial investment. The ability for families to sell unused electricity provides a monetary incentive for cutting power use and investing in rooftop solar.
Net metering is important to cities and communities. By facilitating the transition to decentralized, clean energy—cities depend less on large utilities, which often generate power by burning dirty fossil fuels. The freedom to produce ones own energy, the shift to clean power, and the ability to cut spending on utilities all contribute to better and cleaner communities.
Community leaders in Massachusetts are working to improve the lives and climate in their city. Find out how you can do the same by joining Path to Positive Communities.
Caledonian Record | March 14, 2016
BOSTON (AP) — Dozens of Massachusetts mayors and town managers are warning that a proposed change in a key solar power bill could jeopardize planned municipal solar projects across the state.
A six-member House and Senate committee is trying to hammer out a compromise version of the bill.
It proposes changing the state's "net metering" program that allows electric customers and municipalities to sell excess solar power they generate back to the grid for credit.
Electric companies currently pay a retail rate for the energy. A proposed change would let them pay a much lower wholesale rate.
Democratic Newton Mayor Setti Warren says the change could wipe out most of the $4 million the city hopes to save over 20 years by leasing 13 municipal sites to a solar developer.
A coalition of climate leaders has formed in Mason City Iowa. City officials, along with faculty and students from the University of Iowa’s Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities (IISC) are working together to create multiple climate action plans that would directly impact and improve the community. Projects include creating a plan for more efficient waterways use and development, increasing bikeways, and developing a food waste analysis and action plan. The partnership offers a cost-effective way for Mason City to increase sustainability efforts, and university students also get valuable hands-on, real world experience through these projects.
This type of partnership is a great way for city and community leaders to leverage local resources—like universities and community colleges. As the demand for climate solutions in cities increases, mayors must identify which resources they have at hand, and how to put these to work. Local schools, colleges and universities are often a source of untapped expertise that community climate leaders should integrate into their climate toolkit.
Learn more about developing and implementing climate solutions in your city by joining Path to Positive Communities.
By Mary Pieper | The Globe Gazette | March 13, 2016
MASON CITY — Faculty and students from the University of Iowa will be working with Mason City officials on a number of projects designed to improve services and increase quality of life.
Those projects could include making Mason City a more bicycle-friendly community, collecting and analyzing city bus system data to better serve citizens, and enhancing downtown alleys and parking areas with murals and other artwork.
“It’s kind of exciting because we have an opportunity to do some innovative projects and do them very cost-effectively,” said Steven Van Steenhuyse, director of the Development Services Department for Mason City.
The university faculty will bring their expertise while the students will bring “enthusiasm and new ideas,” Van Steenhuyse said.
With increasing technology, a more supportive public, and a recognition of the growing challenges and opportunities of climate change, mayors throughout the US are on the constant lookout for tested and proven climate solutions. Fortunately, recent agreements from the COP21-Climate Talks, and the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan provide a framework for implemented climate solutions—drastically increasing the climate action toolkit of cities and communities.
The clean energy transition presents a clear path for action, and can be tailored specifically to a state, city or community’s unique circumstances and needs. Whether a community invests in community solar for residents in urban areas, or provides incentives for rooftop-solar, mandating utilities increase wind and hydro power, or beef-up energy efficiency standards for buildings—all of these are options that should be considered.
Fortunately, investments in clean energy are political and economic winners. Savings on electricity bills puts more money in the pockets of families and business owners, the health benefits of cleaner communities cuts preventable diseases and makes cities better places to live, and better transportation infrastructure cuts commutes and congestion—decreasing time spent in the car and increasing time spent with families or enjoying one’s community. To achieve these benefits, mayors must act. Find out what you can do by visiting Path to Positive Communities!
By Tim Radford | Climate News Network | March 13, 2016
Scientists have worked out how the US could save as many as 300,000 lives by 2030, and get a tenfold return on its investments at the same time.
It’s simple. All the nation has to do is what it promised to do at the Paris climate conference last December − launch clean energy and transport policies, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two-thirds or more, and pursue the international goal of keeping global warming to below 2°C.
Drew Shindell, professor of climate sciences at Duke University, North Carolina, and colleagues report in Nature Climate Change that the climate policies agreed by 195 nations at the latest UN summit on climate change deliver a winning scenario for the most powerful nation on Earth.
If the US pursued the switch to electric cars and renewable energy, hundreds of thousands of premature deaths could be prevented − not just by containing global warming and limiting the extent of climate change, but by the consequent reduction in soot, aerosols and ozone, all of which are pollutants with consequences for health.
Cities are moving quickly to develop and implement bold climate action plans. One of the leaders in this sprint to climate solutions is Seattle Mayor Ed Murry. In a bold new initiative, the mayor at last week’s Climate Leadership Conference announced plans that would slash greenhouse gas pollution in the city by half. The path to reduced emissions is simple, expand electric vehicle in both the city’s fleet, and among residents.
Seattle is already a pioneer of climate action. The city is able to harness hydropower, and is heavily invested in renewables. By focusing on transportation emissions, Seattle can save an estimated 120,000 gallons of gasoline, and power its vehicles with energy generated from clean sources. To encourage greater electric vehicle use among residents, the city will install 400 charging stations throughout the city.
These actions represent a mayor, city and community that are committed to climate solutions. When local leaders act, residents and the climate benefit. Lead your city by joining Path to Positive Communities!
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray wants to cut in half greenhouse-gas pollution from the city’s vehicle fleet by 2025, and he has proposed adding more electric vehicles to do it.
In an announcement Thursday at the Climate Leadership Conference in Seattle, Murray proposed expanding electric-vehicle use in the city by 15,000 cars by 2025, including more city-owned cars.
With an estimated 65 percent of Seattle’s greenhouse-gas emissions coming from transportation, Murray said, his Drive Clean Seattle will help cut carbon pollution that is contributing to climate change.
His developing plan includes a range of strategies to transition transportation, both public and private, away from fossil fuels to clean, carbon-neutral electric energy.
In America’s heartland, a church, a synagogue, and a mosque are coming together to build a true interfaith campus – the first of its kind in the world – and the most environmentally sustainable church, also the first of its kind in the nation.
The Daily Show recently featured the leaders of the Tri-Faith Initiative (Rev. Eric Elnes of the Countryside Community Church, Rabbi Aryeh Azriel of the Temple Israel, and Syed Mohiuddin, president of the American Muslim Institute) to discuss – and inject some levity into – their groundbreaking plans to build three houses of worship on one campus. One of the leaders involved in the project explained the rationale behind this unprecedented joining of Abrahamic religions: "This is a challenging time, and I think it's an invitation to work, and to love and to educate.” As for their appearance on the Daily show, as Rev. Elnes puts it, “if you can't laugh a little about yourself, then where is the faith?”
Beyond the all-encompassing community of worship, the campus is also important for its emphasis on sustainability. The Countryside Community Church is dedicated to building the most environmentally sustainable church in the nation. They intend to build a church that surpasses LEED standards, and goes far beyond carbon neutrality by giving back to the environment. For Rev. Elnes, this emphasis on sustainability answers the call of Reconciliation with the Earth. Additionally, faith leaders hope that the publicity surrounding the Tri-Faith Initiative will amplify the need to take climate action and care for our creation.
Frank Morris | NPR | December 21, 2015
A mosque, a church and a synagogue go up on the site of an old Jewish country club …
It sounds like the setup to a joke — but it's not. It's actually happening in Omaha, Neb. The Tri-Faith Initiative may be the first place in history where these three monotheistic faiths have built together, on purpose, with the intention of working together.
In a tony suburban section of Omaha, kids at Countryside United Church of Christ are singing Away in a Manger. They're getting ready for the upcoming Christmas program.
Upstairs, in the church's expansive, modern coffee shop, the Rev. Eric Elnes says this is going to be one of the congregation's last Christmases at this location.
"We love our building. There is literally no good reason to move whatsoever, except to follow this Tri-Faith Initiative, which has really, absolutely moved our hearts," Elnes says.
But the congregation will move — to a hilly, 38-acre plot bisected by a creek near the edge of Omaha. The church will sit in one corner, with a mosque in another, facing a beautiful new synagogue, built with stone quarried in Jerusalem.
"This is something God wanted us to do a long time ago, and we were completely blinded by doing other things," says Aryeh Azriel, the rabbi at Temple Israel.
The project has inspired some, and antagonized others.
Climate change has been conspicuously absent from recent GOP presidential debates. The divide between those accepting and denying the reality of climate change has long split down partisan and ideological lines. However, as more and more mayors and city leaders, from all parties, are faced with the challenges and opportunities of a changing climate, the less able they are to brush it aside.
Thanks to mayors in Southern Florida, pressure is being put on presidential candidates to address the reality, and seriousness of climate change. Cities and communities throughout Florida are already seeing the consequences of rising sea levels and king-tides, which flood city streets, homes and businesses, and even threats to aquifers that can be contaminated by salt water.
Mayors in Florida have the best interests of their residents in mind. They recognize that developing and implementing climate solutions will create jobs, improve the lives of families, and make Florida a better place to live. The time for climate action is now. Find out how you can lead in your city by joining Path to Positive Communities today!
Thursday, Coral Gables will host the next GOP presidential debate just a few days before Florida’s presidential primary. As the mayors of Miami and Coral Gables, we are proud of our cities and look forward to welcoming the candidates for an exciting forum at the beautiful University of Miami campus.
With all the national attention coming to South Florida, we encourage the candidates to address an issue that’s been given scant serious attention in this election, but that is vital to our future here: global warming.
To date, all of this year’s Republican presidential candidates either have rejected global warming outright or dismissed any solutions as too difficult or too expensive.
Americans are increasingly becoming concerned with how climate affects the health and well being of their families and communities. They are looking for leadership from all levels of government—local, state, and federal. However, in a new report released by the Center for American Progress, researchers found that the climate concerns of the American public is being vastly underserved by their congressional representative.
