Despite what deniers say, climate change is real and it is scary. According to a recently released analysis, St. Louis, Missouri could face heat waves every other year similar to the Chicago 1995 heat wave that killed hundreds of people. Low-lying countries, like the Polynesian island of Tuvalu, could be under water. Climate change increases the chances that the Colorado River reservoirs could be depleted by the middle of this century.
While the Senate wrangles over climate change legislation, many U.S. cities have climate change action plans in place and are working to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. I recently came across articles about two U.S. cities which are implementing projects to help them meet their emissions reduction targets: Phoenix and Philadelphia.
America’s neighbor to the north is leaps and bounds ahead in reducing GHG emissions. Canada has a climate change action plan with emission reduction targets of 20 percent from 2006 levels by 2020, and 60 to 70 percent by 2050. Canada also set a goal of meeting 90 percent of its energy needs from “non-emitting sources.” The British Columbian city of Vancouver is one of the leading green cities in North America.
Vancouver: the leading green city in North America
Vancouver receives 90 percent of its energy from renewable sources. In 2003, Vancouver’s City Council approved the following targets for reducing its GHG emissions:
- 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2010
- 6 percent by 2012 (1990 as baseline)
- 33 percent by 2020 (compared to 2007 baseline)
- 80 percent by 2050 (1990 as baseline)
- All new construction in Vancouver be GHG neutral by 2030
Vancouver has a transportation plan that encourages waking, cycling, and taking public transportation. The city has achieved a 44 percent increase in walking, a 180 percent increase in cycling, a 20 percent increase in public transportation use, and a 10 percent reduction in automobile trips since 1997.
Phoenix: Living Like It Matters
The city of Phoenix, Arizona has its own sustainability motto: Living Like It Matters. The desert city began to develop its Climate Action Plan in January 2008 to reduce its GHG emissions from city operations. In December 2008, the City Council approved a resolution adopting the goal to reduce GHG emission from city operations to five percent below 2005 levels by 2015. In addition, the city has the goal that by 2025, 15 percent of the energy used will be from renewable sources.
Philadelphia: Trying to become the greenest U.S. city
Mayor Michael Nutter wants Philadelphia to be the greenest city in America. The city of brotherly love is on its way: it has reduced its GHG emissions 10 percent from 1990 levels, with a goal of reducing emissions 20 percent by 2015. Philadelphia’s plan to achieve its goals consists of four targets:
- Lower city government energy consumption by 30 percent
- Reduce citywide building energy consumption by 10 percent
- Retrofit 15 percent of housing stock with insulation, air sealing and cool roofs
- Purchase and generate 20 percent of electricity used in Philadelphia from alternative energy sources
In June, Philadelphia was awarded $450,000 by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Solar America Cities program to fund innovative solar projects. Twenty-five other cities received the Solar America City designation by the DOE. According to a press release, “Philadelphia, under its Solar America City Partnership, is working to identify and remove barriers to widespread solar development in the city and to help cost effectively meet its solar installation goal.”