When the US decided not to sign the climate accords in Paris earlier this year, Americans across the world worried for the future of the planet. Fortunately, nearly 400 cities—and in some cases entire states—have resolved to move toward 100 percent renewable energy by 2035. The movement has only grown since the initial announcement in June.
Cities Leading the Charge
What began as a general outcry from the hearts of American cities has been organized and authorized as the US Conference of Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement, the United States Climate Alliance, and the We Are Still In Declaration.
It’s a heartening and empowering example of American democracy: the American people have spoken, and American mayors are listening to enact real change and potentially have a lasting impact on the planet’s climate future. More than 375 mayors have signed the plans, and more are continually joining. Those mayors represent more than 65 million Americans, nearly one-fifth of the American population.
We recently profiled Philadelphia’s efforts, but they’re not alone. Across the country other cities are joining the call. This includes some of the country’s biggest cities, including New York, Washington, DC, Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Newark, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh.
Cincinnati is one such city. Boasting an innovative insights dashboard that helps citizens track real-time progress, issues, and solutions, Cincinnati has made real strides in quantifiably improving their use of green energy and decreasing carbon emissions. In 2008, Cincinnati adopted their Green Cincinnati Plan to make Cincinnati a leader in addressing climate change—and incidentally make Cincinnati a cleaner, pleasanter, healthier place to live.
The plan was ambitious to start with, and the city has made impressive progress so far. Between 2008 and 2015, community operations emissions fell 18 percent, city operations emissions fell 36 percent, and total per capita emissions fell 10 percent. They have fulfilled their short-term goal—to reduce greenhouse gas emissions eight percent below 2006 levels by 2012—and are on track to fulfill their long-term goal of reducing emissions by a whopping 84 percent below 2006 levels by 2050.
The city plans to kick off the 2018 Green Cincinnati Plan on September 28, so stay tuned for more updates from Ohio!
The Windy City
From further west in the Midwest, up on the shores of Lake Michigan, Chicago is making its own strides in renewable energy. Earlier this year, Chicago announced that it plans to power its city buildings with 100 percent renewable energy by 2025. If they hit that goal, and no one else passes them up, Chicago will be the largest city in the United States to run public buildings exclusively from green energy.
Chicago is already seeing results from earlier efforts; carbon emissions fell seven percent from 2011 to 2015, despite a growing population. Chicago also leads the country, for the second time this year, in the number of LEED certified buildings.
This month, Chicago announced that it’s collaborating with the Environmental Defense Fund to launch the Smart Building Operations Pilot. The program aims to use smart energy meters to track and display energy usage in buildings. Tracking the usage is the first step, but the program also plans to motivate and reward improved energy efficiency.
Improving the efficiency in how buildings—especially big buildings in metropolitan areas—use energy can help cut carbon emissions to the levels set as goals by the Paris Agreement.
Such incremental steps—and the resulting technological innovation, quality-of-life improvements, and democratic teamwork—offer the best real hope for mitigating the future of climate change.
CleanChoice Energy works to address catastrophic climate change by providing 100% clean, renewable energy using wind and solar power. Learn how you can easily switch your home or business to renewables today.