It is up to American voters to decide which issues are most important to them, and surely many are unaware of the climate and policy positions of those who represent their interests. This is where local leadership comes in. Mayors and local climate leaders must take on the task of communicating and educating residents in their cities about the consequences and opportunities presented by a changing climate. Mayors must emphasize the importance of bold action and lead by example, but also communicate the importance of climate solutions at the state and federal levels.
By empowering residents with the knowledge, benefits, and opportunities created by climate action, mayors can lead their constituents to pressure their representatives in congress to act. Learn how to become a climate leader in your community by joining Path to Positive Communities!
According to new research from the Center for American Progress Action Fund, more than six in ten Americans are represented by someone in Congress who denies the reality of climate change.
Following the second straight year that earned the title of hottest year on record, 59 percent of the Republican House caucus and 70 percent of Republicans in the Senate deny the scientific consensus that climate change is happening and humans are the main cause. There are 182 climate deniers in the 114th Congress in 2016 — 144 in the House and 38 in the Senate. According to the U.S. Census, that means 202,803,591 people are represented by a climate denier in Congress.
One of the most important trends for cities implementing climate solutions is the push to invest in “going green!” But what does this really mean? For many, the transition to green includes steps like increasing building efficiency, investing in becoming LEED certified, planting rooftop gardens, and even adding more foliage and plant life to existing structures.
However appealing these actions may be, often these solutions are simply attempts to bring an unrealistic version of nature into our urban areas. City planners, officials, and mayors must focus their efforts on implementing climate solutions that empower their communities. These solutions should yield concrete impacts, like improved transportation, lower energy bills, and jobs. These goals can be accomplished by focusing on building real connections to nature, and embracing a better integration of urban and natural environments.
To find out how to implement bold climate solutions in your city, visit Path to Positive Communities.
Architecture and urban design are in the throes of a green fever dream: Everywhere you look there are plans for “sustainable” buildings, futuristic eco-cities, even vertical aquaponic farms in the sky, each promising to redeem the ecologically sinful modern city and bring its inhabitants back into harmony with nature. This year, two marquee examples are set to open: Bjarke Ingels' Via 57 West in New York, a 32-story luxury-apartment pyramid enfolding a garden, and the Louvre Abu Dhabi, by Jean Nouvel, a complex shielded from the harsh climate of the Arabian Peninsula by an enormous white dome. The dreamers' goal is even bigger: “eco-cities” that will leapfrog the last century's flawed development patterns and deliver us in stylish comfort to a low-carbon, green future.
In part, the dream reflects a pragmatic push for energy efficiency, recycled materials and lower carbon emissions — a competition rewarded with LEED certification in silver, gold or platinum. But it also includes a remarkable effort to turn buildings green — almost literally — by covering them in plants. Green roofs are sprouting on Wal-Marts and green walls festooned with ferns and succulents in Cubist patterns appear on hotels, banks, museums — even at the mall, as I found on a recent trip to the Glendale Galleria in Los Angeles.
The announcement of the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan prompted immediate action throughout the country. At the state level, policy makers and elected officials varied in their responses—as many challenged the federal program in federal courts. At the lower levels of government though, cities, communities and regional utilities began devising ways of leading the transition to clean power—showing that climate action starts at the local level.
This transformation has been manifested differently to meet the needs of diverse geographies, communities and regions. While some adopt solar, others are moving to wind power, hydro and natural gas, and all of the plans feature a move away from dirty fossil fuels.
The effort to embrace clean power is taking place across the nation. While some states have chosen to fight the policy in the courts, utilities and local climate leaders are springing into action. By empowering utilities to make such changes, cities can help create well paying, stable jobs, they can help reduce energy bills for families and businesses, and can make their communities cleaner, healthier places to live. Become part of the solution and join Path to Positive Communities today!
Critics of the Obama administration’s most sweeping climate policy hailed the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in February to temporarily block it, saying the ruling on the Clean Power Plan could breathe new life into the flagging coal industry.
But even as those critics await further rulings on whether the plan is constitutional, utilities are already looking far beyond coal — the nation’s largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change — and pressing ahead with investments in cleaner forms of energy, including renewable, natural gas and even nuclear power.
Often the greatest hurdle to climate action is the misperception that investing in climate solutions will cost jobs. In Illinois, lawmakers are addressing this head-on, and have introduced a bill that would boost local economies, create clean jobs, and improve the environment.
The Illinois Clean Jobs Bill would require the state to source 35% of its power from renewables by 2030. To accomplish this, investments would be made in wind and solar, creating stable, well paying jobs for residents of the state. It would also be a first step in meeting the targets set by the Obama Administration’s Clean Energy Plan.
Illinois legislators are addressing climate by focusing on the benefits that it will bring to communities: a healthy environment to raise families; clean, well paying and stable jobs; ; a perfect combination for a sustainable future. To follow in the footsteps of these leaders, and advance climate solutions in your community, visit Path to Positive Communities today!
Those concerned about climate change, improving air quality, and energy efficiency, are calling on lawmakers to approve the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill.
A collection of central Illinois Health Advocates gathered at Unity House of Prayer Church in Peoria to encourage passage of the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill.
Brian Urbaszewski says it would mean the state would need to get 35 percent of its power from clean energy sources by 20-30. So it would be a big build out of infrastructure for more wind power, for more solar power in Illinois; things that don’t emit any air pollution. That’s going to help us meet our obligation under the federal clean power plan. But it’s something we don’t have to wait for the federal government to do.”
In California, an experiment is underway which may change how communities act on climate. Three cities are collaborating in an effort to enlist residents to work on implementing climate solutions. Dubbed the Cool Block program, community climate leaders seek to take on climate change from the bottom-up—focusing on what residents can do to make a real difference.
This innovative program highlights the power of local governments, communities, and city leadership. The three primary goals of the program are to get households to act on climate, connect with fellow residents in their community, and to grow the local and green economies.
What makes the program particularly attractive is that it offers clear actions that residents can take. All too often residents want to take climate action, but simply don’t know where to start. The Cool Block plan offers 112 steps that families can take, and connects these actions to some benefits for the community.
Climate change solutions must start with communities. Mayors and community leaders must work with local organizations and residents to find simple and effective ways to develop and implement climate solutions. Find out how to connect with climate leaders by joining Path to Positive Communities!
Palo Alto will be part of a three-city experiment to get residents to work block by block on sustainability and climate change goals in their daily lives.
Climate change often is discussed broadly, but the Cool Block pilot program takes a "bottom-up" approach, said Sandra Slater, the Northern California director of the Cool City Challenge, an initiative of the Empowerment Institute.
The program's goal is to get households to take action on climate change, be more socially connected with each other and work on growing the green economy.
With more than half of the world’s population now living in cities, mayors and community leaders are increasingly on the front lines of the consequences of climate change—rising sea levels, more severe weather events, and public health challenges. However big these risks are, there are also tremendous opportunities for cities, especially here in America, to implement meaningful climate solutions.
Despite the challenges, cities are stepping up and working with residents and community leaders to develop and implement climate solutions. These include increasing energy and water efficiency, investing in clean, mass transportation systems, and implementing solutions as simple as providing bicycle paths and walkways..
What make these efforts so important is that they provide better places for residents and families. Every climate solution yields positive health and quality of life benefits for communities. Investments in solar and wind create stable, well paying jobs for Americans. Increased energy efficiency and renewable power slash bills for families. Better transportation, cycling paths and walkways make commuting easier, and cuts traffic congestion.
These developments are underway in cities throughout the country, and the world. Mayors must collaborate with their community, residents and families, and leaders from cities across the country. By sharing experiences, climate action plans, successes and challenges, mayors can work to implement the strongest measures possible to improve climate and to empower their communities. Find out how to make a difference by joining with other leaders at Path to Positive Communities!
Experts have often pointed out that, when it comes to fighting climate change, the world’s cities have both special risks and special opportunities. Climate change has the potential to bring down a hailstorm of consequences on urban areas, including flooding, public health risks and economic collapse.
So protecting the billions of people who live in these places — more than half the global population, and growing — is a big concern for world leaders.
But new research suggests that the global community may need to do more to make sure its most vulnerable populations are being protected.
Rural communities, residents and utilities have traditionally relied on cheap, dirty fossil fuels. Often too remote to be connected directly to the national energy grid, rural Americans have traditionally banded together into co-ops, generating and purchasing enough power to sustain cities in a very specific geographic area. Limited access and low prices has traditionally shaped the market, and coal had long dominated. However, the energy co-op is experiencing a renewable renaissance as communities are shifting to solar.
The shift underway is a sign of changing preferences, priorities, and innovations. But more than anything, one of the greatest drivers of this change is the recognition that investing solar and wind power is good for residents and communities. Solar brings stable, well paying jobs to rural communities where unemployment is often higher than the national average. Solar also makes economic sense. Solar power is reducing the cost of energy generation, lowering the bills for rural families and businesses.
Rural co-ops are good for jobs, for families and businesses, and are good for the climate. Community leaders must nudge residents to adopt and prioritize renewables as a political and environmental winner. Find out how by visiting Path to Positive Communities!
In the US, rural areas and constituencies have typically weighed against progress on clean energy. But that may be changing.
A new story out of Wisconsin illustrates that a slow, tentative shift is underway, as rural electricity consumers and the utilities that serve them take a new look at the benefits of solar power.
In fact, if you squint just right, you can even glimpse a future in which rural America is at the vanguard of decarbonization. The self-reliance and local jobs enabled by renewable energy are of unique value in rural areas, and rural leaders are beginning to recognize that solar isn't just for elitist coastal hippies any more.
To appreciate what's happening, let's back up a bit.
San Diego is California’s second largest city, and when officials there take action, others follow. This is why the city’s recently announced climate action plan is so important. The new policies include a commitment to 100% renewables by 2035, and sharp decreases in greenhouse emissions by half over that same time period.
