BY J.M. RAYBURN
The American Cities Climate Challenge is an unprecedented opportunity for Columbus and Cincinnati to join the ranks of other ambitious cities to significantly deepen and accelerate their efforts to tackle climate change and promote a sustainable future for their residents.
Last month, we focused on Complete Streets and how to promote safe streets for everyone. This month, let’s expand our view to look at not only streets but buildings, too. The reason we want to look at streets and buildings together has a lot to do with the fact that they are responsible for about 80% of all citywide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The reduction of GHG emissions is key to tackling climate change and to promoting a sustainable future for residents and businesses.
As our dive into Complete Streets revealed, city governments have significant authority when it comes to streets. Cities also have a lot of influence in what gets built — or not built — in your neighborhood. As such, cities have a real opportunity to pilot and implement proven climate solutions and innovations that will help grow the economy, protect public health and improve the quality of life for citizens.
For America’s cities to lead the way in reducing GHG emissions from streets and buildings, it requires a different kind of commitment. Delivering on it will require local innovation, broad-based efforts to grow and deepen public support for a sustainable future, and a relentless focus from city governments to achieve results. To support this vital work, Bloomberg Philanthropies and partners announced a $70 million investment in the American Cities Climate Challenge.
Columbus and Cincinnati were recently selected as two of the 20 “Leadership Cities” to participate in a two-year acceleration program. Other cities announced so far include Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Honolulu, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland, Saint Paul, San Diego, San Jose, Seattle, St. Louis and Washington, D.C.
The 20 Leadership Cities will be provided robust technical assistance and a support package valued at $2.5 million per city. These resources include a philanthropy-funded team member to facilitate the development and passage of high impact policies, training for senior leadership to assist with implementation of their proposed climate plans, and citizen engagement support to maximize community buy-in.
Each of the 20 Leadership Cities have their own specific climate action plans. Columbus, for example, is tasked with completing the following actions by 2020:
- Deploy a workforce development program for energy efficiency auditors and to increase the number of homes audited with a focus on the city neighborhoods with the highest rates of low-income households;
- Accelerate existing and add new financing programs for energy efficiency and renewables for commercial buildings;
- Roll out a multimodal trip planning app to drive behavioral insights and engagement strategies to encourage mode share;
- Launch a PR campaign to increase ridership on newly expanded high-frequency
Cincinnati is the other Ohio city selected in the American Cities Climate Challenge. City leadership there has outlined the following actions to complete by 2020:
- Install large-scale renewable generation to power the Greater Cincinnati Water Works utility;
- Power the municipal energy load with 100% renewable energy;
- Advance energy efficiency programs for the commercial and residential buildings sectors including the development of a robust 2030 District to engage corporate partners around sustainability.
The American Cities Climate Challenge represents a huge opportunity for Ohio and it’s something we should all should celebrate and support. The responsibility now falls on us as residents and business owners to hold our elected leaders accountable. We must advocate for more resilient, sustainable neighborhoods and local economies. But most importantly, it falls on us to support leaders who recognize that better health, jobs and opportunities tomorrow depend on bold actions today.
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