Weekly News Roundup: New Plans and Programs Announced
Washington: President Obama announces Climate Action Plan
On Tuesday at Georgetown University President Barack Obama gave a speech outlining his vision for the country’s response to climate change. In his well-crafted call for action, Obama tactfully dismissed skeptics and the question of whether or not to act at all, asking instead ‘whether we have the courage to act before it’s too late’. He also made sure to address the question of economic growth, asserting that ‘a low-carbon clean energy economy can be an engine of growth for decades to come’. Read the full transcript of his speech here.
The primary components the executive vision are reducing carbon pollution, preparing for the impacts of climate change, and being an international leader in cutting carbon emissions. As part of the strategy to reduce carbon pollution, one of Obama’s main directives was for the EPA to complete new carbon pollution standards for new and existing power plants, which are responsible for 40% of America’s carbon pollution. He also asserted that his plan would help America double its clean energy and set important standards for wasting less energy. If you are curious for the specifics and want an idea about the range of policies in the plan, take a look at the entire Climate Action Plan here.
Across the U.S.: More than 50 elected officials sign campaign for resilience
The Resilient Communities for America Agreement is a call for action for the local leaders of America to help America’s cities, towns, and counties to overcome the challenges of extreme weather caused by climate change, unreliable and costly energy, and economic uncertainty. This agreement, signed by mayors of more than 50 cities, includes commitments to reduce the community’s carbon footprint, to transition to a renewable energy future, to implement energy efficiency programs, and to harness innovations in information technology and green infrastructure.
New York: Bloomberg plans to launch composting program
The New York Times has reported that the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg will soon announce that it is hiring a composting plant to handle up to 100,000 tons of food waste a year. Food waste represents the single largest component of municipal solid waste reaching landfills, and is responsible for generating methane- a greenhouse gas much more powerful than carbon dioxide in causing climate change. Working initially on a volunteer basis in homes, schools, and high-rises, the program is expected to become mandatory and expand to the entire city by 2015 or 2016. Ron Gonen, Deputy Sanitation Commissioner for Recycling and Sustainability, was quoted to say that diverting food waste and other organic materials could save the city about $100 million a year.
Shenzhen, China: China’s first carbon market
In the first of 7 city-based carbon trading pilot projects, Shenzhen established a platform allowing businesses to trade permits to emit carbon. Companies are assigned emissions quotas and can sell excess permits to other firms if they emit below their quota. Trading began last week. The plan to open similar projects in other areas of China by the end of this year includes the nation’s capital Beijing, major commercial center Shanghai, and the port city of Tianjin. Although the project won’t necessarily produce significant emissions reductions and China has no overall targets to reduce absolute carbon emissions, some believe this could be a step to a nationwide carbon market.
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Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
Since historically marginalized communities are already being disproportionally impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, I am frustrated to see these communities also negatively impacted by the lack of on-the-ground public engagement. While I realize the threat of COVID-19 and the associated restrictions make conducting on-the-ground public engagement challenging, I want to encourage fellow planners to think more creatively. I will admit that I struggled to think creatively when I first heard that Clackamas Community College (CCC) would continue having mostly online classes in Spring Term 2021. CCC has had mostly online classes since the end of Winter Term 2020 when COVID-19 first started impacting Oregon. CCC’s decision about Spring Term 2021 became more stressful when Clackamas County staff told me that public outreach for their new shuttles could not be delayed until next summer.
A new toolkit has been developed to help businesses think through strategies to decrease mobility barriers to the workplace, which reduces turnover. When workers can reliably get to work regardless of their personal circumstances, it provides employment stability and the opportunity to build wealth. It’s a win-win. Developed through a partnership between Metropolitan Planning Council and a pro bono Boston Consulting Group team, the toolkit includes slide decks, an overview report, customizable templates, a cost calculator, and instructional videos walking a company through the thought process of establishing a baseline situation, evaluating and selecting a solution, and standing up a program.
Depending on the employer’s location and employees’ needs, solutions may range from helping with last-mile transportation to the transit system, to developing on-demand vanpools, to establishing in-house carpool matching systems. The ROI calculator gives employers the ability to determine the break-even cost—the subsidy amount a company can manage without hurting the bottom line.
Housing that is affordable to low-income residents is often substandard and suffering from deferred maintenance, exposing residents to poor air quality and high energy bills. This situation can exacerbate asthma and other respiratory health issues, and siphon scarce dollars from higher value items like more nutritious food, health care, or education. Providing safe, decent, affordable, and healthy housing is one way to address historic inequities in community investment. Engaging with affordable housing and other types of community benefit projects is an important first step toward fully integrating equity into the green building process. In creating a framework for going deeper on equity, our new book, the Blueprint for Affordable Housing (Island Press 2020), starts with the Convention on Human Rights and the fundamental right to housing.