Under the leadership of Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer, and the City Council, officials in the city are showing that climate action can be a bipartisan winner. And the effort is much greater, and includes a far more diverse group of actors than just policymakers. The city brought together stakeholders from community planning groups, environmental health organizations, unions and labor groups, environmental groups, and even the chamber of commerce. What’s more, the climate action plan has the broad support of residents throughout the city.
The benefits and importance of climate action are becoming clear to all sectors—including business, government, utilities, and communities. Now, more than ever, climate leaders are needed to push their cities to adopt aggressive climate action plans like those now underway in San Diego. To find out more about acting on climate in your community, check out the great resources and join Path to Positive Communities!
Climate Resolve | February 2016
On December 15, the City of San Diego announced its remarkable new Climate Action Plan, committing the city to 100% renewable power by the year 2035, and, by the same year, slashing its carbon emissions by half.
Even more astonishing, Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer proposed it and the Council voted unanimously to make their climate plan legally binding. In other words, there's legal accountability should San Diego fail to reach their targets.
So how did America's 8th largest city enact this visionary plan?
To find answers, I called Nicole Capretz, the brilliant organizer behind the new policy.
This is what I learned.
Sometimes the greatest hurdles to getting residents to act on climate are the most simple to resolve. This is especially true in large cities and urban centers where residents don’t yet make use of mass transit, cycling paths, and walking trails. In the Washington DC area, this is especially true—but local climate leaders are hoping to change that.
The beauty of incorporating walkways, trails and cycling paths into a city climate action plan is that often times these solutions are easy to implement, and can capitalize on the resources and know-how that cities already have. For instance, in Washington DC, leaders are working to ensure that pedestrian paths are cleared and ready to be used after ice and snowfall. Facilitating the use of existing paths and roadways for pedestrians often requires a small shift in priorities and an awareness of the potential opportunities.
The benefits of these small actions can be surprisingly big. Encouraging walking and cycling as real options for commuters can sharply reduce air pollution and traffic congestion, improve the public health of residents and families, and help make a dent in greenhouse gas emissions. Find out how to implement simple and effective climate solutions in your city by checking out Path to Positive Communities!
Last month as the National Capital Region was digging out from our latest Snowmageddon, I had an "aha" moment cycling to work on Northern Virginia's ice-crusted, snowy Mount Vernon Trail. While cars sped by unimpeded on the adjacent George Washington Parkway, dedicated bike commuters struggled to navigate the uncleared trail. With all of the public benefits provided by human-powered transit, why don't we work as hard to serve these users?
The DC area has one of the nation's highest rates of bicycle commuting, so this issue really hits home here. The Mount Vernon Trail is a key safe route for bike commuters, runners, and pedestrians moving between highly congested Northern Virginia and DC. Yet the trail is not cleared of snow as a matter of policy.
This is no way unique to the DC area. Leaving critical bike linkages covered in snow and ice until Mother Nature decides to intervene is the norm in many cities. Sidewalks are similarly subject to a patchwork of strategies to keep them clear of snow, which can force pedestrians into the street.
Climate leaders in Oregon are at it again as the State Senate considers a bill that would redefine where residents source their energy. The bill would eliminate coal energy production by 2030 and would double the amount of renewable generation. These steps come after the state’s House already passed a version of the bill. The multi-sector nature of the new policy sets it apart from previous climate action plans.
The drafting of the new plan involved policy makers, environmental group representatives, and the state’s utilities. The power brokers developed an ambitious plan that will facilitate the state’s transition to clean energy—like solar, wind and hydro—and they have broad public support. With the support of the public, of politicians, energy companies, and environmentalists, climate action is at its strongest.
What is happening in Oregon provides an ambitious framework for other communities, cities and states to follow. To achieve bold climate goals, leaders must communicate about the benefits that climate action will bring to their residents: including new stable, well paying jobs, improved health and living standards, better and more efficient transportation networks and options, and decreased energy bills. When community leaders inspire residents, making change becomes possible. Find out how to lead in your city today, by joining with climate leaders at Path to Positive Communities!
A bill that would require Oregon’s two largest utilities to phase out coal completely by 2030, coupled with a requirement to double the state’s renewable energy mandate, is working its way through the state Senate after being passed by the House earlier this year. If successful, environmentalists argue that it could represent some of the strongest environmental legislation in the state — and across the country — in decades.
The bill, dubbed the Clean Electricity and Coal Transition Plan, passed through the Oregon House on February 15 by a vote of 39-20, and would require both PacifiCorp and Portland General Electric (PGE) — Oregon’s two largest, investor-owned utilities — to stop using coal in their energy mix by 2030. It would also require those utilities to provide at least 50 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2040. Currently, the state’s energy mandate requires utilities to provide 25 percent renewable energy by 2025.
Progress is being made in Maryland. This week, in a bipartisan vote, Democrats and Republicans came together in the state’s Senate, and overwhelmingly supported a new bill that would require the state to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 40% over the next 15 years.
While the bill has yet to be taken up by the House of Delegates, government watchers anticipate the bill to pass. And the passage would be a winning move for the state. Cutting greenhouse gasses by implementing bold climate action plans is good for families and residents, and can boost local economies. Policy makers in Maryland expect the new policy to bring clean, well paying and stable jobs to the state. Investments in infrastructure and retrofitting will go a long way towards making Maryland a leader on climate change.
The actions of policy makers and community leaders in Maryland is an example for cities and states throughout the country. Find out how you can take part in advancing positive changes by visiting Path to Positive Communities!
Maryland's Senate on Tuesday approved a new goal and deadline for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the state.
By a 38-8 vote, senators approved a bill that requires to state to cut its greenhouse gasses — such as carbon dioxide — by 40 percent by 2030. The goal uses 2006 as the baseline for measuring emissions.
The House of Delegates will hold a hearing on their version of the bill later this week.
All eight dissenting votes came from Republicans, even though the proposal was approved unanimously by Republican and Democrats on the Senate's Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.
How much greenhouse gas is your city emitting? Do you know the levels of pollution in your city’s air? These are questions that should be considered by mayors and community leaders in every city—as municipal officials take into consideration the health and wellness of their city’s residents. In Southern California, climate action plans are underway to address these issues, and officials are beginning to see signs of success.
While the blueprints for climate action is taking place at the local level, the effort cuts across multiple government agencies, and state and federal levels. For instance, a California State Assembly Bill requires cities meet a 15% reduction in GHG emissions, while a State Senate Bill simply requires cities to develop and enact climate action plans. A grant by Southern California Association of Governments is helping to provide cities with the resources to conduct emission inventories.
These efforts transcend conventional state and local lines, and help cities to successfully develop and implement climate action plans. The efforts help to expand public transportation options, facilitate energy efficiency retrofitting, and re-green urban areas. Ultimately they improve the lives of residents and make cities better places to live. To learn more about how local government officials and mayors can advance climate solutions, visit Path to Positive Communities!
How much greenhouse gas do La Cañadans create in the course of their daily activities, and where might reductions be made? City officials are drafting a climate action plan to answer those questions and are asking for residents' help.
Between now and May, city staff will be working, thanks to a $70,998 grant offered through the Southern California Assn. of Governments, to inventory the city's collective greenhouse gas emissions in order to develop a suite of measures and regulations to reduce citywide pollution rates.
Alaska’s rural communities have long been self sufficient—having to deal with the challenges of extremely remote locations, a lack of roads and transportation options, and being disconnected from the grid. Out of necessity, residents and community leaders throughout the state have been forced to develop innovative solutions to these challenges. Now, climate leaders in the lower 48 are looking to Alaska for possible climate solutions.
The focus of attention by policy makers centers on Alaska’s microgrids, or local small-scale power grids. At present, efforts are underway to transition these microgrids to renewables by investing in wind and solar, aiming at generating 30% of the total supply from clean sources. The advantage of this solution is that microgrids can provide communities with power more efficiently, and with a growing push towards renewables, communities can become even more self sufficient.
A recent influx of federal dollars is contributing to the further development of microgrids in Alaska, and could help the rest of the country piggyback off the hard work of rural communities. Energy independence at the local and community level is great for residents. They provide a more secure energy supply, insulation from the national grid, and protection from regional disasters or threats.
The transition from our current national grid to community micro grids will be a long journey. Mayors and community members must lead the way, and push for local energy solutions that are good for residents, and good for climate. Find out more by joining Path to Positive Communities!
WASHINGTON — Alaska’s most remote villages may have a thing or two to teach the rest of the United States about keeping the lights on.
State agencies, private companies and the federal government are increasingly looking to the remote electrical “microgrids” that power rural Alaska in places where roads and long-distance electric transmission lines don’t go.
Energy experts and advocates in the state are hoping that what they’ve learned about producing power in a difficult climate could be useful — and profitable — to share, helping get the world's remote islands and parts of sub-Saharan Africa powered. But not just remote places: Violent storms, terrorist attacks and an increasing awareness of the vulnerability of the electrical grid are causing many to doubt the wisdom of relying solely on a utility-centric model for power distribution.
That’s where Alaska comes in: If you can make it work here, it can work anywhere.
El Nino is anticipated to bring a wet and rainy season to the record droughts that California has faced for over four years. However, one year of rainfall won’t be enough to pull the state out of its serious water woes, and mayors and local community leaders are beginning to search for water solutions. While water policy has traditionally been left to the state and regional water authorities, the situation is slowly evolving.
Throughout the state, conservation has been key, but a constant demand is prompting leaders to pursue alternative supplies. Different cities and regions are opting for solutions that best suit their needs, abilities, and constraints—and local leaders are finding success.
In San Diego, local leaders are moving forward with desalinization strategy that yields the city 50 million gallons per day. In conjunction with diversifying where the city sources its water, and improved efficiency and conservation efforts, desalinization is a strategy that the city believes will ensure a stable water supply into the future.
In Los Angeles, local leaders have pursued a very different strategy. Their focus has been on reclaiming “grey water,” and rethinking how to capture rainfall in order to recharge groundwater supplies.
