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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Read more from the Meeting of the Minds Blog
Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
“Historically, government leaders haven’t felt it was in their purview to take action in response to the opioid problem, or to make active decisions about it. What I always say is that ‘opioid misuse is a community problem that requires a community solution.’ There are root issues that lead to the problem, and we must tackle those aspects of the problem in order to really solve it.”
As Meeting of the Minds well knows, the integration of technology in all aspects of city life will manifest in many ways over the next two decades. Artificial intelligence, crowdsourcing, and data collection and analysis have gotten the most attention, but many of the most striking changes are set to occur in the physical realm – the layout of streets and sidewalks. Planners are hard at work right now trying to anticipate what’s going to be needed to accommodate delivery drones, trackless trams, and of course driverless cars and trucks, which will present their own congestion problems potentially, but also will free up all kinds of urban land no longer needed for traffic flow or parking. The transformation of the urban landscape will be more complicated than the transition from horses to cars, but no less doable.
Replacing grass with climate appropriate plants (and irrigating those plants properly) can reduce a landscape’s water needs by 70-80 percent. During the last California drought, we saw homes across the state doing this, a trend significant enough to be clear on Google Maps. This was a big part of why California’s urban communities were able to meet, in fact exceed, the emergency drought mandate of reducing water use by 20 percent.