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
OurStreets origins are rooted in capturing latent sentiment on social media and converting it to standardized data. It all started in July 2018, when OurStreets co-founder, Daniel Schep, was inspired by the #bikeDC community tweeting photos of cars blocking bike lanes, and built the @HowsMyDrivingDC Twitter bot. The bot used license plate info to produce a screenshot of the vehicle’s outstanding citations from the DC DMV website.
Fast forward to March 2020, and D.C. Department of Public Works asking if we could repurpose OurStreets to crowdsource the availability of essential supplies during the COVID-19 crisis. Knowing how quickly we needed to move in order to be effective, we set out to make a new OurStreets functionality viable nationwide.
The best nature-based solutions on urban industrial lands are those that are part of a corporate citizenship or conservation strategy like DTE’s or Phillips66. By integrating efforts such as tree plantings, restorations, or pollinator gardens into a larger strategy, companies begin to mainstream biodiversity into their operations. When they crosswalk the effort to other CSR goals like employee engagement, community relations, and/or workforce development, like the CommuniTree initiative, the projects become more resilient.
Air quality in urban residential communities near industrial facilities will not be improved by nature alone. But nature can contribute to the solution, and while doing so, bring benefits including recreation, education, and an increased sense of community pride. As one tool to combat disparate societal outcomes, nature is accessible, affordable and has few, if any, downsides.
I spoke last week to Adrian Benepe, former commissioner for the NYC Parks Department and currently the Senior Vice President and Director of National Programs at The Trust for Public Land.
We discussed a lot of things – the increased use of parks in the era of COVID-19, the role parks have historically played – and currently play – in citizens’ first amendment right to free speech and protests, access & equity for underserved communities, the coming budget shortfalls and how they might play out in park systems.
I wanted to pull out the discussion we had about funding for parks and share Adrian’s thoughts with all of you, as I think it will be most timely and valuable as we move forward with new budgets and new realities.