Los Angeles and San Diego illustrate the many ways in which local leaders can solve local problems. Find out how to best serve your community by joining with a strong coalition of leaders at Path to Positive Communities!
LOS ANGELES — For California, which has endured four years of extraordinary drought, the state's wet season is off to an encouraging start.
High in California's Sierra Nevada, the state's mountainous spine, El Niño-driven storms have piled snow and the meltwater it represents to above-normal levels. At lower elevations, heavy rains are nudging the water in many depleted reservoirs back toward their historical averages.
Whether this spells the beginning of the end to what some researchers have tagged as the state's worst drought in at least 1,200 years remains to be seen. What is clear is that the drought has accelerated the onset of a “new era” of water use in the Golden State, some water-policy specialists say.
Solar has quickly become one of the greatest resources in the transition to clean energy. Falling prices, an increased availability of community solar programs, and technology that is more efficient than ever are all major factors in the rise of this renewable energy resource. However, some of the most important variables that make solar so attractive are economic.
Solar manufacturing and installation requires skilled labor, and is quickly creating stable, well paying jobs in cities throughout the US. The resurgence of manufacturing jobs is bringing pride back to many areas hard-hit by the economic woes created over decades of outsourcing. The influx of jobs, and money, is contributing to a new bipartisan climate of cooperation, as mayors and elected officials seek to take advantage of the economic boom that solar jobs can create.
As one supporter of solar put it, “solar energy isn’t just good for the polar bears, it’s good for the middle class and the working class.” Now, more than ever, it is incumbent upon city and community leaders to communicate with residents in their cities about the many benefits that come from solar investments. Transform your community into a climate leader by joining Path to Positive Communities!
There are many ways to frame a documentary about solar power; many ways to go about extolling the virtues of clean energy. The most obvious would be to pursue the following line: hit hard by the effects of climate change, the world can save itself by building a sustainable future in renewable technology.
It’s also a message that falls squarely in the tell-us-something-we-don’t-know box.
Many moons have passed – and much discussion has transpired – since Al Gore brought us the world’s first blockbuster powerpoint presentation, 2006’s An Inconvenient Truth. That film ended with what is now considered a cliché in environmental documentaries: a “what can I do to help?” section intended to turn audiences into campaigners.
An unprecedented coalition of 17 governors from across the country just pledged to take bold new action on climate. Elected leaders from both sides of the political divide are increasingly recognizing the necessity, and the benefits, of investing in climate solutions. To this end, they have committed to investing in renewables, updating and modernizing the electricity grid, and slashing fossil fuel emissions from transportation.
The commitments come as the consequences of inaction, and benefits of action become undeniable. As more states face extreme weather events, and more intense natural disasters, the financial burdens of climate change are becoming a real burden on state coffers. By developing and implementing bold action plans, the governors are able to better prepare their respective state for unforeseen weather events, as well as boosting local economies, creating stable, well paying jobs for residents, and improving mass transportation infrastructure in communities.
The governors represent 17 states, which account for roughly 40% of the country’s population. Their action illustrates the power that a committed coalition of climate leaders can have. From communities, to cities and states, there is a recognition that climate solutions benefit residents, economies, and are a political winner for both Republicans and Democrats. Lead in your community by joining Path to Positive Communities!
A bipartisan group of governors from 17 states has pledged to accelerate their efforts to create a green economy in the US by boosting renewables, building better electricity grids and cutting emissions from transport.
An accord signed by the governors states that the US must “embrace a bold vision of the nation’s energy future” by reducing emissions, transitioning to clean energy sources and ensuring that infrastructure isn’t risked by extreme weather events such as floods and wildfires.
The agreement sets out commitments to expand renewable energy and energy efficiency and integrate solar and wind generation into electricity grids. These grids will be “modernized”, the accord states, to improve energy reliability.
Not long ago, solar energy was relegated to a small number of homeowners able to shoulder the burden of high cost panels. However, much has changed in recent years, and developments in technology, lowered price points, and more accommodating utilities have opened the door for communities across the country seeking access to clean energy.
One of the choke points for developing the solar grid has been that many people simply don’t own their homes, or live in apartments. Without homeownership, and with prohibitive start-up costs, solar has been out of reach for many Americans. In 2006, a new movement began to give residents access to community solar—allowing people to buy a stake in off-site solar infrastructure.
Community solar offers hope for those without the traditional means and requirements to take advantage of clean energy. And advocates of community solar just gained a strong ally this week, as the Coalition for Community Solar Access was just launched. Bringing together partners from across the solar industry, the group must now work with cities and utilities to facilitate the growth and adoption of community solar.
It used to be that if you couldn’t afford to install solar panels, you couldn’t get energy from them. The same happened if you didn’t own a house to put panels on, or if you lived in a condo where the roof wasn’t yours to develop. That started changing in 2006 with the birth of “community solar,” which allows people to buy a stake in a solar installation elsewhere and earn credits on their electricity bills for the energy it produces.
But community solar can’t just happen on its own—it requires a brave new world of utility policy changes that are too complicated for the average consumer to understand. And the nonprofits and solar companies advocating for changes had a tough time balancing their daily work with the additional work required to drive new legislation at the local and state levels.
That’s why a group of community solar providers banded together this week to launch the Coalition for Community Solar Access, which will spearhead nationwide advocacy for the kinds of policies needed for this market to grow.
In Connecticut, the last remaining coal-fired power plant just received its death sentence. Five years from now it will be shut down; replaced by a cleaner natural gas power plant. The transition to cleaner energy represents a greater shift away from dirty power plants throughout New England, and is having a powerful effect on communities in the region.
What is happening in Connecticut, New England, and throughout the country represents the fruits of local and community action. The Bridgeport Harbor Station, for instance, had been a priority for local environmental, health, and civil rights groups. With the help of the state’s governor, Dannel P. Malloy, and local officials, the announcement was finally made that the dirty power plant would be shut down.
The actions by city, state and community leaders will have consequences that are sure to reverberate in communities throughout New England. These include better health conditions for residents, increased stable, well paying jobs, and more affordable energy bills for families. Find out how to leverage your resources and communicate about climate in your community by visiting Path to Positive Communities!
Connecticut's last coal-fired power plant, Bridgeport Harbor Station, is scheduled to be closed by 2021 and replaced by a new cleaner-burning natural gas facility, according to the plant's owner, PSEG.
The gas-powered plant is expected to be in operation by 2019 and will be capable of producing 485 megawatts of electricity, company officials said Thursday. The Bridgeport plant is one of the few remaining coal-fired power-generating facilities in New England, and a gritty symbol for anyone driving by on Interstate 95 of the city's outdated industrial past.
Under an agreement between PSEG and Bridgeport city officials and community groups, the hulking, 47-year-old coal-burning plant would be permanently shut down by July 2021 as long as necessary permits for the new natural gas facility are in place.
Now employing more workers than the coal industry, solar represents a growing source of both power and jobs in communities throughout the country. The Solar Foundation, an organization that analyzes the impact and issues surrounding solar generation, just released a report that highlights the 200,000 workers in the solar industry, and the skyrocketing speed by which the industry is growing.
This booming industry is providing state and city officials with the ingredients they need to jumpstart local economies, and to transform where Americans get their energy from. In California, the governor and state leaders mandated that utilities, by 2030, source 50% of their energy from renewables. The result? The state added over 20,000 solar jobs, and has breathed life into the solar industry.
Other states are getting on board, including states in the South, where coal was once king. By pushing residents, utilities, and businesses towards solar, local leaders can obtain real progress in their communities. Jobs, stronger local economies, and lower energy bills are just some of the benefits of going solar.
Solar energy is ballooning across the United States with California and Massachusetts leading the way, according to a Solar Foundation report unveiled Wednesday.
The U.S. solar industry now employs slightly over 200,000 workers, representing a growth of 20 percent since November of 2014. What’s more, last year the industry added workers at a rate nearly 12 times faster than the overall economy.
“We are seeing solar in Arkansas, Virginia, Kentucky, all over the place. Arkansas in fact just broke ground on their first community solar project,” said Andrea Luecke, president and executive director of the Solar Foundation.
The sixth annual report is based on nearly three months of data collection and evaluated figures of 19,000 companies. It’s also more detailed than it has ever been, as it now has solar job data for every state and federal congressional district. “Solar jobs is just a metric, but it’s an important metric. It basically serves as a barometer for understanding whether and where policies are working,” Luecke told ThinkProgress.
“Dad, what do you do for a job?”
As parents, we often get this question from our children. For me, as a long-time professional environmental campaigner and policy hack, the answer has never been easy. The issues I have worked to address and solve – from energy use and efficiency, to climate change and its myriad adverse impacts – are complicated to explain and can be difficult for a child to understand.
I tell him, “Your dad and all the people he works with are trying to save the world, son.” As preposterous as that sounds, it is the job I have – and I sometimes struggle to help my son understand why I care so much about it.
A few weeks ago, Ethan (age 11) and I were walking the family dog. As we walked by a parked police cruiser, I noticed a decal on the vehicle that stated “Anti-Idling Technology – Sustainability DC.”
I stopped in my tracks and excitedly pointed out the decal, telling Ethan that I was the one who started the city program in Washington, DC that began installing anti-idling controllers on police cars.
I explained to him that when I worked for the District Department of the Environment, our mayor at the time, Mayor Vincent Gray, launched a grant program to invest $2 million in local sustainability programs. A total of 12 grants were awarded, two of which were written and submitted by me, including one to invest $132,500 in purchasing and installing idle controllers on police cars.
As we stood there next to the cruiser talking, the police office assigned to the car approached, asking if there was anything she could help us with. “No,” I assured her, “I was just telling my son about how I started the program that got the idling controller put on your car.”
