December 17, 2017
Michigan Cities Can Be Agents Of Change On Climate
By Howard A. Learner
While President Trump stepped back by withdrawing the United States from the landmark Paris Climate Accord, mayors in Michigan and across our country have committed to step up and fill the void. Now is the time for these municipal declarations of support for the Paris Accord to become real solutions to climate change problems. In short, take effective actions to reduce carbon pollution in ways that achieve environmental and economic development goals together.
Ann Arbor, Detroit, East Lansing, Flint, Grand Rapids and other Michigan municipalities have pledged to fill the void left by President Trump and seize opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas pollution. Growing local solar energy, storage and energy efficiency creates jobs, saves money, attracts investment and avoids carbon pollution. Local energy production keeps energy dollars in our communities, instead of paying to import electricity generated by coal, gas and uranium. Clean electric vehicles and buses in municipal fleets reduce fuel and maintenance costs, and avoid pollution. Improving energy efficiency in city buildings saves taxpayer money, reduces pollution and lessens maintenance costs.
The Environmental Law & Policy Center is proud that many Michigan cities are saying they want to be part of global climate change solutions. We will work with cities to adopt high-value actions to reduce carbon pollution in ways that are tailored to Michigan and set strong goals. Here are three ways that all of our cities can transform their public commitments into meaningful climate actions:
- Achieve 100 Percent Renewable Energy for Municipal Electricity Needs by 2022. The Midwest has abundant wind power, and solar energy and energy storage capacity are accelerating as prices fall while technologies improve. Michigan cities can achieve 100 percent renewable energy by using locally produced solar energy plus storage and wind power, purchasing clean renewable energy from third parties, and securing renewable energy credits from new wind and solar projects.
- Clean Up Municipal Fleets – All New Purchases Should Be Electric Vehicles (except in special cases). Michigan has always driven our transportation sector and can help lead in reducing greenhouse gas pollution from cars and trucks. Michigan cities should buy electric vehicles (EV) or other zero-emission vehicles for non-emergency fleets. Cities can create demand to drive the EV market forward while reducing pollution. EVs have fewer moving parts and lower maintenance costs than internal combustion engine vehicles. EV operating costs are lower and more predictable. Using wind and solar energy to power EV charging stations accelerates a cleaner transportation system. Ann Arbor has joined 29 other cities to jointly explore purchasing 114,000 EVs.
- Rapidly Improve Municipal Building Energy Efficiency. Smart energy efficiency investments produce cost savings and less pollution. Why wait – many payback periods are short and the savings come fast. Replacing incandescent bulbs with LEDs is a no-brainer cost-saver and pollution-reducer. Antiquated HVAC systems and old appliances waste money and allow more pollution. Smart energy efficiency products, technologies and controls are available. The time has never been better for cities to reduce their energy bills and cut pollution through energy efficiency improvements.
Michigan cities are leading by saying that they’ll step up with climate actions while President Trump moves backward and isolates our nation from global solutions. Cities can seize climate action opportunities by moving forward with these three specific initiatives for clean energy, clean transportation and energy efficiency that will produce significant pollution reduction results. Let’s work together to turn words into deeds, achieve economic and environmental benefits together, and help advance the Paris Climate Accord goals.
Howard Learner is the executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, the Midwest’s leading environmental progress and economic development organization.