“You did that?!” she asked, much more enthusiastically than I had expected. She went on to say how much she appreciated not having to breathe the exhaust from running the car constantly to power the lights and communications (idle control devices simply cycle the engine on and off depending on the strength of the battery charge, saving gas and cutting air pollution by significant amounts), and how, in her words, “We all have to do whatever we can to protect our planet.”
“Young man,” she said to Ethan as she climbed into the cruiser, “your father has made a big difference in this city. Thank you.”
I admit that I was very proud the day I won the grant the allowed the police department to start installing these simple but effective devices on their fleet. And I was thrilled to attend the ceremony where Mayor Gray handed the oversized check to our police Chief.
But nothing can describe the feeling I had in this moment, enjoying the praise of a member of the police force who genuinely appreciated the difference this one small accomplishment of mine had made on her daily quality of life, and the quality of our city.
“Wow, dad, that is cool,” said Ethan. “I know,” I replied, and we continued to walk the dog.
Here in Washington, DC, investments in policies and programs aimed at improving air quality, energy efficiency, transportation alternatives, and a host of other urban sustainability measures have been building over the past decade, initiated by one mayor, sustained and expanded by the next, an institutionalized by yet the next. Through the tenures of four mayors, and into today through the ongoing commitment of Mayor Muriel Bowser, Washington has emerged from an urban sustainability backwater to among the most heralded leaders of the movement in America.
Through their commitment to local sustainability, local elected leaders and the people who work for them are building legacies in their cities. Legacies founded on hard work, tough choices, and smart investments, and sustained – one mayor to the next – by the understanding that handing over a more prosperous, more livable and efficient, and cleaner city to our children is a small but meaningful part of saving the world.
But just as important as the policies and programs we advance are the conversations we have about what it means to live in cleaner and healthier cities. Conversations like this one, spurred by a simple decal on a police cruiser, that drew a police officer, my son, and myself into a moment where we could all agree that small actions add up to big changes. Conversations, like this one, where the ambition of saving the world can be summed up in a small, simple, round window decal on a police car.
Unfortunately, my son is still a bit confused about what his father does for a living.
Now he thinks I’m an auto mechanic.
Does your city have an investment fund? Do city workers have a pension? The chances are that you answered yes to both of these questions. It is also likely that at least some of those investment dollars are tied up in the fossil fuel industry. One way to make a statement of support for climate action is to simply rearrange where your city’s investment dollars go.
The divestment movement has been used successfully in the past as a means of prompting change by targeting a commodity valued by multiple sectors. In a word, money. Throughout the United States, universities have been on the forefront of the divestment movement in their effort to adjust investment strategies regarding climate change. By reshuffling investments, endowments, and funds away from fossil fuel companies, universities are making a powerful statement about their values, with a powerful tool, money.
Cities are now adopting this strategy. Mayor Frank Jensen of Copenhagen, put it best: “it’s clear that public money should no longer be going towards fossil fuel companies. The decision to stop investments in fossil fuels will put Copenhagen on the right side of history.” And other cities are following suit.
A growing number of cities are reevaluating how they can make a difference on climate, and divestment offers a clear step in the right direction. To find out more about collaborating with city and community leaders, check out the resources and join Path to Positive Communities!
Yesterday, Copenhagen’s finance committee agreed to move forward on a proposal by the mayor to divest the fossil fuel holdings of the city’s 6.9bn kroner (€920m) investment fund. Detailed proposals for implementation will now be developed and taken to Copenhagen Council for final decision.
Mayor Frank Jensen told the Danish newspaper Dagbladet Information:
“Copenhagen is at the forefront of world cities in the green transition, and we are working hard to become the world’s first CO2 neutral capital in 2025. Therefore it seems totally wrong for the municipality to still be investing in oil, coal and gas. We must change that.”
Bold action is underway in New England. States throughout the region have begun weighing options for meeting clean energy goals, and everything is on the table. The goal: signing long-term contracts for renewable energy generation that will fundamentally transform where and how New England gets its power.
So far, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut are considering 51 new proposals that would contribute up to 600 megawatts of power to the region. The projects will provide cleaner power, but will also contribute beneficial side effects for local communities. New infrastructure, maintenance, and operations jobs will need to be filled, providing stable, well paying jobs for residents. Construction expenses will also pour millions of dollars into cities, and are expected to boost local economies.
Climate solutions are being implemented at every level of government, and the actions by leaders in New England illustrate how collaboration is a key to success. By developing bold action plans, city, regional and state officials can make measurable progress on climate, and simultaneously benefit their communities. Find out how you can lead in your community by checking out Path to Positive Communities!
Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut have dozens of proposals to consider as they look for enough additional electricity for tens of thousands of homes to meet their clean energy goals.
All told, 51 proposals need to be vetted in coming months as the three states look to sign long-term contracts for electricity from wind turbines, dams and solar projects, said Matthew Beaton, secretary of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
"There's a lot of competition out there and that's exactly what we were trying to accomplish," Beaton said. "It's a very encouraging sign to see such interest."
The three states are seeking up to 600 megawatts of power, roughly the amount of electricity once produced by the now-defunct Vermont Yankee Power.
As the price of oil reaches record lows, President Obama has announced a new plan that would tax oil to pay for the latest in renewable transportation technologies. The $10 per barrel fee would raise more than $300 billion, and would target developments in mass transit, rail, and self-driving vehicles. Albeit a federal program, the new policy would have significant effects on local communities and cities.
One of the greatest challenges for mayors is finding the funds in already tight city budgets to invest in renewable technologies, even when long term planning would save their city money. The influx of federal dollars could help alleviate these difficulties, however, quick action by the federal government seems unlikely.
With a divided congress, the passage of the President’s plan will prove difficult, yet mayors may still use this announcement as an opportunity. Community and city leaders can take the Obama Administration’s announcement and use it as a springboard for climate discourse with residents. Identifying areas where climate action can be undertaken, and targeting attractive solutions should begin today, and an announcement of a new federal program may provide a needed spark for communities to converse about climate action.
An oil fee at the federal level could transform the transportation industry throughout the country. Mayors should work with federal and state officials to this end, but also begin to boldly act in their communities. Get to work on climate solutions in your city by joining Path to Positive Communities today!
President Barack Obama is about to unveil an ambitious plan for a “21st century clean transportation system.” And he hopes to fund it with a tax on oil.
Obama aides told POLITICO that when he releases his final budget request next week, the president will propose more than $300 billion worth of investments over the next decade in mass transit, high-speed rail, self-driving cars, and other transportation approaches designed to reduce carbon emissions and congestion. To pay for it all, Obama will call for a $10 “fee” on every barrel of oil, a surcharge that would be paid by oil companies but would presumably be passed along to consumers.
There is no real chance that the Republican-controlled Congress will embrace Obama’s grand vision of climate-friendly mobility in an election year—especially after passing a long-stalled bipartisan highway bill just last year—and his aides acknowledge it’s mostly an effort to jump-start a conversation about the future of transportation. But by raising the specter of new taxes on fossil fuels, it could create a political quandary for Democrats. The fee could add as much as 25 cents a gallon to the cost of gasoline, and even with petroleum prices at historic lows, the proposal could be particularly awkward for Hillary Clinton, who has embraced most of Obama’s policies but has also vowed to oppose any tax hikes on families earning less than $250,000 a year.
In Massachusetts this week, state and local leaders rolled out plans to make renewable technologies available to all residents. Traditionally, renewable and clean energy systems have been cost prohibitive for many Americans—available only to the more affluent communities and residents. However, the new initiative will provide hundreds of solar and thermal-heating systems to working class families throughout the state where they are needed the most, and can do the most good.
The new plan brings together resources from both federal and state government sources, totaling $15 million. The money will target investments in solar generation, and thermal heating systems, and promises to yield a multitude of benefits for areas typically overlooked in community action on climate. The investments will pay off by creating cleaner, healthier environments for residents to live and raise families, will drive down costs of electricity and heating, and may provide a much needed boost to local economies.
State and local leaders in Massachusetts are showing how to lead the way on advancing climate solutions. Their work speaks to a greater emphasis on climate justice—bringing renewables to working class communities.
LOWELL — Gov. Charlie Baker unveiled a $15 million initiative Tuesday aimed at creating hundreds of solar panel and renewable thermal-heating systems over the next several years to supply energy to low- and moderate-income households.
As an energy source for homes, renewables have traditionally been the reserve of well-to-do families and developers due to the large upfront costs required to install the systems. The initiative will allow more working families access to the cost-saving and environmental benefits of those technologies, Baker said.
"People struggling to get by, people struggling to pay their bills, people struggling to pay their rent ought to be able to participate more fully in the commonwealth's clean-energy economy," he said.
Developing and implementing an ambitious climate action plan can be a difficult, and often expensive, endeavor for small cities. Identifying possible solutions and mobilizing resources to effectively advance climate solutions can often seem out of reach, and as though the costs outweigh the benefits. However, sometimes there are simple steps that even the most cash-strapped cities can fall back on.
In New England, facilitated by a federal resource developed by the Environmental Protection Agency, cities are now able to network with one another more effectively and easily than ever. Dubbed “Resilience and Adaptation in New England,” or RAINE, the online database connects 100 communities throughout greater New England. The aim of the program is to create a platform where community leaders can connect, learn from the experiences of other cities, and share their successes, and failures.
The program offers mayors an invaluable resource to determine climate action plans that may or may not work in their area. Rather than sinking resources into an ineffective solution, or learning by trial and error, communities can act with an increased confidence that their investments will pay off.
Mayors and elected officials are leading the way on climate action. By collaborating, connecting, and learning from neighboring cities, mayors are able to target their efforts and implement the most effective solutions. These actions lead to healthier communities, cleaner environments, and more attractive neighborhoods for families and residents. Connect with leaders in your area by joining Path to Positive Communities!
By Curt Spalding | EPA | February 2, 2016
Over the past several years I have witnessed New England communities grapple with challenges that are likely indicators of our changing climate. The sea is creeping into parking lots at high tide in low-lying Rhode Island. The Cape Cod National Seashore rebuilds access to beaches as the sea eats away dunes that have loomed for centuries. After Tropical Storm Irene, we saw Vermont communities helping each other and their state recover from the damage.
As more and more communities deal with rising sea levels, increased coastal erosion, seasonal changes, more intense and frequent storms, flooding, heat waves, public health threats, and threats to native species, I am often asked “What advice does EPA have? Who has already begun addressing these problems?”
I’m proud that our office has just launched an online resource to further help New England communities navigate how to respond to climate change. This resource, called RAINE (it stands for “Resilience and Adaptation in New England,”) is full of links, documents and information on how more than 100 New England communities are taking action to adapt to climate change.
Mayors are always seeking the newest solutions to advance climate action in their communities. While attractive, the latest in solar, wind, and increased efficiencies come at a cost, and may be prohibitively expensive for many municipalities. However, there is good news. Researchers from some of the nation’s top universities have concluded that massive emission cuts are already possible with existing technologies.
The solution lies in investing in a smart grid, connecting excess energy supplies to locations with increased demand. By coupling a national or regional smart grid with local and state renewable generation, researchers estimate that it is possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80% below 1990 levels within 15 years. What's more, is that such a system would decrease the costs of electricity, and lower energy bills for families.
Leadership from communities, cities, and states will drive collaboration and can provide the needed spark for a national smart grid. By investing in renewable infrastructure, collaborating with adjacent cities and regions, and working to update the electricity grid—mayors can play an important role. The first step in this undertaking is to join with equally committed climate leaders. Find out more about how you can help, and visit Path to Positive Communities!
By Tim Radford | Climate Change News | February 1, 2016
The US could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation by 80% below 1990 levels within 15 years just by using renewable sources such as wind and solar energy, according to a former government research chief.
The nation could do this using only technologies available right now, and by introducing a national grid system connected by high voltage direct current (HVDC) that could get the power without loss to those places that needed it most, when they needed it.
This utopian vision – and it has been dreamed at least twice before by researchers in Delaware and in Stanford, California – comes directly from a former chief of research in a US government agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Dr Alexander MacDonald, a distinguished meteorologist, was until recently, the head of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado.
Communities throughout the country and the world are beginning to take bold action on climate. The effort to implement meaningful climate action plans cuts across sectors, and relies upon leaders from business, health, higher education, communities and faith. This effort was reflected in a recent event, which brought together such leaders.
On September 24-25, 2015, Blessed Tomorrow, with our partners Convergence, Washington National Cathedral, Auburn Seminary, Faith in Public Life, and Interfaith Power and Light DC, brought together Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other national leaders to an extraordinary event called Coming Together in Faith on Climate. Together, we amplified Pope Francis’ call for climate action for a more just and sustainable world.
Speakers and participants included:
These faith leaders, from across the country, helped Americans, many for the first time, hear why climate change is a moral issue that requires action because of its impact on the poor, our neighbors, and the least of these.
Leaders stood before the pulpit and spoke with conviction and commitment, often speaking directly to other leaders, encouraging them to join the climate efforts. In a world often filled with religious turmoil, it was heartening to listen to Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders all come together around this very important cause, so much so, that we decided to put together a short edited video of some of the most poignant of the talks.
The hope is that these videos will inspire you, providing spiritual sustenance as we continue our journey together. Please remember to share these videos with your audience so that we may grow our outreach and continue to empower all leaders to act for the climate.
As 2016 unfolds, it's important that we continue to grow this message if we hope to fulfill the promise of Paris. Faith leadership will continue to be a vital part of this for, as Pope Francis said, the world, “…must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it.”
The moral message on climate change expounded during the Coming Together in Faith on Climate dialogue, reflects a larger conversation among global faith leaders. 2015 saw a groundbreaking number of those faith leaders announce formal declarations on climate change, propelling the faith and climate discussion forward.
Speaking as a unified voice with other faith leaders such as Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Pope Francis’ Encyclical, Laudato Si, along with his historic addresses to the United Nations and U.S. Congress, solidified the climate as a critical issue. Here are a few of 2015’s climate declarations from faith leaders around the world, that shared in this concern for our common home.
Many of these declarations and statements were followed by a further commitment to reduce fossil fuel holdings. Divestment became an essential component in demonstrating how religious institutions may reduce their dependency on fossil fuels; joining hospitals, businesses, pension funds, and universities in committing to divest a combined $3.4 trillion, amounting to a 70-fold increase in 15 months.
2015 was a great year for climate change, and leaders must keep the momentum moving forward. The leaders that came together for Coming Together in Faith on Climate, represent one key element for developing and implementing climate solutions. Mayors and community leaders must follow suit, and continue to push for meaningful solutions and to motivate Americans to act on climate.
Check out these videos and please remember to share them with your friends on social media.
As residents on the east coast recover from the record snowfall of winter storm Jonas, the usual suspects are in full force claiming that cold weather is evidence enough that climate change is a myth. In a series of new reports published by climate deniers, data is repeatedly misinterpreted, misrepresented, and simply misreported.
However, mayors and community leaders are more aware than ever of the true costs of climate, and are not dissuaded from acting. Politicos in Washington DC dismiss the environmental and human costs of climate action at a time when urgent leadership is needed. Climate change is a problem created by human action, and will be solved by bold action. Current models call for 80-100% reductions in fossil fuel emissions over the next few decades, and mayors are getting to work.
In cities throughout the country, mayors are working diligently to protect the communities they represent from the consequences of a changing climate. But more importantly, they are embracing the many benefits of developing and implementing climate action plans: bringing in stable, well paying jobs, developing programs that decongest city streets, increasing energy efficiency, and making communities healthier places for residents to live and raise families.
As various parts of the nation recover from the fallout of last weekend’s massive blizzard, the three feet of snow that winter storm Jonas dumped in parts of West Virginia and Maryland are prompting many to revisit the debate over the merits of climate change. In a recent editorial in The Wall Street Journal, in particular, the CATO Institute’s Patrick Michaels makes a number of scientifically inaccurate statements, whether about humans contributing to climate change, El Nino’s role in 2015’s record heat, the sensitivity of climate to greenhouse gases, or the connection between extreme weather and climate change.
Michaels opens with a description of temperatures, the warming of which peer-reviewed studies have repeatedly found to be caused by human emissions. The latest study, published Monday, finds that the odds of 14 of the 16 warmest years on record all occurring after 2000, would be one in 300,000 were it not for human-made warming. This is just one of many independent lines of evidence that human activity — namely the burning of fossil fuels — contributes significantly to warming.
Mayors and community leaders have traditionally focused their efforts at building and maintaining infrastructure, implementing new programs, and working with residents to improve the quality of life for city dwellers. So often, these improvements are complex, but from time to time, simple solutions prove to be most effective.
One such example is highlighted by a recent study, finding that simply bringing nature back into the city can have some remarkable effects. These include decreasing stress levels for residents and workers, who report feeling happier and healthier as a consequence of more parks and green spaces.
But that’s not all. In some major world cities, where greening is already underway, mayors and city leaders are discovering some unintended economic benefits. In Melbourne, for instance, city leaders report that urban greening supports the city’s economy, “providing cooling and amenity which supports the pedestrian economy and reduces operating costs for local businesses."
Green spaces benefit the economy, the lives of residents and families, health, and the climate—and should be part of every mayor’s climate action plan. Simple and effective climate and city solutions like this are also a political winner. Expand your climate action toolkit by checking out the great resources at Path to Positive Communities!
People are biologically wired to need to be close to nature, with more green open spaces and roof gardens needed to support their wellbeing, a new study says.
A lack of access to greenery could play a role in stress and overall poor health, with experts calling on architects and urban planners to provide more green, open spaces in built-up areas.
Curtin University professor Peter Newman, author of the paper Biophilic Architecture: Rationale and Outcomes, said including vegetation as part of building design has been absent in many cities and needs to be given more prominence.
In an effort to address the growing problem of traffic, and the prohibitive costs of expanding roads and infrastructure, mayors are now nudging residents to take up cycling. The transition from horsepower to pedal power helps save cities money, improves communities, and proves to be an effective climate solution.
The advantages of converting drivers into cyclists in cities are many, and mayors are taking note. In a recent survey released by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, researchers found that mayors, from both sides of the aisle are warming up to expanding bike access in lieu of parking lots and expanded city streets. Cities already implementing these policies are finding some encouraging results. Improved land values due to pedestrian accessibility, vibrant, less congested downtowns and lowered automobile speeds all make cities more enjoyable places to live & work.
The consequences of a changing climate are complex, and must be addressed across multiple sectors of the economy, and multiple levels of government. Sometimes though, the solutions at the local level can be simple, low cost, and effective. Learn more about climate solutions and becoming a leader in your community by joining Path to Positive Communities.
By Michael Andersen | People for Bikes | January 26, 2016
Road space needs to come from somewhere. And with the nation's infrastructure budgets buckling under road maintenance costs, there's growing consensus that ever-wider roads are infeasible.
Instead, a large and bipartisan majority of U.S. mayors agree, cities should be taking the opposite approach: making their entire systems more space-efficient, cost-effective and economically productive by adding bike facilities in place of extra passing lanes or on-street parking spaces.
That's according to the 2015 Menino Survey of Mayors, released this week by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
The survey was of 89 mayors from "cities of all sizes and affluence."
Mayors have been playing an increasingly important role in the fight against climate change: implementing bold climate action plans that enlarge green spaces, improve access to public transportation, transition to clean energy, and facilitate green job growth. However, mayors cannot act alone, and some elements of climate change must be addressed at the federal level. Rather than waiting for a federal response, mayors are now pressuring presidential candidates to clearly state how they would take on climate change if elected.
This development in the role of mayors is especially prominent in South Florida, where 15 mayors have formed a coalition to “discuss the risks facing Florida communities due to climate change and help us chart a path forward to protect our state and the entire United States."
The group of mayors includes democrats, independents, and republicans—representing the bipartisan nature of climate action. The mayors have targeted candidates Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, believing that the Florida roots of these candidates will make them feel more compelled to respond.
These mayors represent a growing number of elected officials that are no longer willing to stand idly by as their cities suffer the consequences of climate change. If you would like to take a stand and learn how to influence change for your city, check out the resources and join with climate leaders at Path to Positive Communities.
Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush have given little priority to climate change on the Republican presidential campaign trail, and a group of South Florida mayors have had enough.
Fifteen mayors from cities in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties wrote the two Miami candidates a letter asking them to meet with local leaders to "discuss the risks facing Florida communities due to climate change and help us chart a path forward to protect our state and the entire United States."
"As mayors representing municipalities across Florida, we call on you to acknowledge the reality and urgency of climate change and to address the upcoming crisis it presents our communities," both letters begin. "Our cities and towns are already coping with the impacts of climate change today. We will need leadership and concrete solutions from our next president."
On the heels of some of the hottest years on record, political leaders around the world are finally waking up to the necessity of taking bold action on climate. 2015 had some banner achievements: the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan, defeating the Keystone XL Pipeline, and the COP21 Paris agreements were only a few of the major victories. However, much of the work on climate, which gets less attention, is being rolled out in cities. Mayors and city leaders are showing that advancing solutions at the local level is good for communities, and good for the climate.
Actions at the local level are as diverse as the locations, residents and communities that define those cities. However, three cities in particular prove to be shining examples for both the differences in approaches, and common experiences of success.
In Portland, city officials have tightened regulations on fossil fuel transportation within city limits. Community leaders and residents have implemented bold recycling and composting programs, and there is a growing shift to public transportation and cycling over cars. Vancouver, a city of over 600,000 residents, has committed to becoming 100% powered by renewable energy by 2050, and has implemented a bold action plan to achieve this. In Stockholm, city leaders have slashed per capita greenhouse emissions by almost half, and will be fossil fuel free by 2040.
These cities have all committed to bold action. They have also seen the benefits from getting serious about climate solutions. In each of these cities, economies have boomed, and all have experienced remarkable job growth. Climate solutions, as these city leaders have recognized, bring community benefits.
Portland, Stockholm, Vancouver and a growing number of cities around the globe, of all sizes, are making a commitment to develop and implement ambitious climate action plans. The most important work on climate is being done at the local level—and the benefits are shared. Cities see economic growth, residents have happier and healthier places to live and raise families, there is greater access to stable, well paying jobs. And the environment benefits. These initiatives represent serious progress in addressing the sources and consequences of climate change, and leaders like you are now needed to act. Find out how to take part, and lead your city on the Path to Positive Communities.
This week, NOAA and NASA announced that 2015 was the hottest year on record globally, by a wide margin. Earlier this month, NOAA reported that 2015 was the second hottest year on record in the United States, driving increasingly costly and frequent extreme weather events. Local record high temperatures are now commonplace (see Climate Nexus' local record temperatures tracking tool here).
That's the bad news — bad news that, we can be sure, will continue coming until we collectively do something serious about it. But here's the good news: We as a global community are starting to get serious about doing something about it.
The world's leading cities have been working to alleviate climate change for a while now. The cities that make up the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance like Portland, Stockholm and Vancouver have committed to working to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent or more by 2050 or sooner, the most aggressive greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets undertaken by any cities across the globe.
Elected officials and climate leaders in New York just took a major step in committing to climate solutions. Their plan: to invest $5 billion into the clean and renewable energy sectors over the next ten years. In a move spearheaded by the state’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, and approved by the Public Service Commission, the funding is expected to bring the state up to $29 billion in additional private sector financing.
The surge in funding will target investments in wind and solar power infrastructure, redoubling efforts to improve energy efficiency, and will modernize the state’s electricity grid. The climate action plan will help drive down New York's green house gas emissions, helping the State to accrue half its energy from renewables by 2030.
New York is showing that through strong political leadership, meaningful climate action is possible. With a $5 billion dollar investment, city officials will bring in exponential private sector financing and funding—multiplying the climate impacts. Equally important will be the many benefits to residents throughout the state. Cleaner energy production and reduced emissions can drive down electricity bills, create healthier communities for families, and provide new stable, high paying jobs.
New York will invest $5 billion in clean energy over a decade under a plan Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Thursday.
The funding approved by the New York State Public Service Commission will help attract as much as $29 billion in additional private sector financing, according to a statement. Consumers already pay a surcharge for clean energy investment, and that will decrease as part of the new commitment, according to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, which will administer the fund.
With constant competition for scarce resources, the development and implementation of bold climate action plans can be a difficult endeavor for city leaders. One solution to this problem is to focus on solutions, which rely less on resources, and more on changing the behavior of residents. Some cities around the globe have begun to experiment with this concept by nudging their residents towards cycling rather than driving.
Transportation accounts for over a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions—much of that coming from vehicle exhaust in some of the world’s biggest cities. To address this problem, cities large and small are collaborating to nudge people to use alternative forms of transportation that are less expensive, require less infrastructure, and have a decreased carbon footprint. Options that cities are now considering range from more busses and shuttles, to greater networks of subways. However, one option that is particularly attractive is encouraging residents to make the switch to bicycles.
Getting residents to change their behavior may be free, and may seem like a silver bullet. However, the process is a tall order, and nudging residents to trade their BMWs for bikes will require strong leadership. To help mayors and city leaders promote more cycling in their communities, ecoAmerica has conducted important research on how to communicate about climate change. Community leaders should focus on how less cars will reduce harmful pollutants, and will improve the health of their city and the health of families. Fewer cars will decongest city streets, and therefore commute times. In short, it will have a real impact on improving the lives of city residents.
Mayors and community leaders must act to promote these climate solutions. Find out how by visiting Path to Positive Communities.
Home to more than half of the planet’s 7 billion people and a large portion of its 1.2bn cars, cities face a huge challenge as the world strives to meet the Paris climate goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. Cutting emissions in cities is critical: they make up only 2% of the world’s total land area, but produce up to 70% of its climate emissions from human activity, according to a 2011 United Nations report.
As they work to reduce emissions, governments and public agencies – which often lack the resources to tackle the weighty global warming problem alone – are increasingly looking to the private sector for help, says Robert Puentes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program thinktank.
“Tackling climate change – particularly from a transportation perspective – will require these kinds of partnerships largely because traditional governments and public agencies are underperforming,” Puentes said. “The public sector often does not have the capacity or expertise to design, finance, execute and sustain policies that work, so these partnerships are helping fill the vacuum with a new kind of problem solving.”
As mayors and community leaders work to implement climate solutions, one of the greatest challenges is communicating with residents about the need to take action. To facilitate local government officials in their climate action, researchers have identified key strategies for talking about climate, as is outlined in ecoAmerica’s latest report Let’s Talk Climate. However, talking about climate is only one element, visuals are another. A recent report has now developed some key guidelines for choosing the most effective visuals for climate communication.
When considering which images to use, local leaders need to simply reflect on the families, residents, and citizens that make up their community. After all, mayors represent people, not polar bears. And the images that they choose should reflect the human side of climate change. The report outlines 5 key takeaways:
Mayors and local leaders need to be up to date on the most effective methods for communicating about climate change. Images can be a powerful way to communicate, and any resource to expand the climate communication toolkit for elected and local leaders should be utilized. To access resources and join with other climate leaders, visit Path to Positive Communities and begin to lead your city in the right direction!
According to the old saying, a picture is worth a 1,000 words. If that’s true, then ranks of chimneys, melting glaciers, flooded towns, wind turbines, solar panels and polar bears are a big part of the climate change story we’re telling ourselves. All without knowing what they mean to the people that view them.
Back in the 1980s, green activists created the idea of associating climate change with images of polar bears. It was a clever move; research shows that we’re more likely to respond to pictures of one or two affected individuals in trouble than a crowd – the so-called ‘identifiable victim’ effect – and polar bears tend to be photographed singly or in pairs. We instinctively respond to their plight on the melting ice.
But a few decades later, the polar bear picture is a cliche, and the iconography of climate change feels stuck. Day by day journalists, activists, bloggers and educators face the problem of how to communicate climate change visually, with little practical help available. The difficulty of the choice reflect the tensions in climate change communication as a whole – an issue many perceive as intangible and abstract, simultaneously frightening and far away.
Mayors and city leaders are constantly searching for new and innovative ways to bring climate solutions to their communities. Grand Junction, Colorado is a standout, particularly for its investment in transforming the city’s sewage into usable power. And so far, the investment is paying off.
A newly constructed wastewater treatment plant helps transform million of gallons of human waste into enough power to fuel the city’s entire automotive fleet—including busses, street sweepers, garbage and dump trucks. The technology has been used for decades through a variety of applications, but Grand Junction is among the first in the nation to specifically use the power to fuel vehicles.
The treatment plant has exceeded the expectations of critics. The plant currently generates the equivalent of 460 gallons of gasoline per day, and by not having to spend this money on fuel, the treatment plant will pay for itself in as few as seven years. There will also be significant cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. The utility estimates 60-80 percent reductions in emissions from the methane that would otherwise be burnt as excess runoff.
Mayors throughout the country can follow the lead being paved by Grand Junction. A recent report by Energy Vision has identified over 8,000 farms, 17,000 wastewater facilities and nearly 2,000 landfills across America, which could be utilized for similar waste-energy production. To facilitate this expansion, mayors and community leaders must work with residents to pursue investments in this new technology. To collaborate with mayors on similar climate solutions, get connected by joining Path to Positive Communities.
No matter how you spin it, the business of raw sewage isn’t sexy. But in Colorado, the city of Grand Junction is making huge strides to reinvent their wastewater industry – and the result is like finding a diamond in the sludge.
The Persigo Wastewater Treatment Plant is processing 8m gallons of Grand Junction’s human waste into renewable natural gas (RNG), also known as biomethane. The RNG is then used to fuel about 40 fleet vehicles, including garbage trucks, street sweepers, dump trucks and transit buses.
It’s possible through a process called anaerobic digestion, which breaks down organic matter into something called raw biogas. The biogas is then collected and upgraded to RNG – at pipeline quality – and can be used as electricity, heat or transportation fuel.
Mayors across the country are charged with the difficult task of bringing jobs to residents, building up infrastructure, and providing a healthy environment for families. However, too often, the solutions to these challenges are at odds with one another—and bringing in new industries may come at the cost of environmental degradation. While there is never a perfect solution to any problem, solar power promises viable opportunities to cities.
Prices for solar power infrastructure have sunk over the last decade, and will continue to decline as new technologies emerge. Because of this, investing in solar has become an increasingly attractive opportunity for cities, as they seek to bring in clean energy, and boost their local economy. While still accounting for only 1% of the nation’s energy generation, solar last year created 1 of every 83 new jobs, and has grown by 123% over the last five years. These are jobs that are well paying, stable, and must be filled by hard-working Americans.
Mayors and local government leaders must facilitate the expansion of the solar industry in their communities. Through tax credits for homeowners to install solar panels, to working with local utilities and community solar programs, local leaders can play an important role in building the industry. The actions of mayors can help empower communities to produce their own electricity, slash energy bills, boost local economies, and facilitate the transition away from dirty fossil fuels. Find out how to make a difference by joining Path to Positive Communities.
The US energy and climate debate has long been framed as a competition between jobs and the environment. It’s the high-polluting energy sources that buoy national employment figures, the standard thinking goes, while clean power does little to promote economic growth.
That dynamic is changing. As the price of solar power continues to plummet – and the costs of extracting oil, gas, and coal continue to rise – solar is emerging as a significant job creator in a shifting energy economy.
To be sure, solar accounts for less than 1 percent of the country’s total energy mix. Taken together, fossil fuels power most of the economy and support a sprawling labor force from coast to coast. Still, one out of every 83 new jobs created economy-wide in 2015 was in the solar industry, according to a report released this week by the Solar Foundation, a nonprofit research organization based in Washington. In 2015 the solar energy sector employed 208,859 people, adding 35,052 new jobs from the year before, on par with the level of growth of the previous two years.
This week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, in his state of the state address, announced an ambitious new plan to slash fossil fuel emissions in the state, and reinvest in renewables. The aim of the plan is to quickly phase out coal power generation, and replace it with green energy—like solar and wind. It is incumbent upon mayors to push regional and state leaders to follow the example being set by these climate leaders.
New York has long been a leader in advancing climate solutions, and this new policy marks yet another important step forward. The Governor, and more specifically, the communities directly adjacent to coal-fired power plants, expect to see immediate benefits from the transition to renewables. These include economic benefits, new high paying jobs, a cleaner community for families and children, and a decrease in the health risks associated with coal pollutants.
New York’s commitment to transition away from coal by 2020 marks an extremely ambitious plan by state and local leaders. By proposing bold action and aggressively working for their implementation, these climate leaders are ensuring a more robust economy in renewables, better paying and stable jobs, healthier communities for families, and a cleaner climate. These are selling points that cut across party lines, and are political winners. What is required is taking that first step and committing to act on climate. Mayors must push regional and state leaders to follow the example of New York, and phase out coal in their state. To find out how to get started, check out the resources, and join with other leaders, at Path to Positive Communities!
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Wednesday he aims to phase out coal-fired power plants in the state by 2020.
Cuomo announced the goal in his state of the state address, pushing to bring more green energy to New York and reduce its carbon pollution.
"We will help the few remaining coal plants transition but we must clean our air and protect our health and that must be our first priority," he said.
New York only gets about 1.3 percent of its electricity from coal, according to the federal Energy Information Administration. Greens and Democrats welcomed his Wednesday pledge to zero that figure out.
“Today, Gov. Cuomo has shifted New York’s focus from the energy of the past to the energy of the future,” Lisa Dix, the New York senior director for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, said in a statement.
What do the rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline, development and implementation of the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan (CPP), and the Paris Climate Negotiations all have in common? Each of these marks a bold step forward in addressing fossil fuel emissions and slowing the pace of climate change. They were accomplished through ambitious leadership by mayors, community leaders, and concerned citizens and through complex organizational and political processes. However, while such climate actions are critical components of the overall long term plan, there are more simple steps that mayors in cities large and small can take now. And the potency of these steps rival some of the greatest climate accomplishments.
The solution: plant more trees. One of the most under appreciated elements of addressing climate change is the ability to naturally sequester CO2 emissions. At present, America’s forests are able to annually capture up to 15% of the country’s emissions—a number that rivals what can be accomplished by the Paris agreement and the CPP. By planting more trees, more CO2 can be sequestered, not to mention a host of secondary benefits that are tremendously important to climate solutions.
Cities are subject to higher temperatures due to heat energy that is stored in concrete, buildings, and infrastructure. This effect requires greater energy use to regulate temperatures, and more resources to increase building efficiency to mitigate such effects. Urban forests offer a simple, natural solution. By investing in urban forest programs, mayors and city leaders can help drive down the energy bills for businesses, industry, and residents by providing more shade canopy and decreasing the “urban heat island effect.” More city trees increase property values, and drive up wages for residents. There is also evidence to suggest that more trees lead to greater mental health, a higher quality of life, and even better performing students.
Planting more trees and investing in urban forests is a political and climate winner for mayors. Residents, businesses, industry, and the climate all benefit when mayors take action and make urban forest programs a prioritized role in their climate action plan. For more information on how to collaborate on climate solutions in your city, visit Path to Positive Communities.
Quick, name a climate solution for cities which helps lower carbon emissions, protects vulnerable people who live there, and even helps students get better grades.
Give up? The answer is urban forests and you're not alone if you didn't come up with the answer. After all, most of us see the trees woven into our city streets and parks as just a pretty, cinematic backdrop for urban life. Nice to look at, certainly, but not profoundly important when compared to better mass transit and other steps cities can take to help fight climate change.
The strong recognition in the final Paris climate agreement or trees and forests of every kind, from cities to wilderness, is starting to change this perception.
2015 was a banner year for climate action. The Clean Power Plan, the Paris Agreement, and a number of local and state actions throughout the country proved that leaders are finally getting serious about climate change. However, many elected officials throughout the US have stalled, and have sought to halt climate action at every step. That all may be changing
In a recent poll conducted by a major GOP donor, researchers were confronted with some suprising results. They found that a majority of republican respondents, and a majority of self identified conservatives, believe that climate change is real, and that action is needed. Furthermore, the respondents expressed support for a carbon tax under certain conditions, believe that utilities must transition to renewable energy generation, and are in favor of facilitating policies that make solar investments more obtainable for homeowners.
These shifts in political and policy preferences are inline with traditional conservative tenants that embrace the value of choice, independence and fiscal responsibility. Mayors and climate leaders from both sides of the aisle should embrace these changing opinions, and find ways to facilitate to dismantle the idea that climate action is a politically divisive issue. All Americans support healthier environments for their families, better paying and stable jobs for workers, more robust local economies, cheaper energy bills, and a thriving natural environment. It is up to bold, decisive leadership to now develop bipartisan climate action plans that reflect these shared goals. Find out how you can be part of the solution by visiting Path to Positive Communities.
If you’re an American environmentalist, it’s hard not to feel a little bit hopeless.
Just look at Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe sneaking a snowball to the Senate floor to taunt IPCC scientists, at presidential candidate Ted Cruz’s climate denial hearing (featuring Exxon-funded research, naturally) or at Donald Trump’s tweet that global warming is a ploy to weaken American manufacturing competitiveness relative to China’s.
The conservative conversation on climate seems to be moving backwards at full speed. With Republicans in control of 246 out of 435 seats in the House of Representatives– a number that’s unlikely to change significantly any time soon— passage of a meaningful climate law seems like an incredibly tall order. Even if Democrats do retake the House in the near future (something most pollsters consider nearly impossible), the math of legislative procedure — including a 60-vote threshold for most measures in the Senate —would make it extremely difficult to pass a serious climate bill with only Democratic support. Just look at the failure of the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade billjust after Obama’s 2008 Democratic wave.
In communities throughout the country, mayors and regional leaders have pushed hard to facilitate a transition to renewable energies—like solar and wind. Some of their greatest impediments to this shift come from locally operating utilities. However, in a statewide effort to slash fossil fuel emissions, lawmakers and utilities have collaborated on a bold new set of policies.
Recent legislation proposed before the Oregon legislature calls for a phase out of coal-fired power by 2030. And the legislation has the support of utilities. Affecting the state’s two largest energy providers, the new policy will serve two functions: to drastically cut emissions, and to refocus investment dollars into clean, renewable energy. Details of the legislation were negotiated by officials from the utilities, multiple environmental groups, and policy makers. It marked a truly collaborative effort, and a win-win for all of those involved.
Including major players from industry, the environment, and communities and government, the negotiations let each interest feel included and pivotal to the process. Utilities were able to have a say in the timeline for transitioning to renewables and eliminating their primary source of generation. Environmental groups were able to help set new renewable energy targets. Lawmakers facilitating the process were able to implement a measured transition—ensuring that electricity rates won't increase for their residents. And finally, the plan empowers communities. Investments in renewables provide good, stable, high paying jobs. They boost local economies, increase the health of residents, and provide cleaner, greener places for families.
Oregon proves that collaboration on advancing climate solutions is the key to implementing successful action. The benefits are spread throughout multiple sectors, and ultimately communities and the environment are the greatest benefactors. To find out how to lead solutions like those taking place in Oregon, visit Path to Positive Communities.
Oregon utilities have agreed to support a bill that would phase out coal-fired power in Oregon by 2030.
The agreement follows negotiations with the backers of a proposed ballot measure that set the same target fo