Howard’s Columbus Dispatch Letter: Cities Step Up on Climate Change Solutions

November 21, 2017

Cities Step Up To Cut Emissions

By Howard A. Learner

While President Trump steps back by withdrawing the United States from the landmark Paris Climate Accord, mayors in Ohio 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. Athens, Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Shaker Heights, Toledo-Lucas County and other Ohio municipalities have pledged to reduce greenhouse gas-pollution.

Growing local solar energy, storage and energy efficiency creates jobs, saves money, attracts investment and avoids carbon pollution. 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 Ohio 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 Bob and Betty Buckeye.

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 is accelerating as prices fall while technologies improve. Ohio 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 solar and wind projects.
  • Clean up municipal fleets: New purchases should be electric vehicles (except in special cases). Our nation’s transportation sector now produces more greenhouse-gas pollution than the electric-power sector. Ohio cities should buy electric vehicles (EV) or other zero-emission vehicles for nonemergency 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. Columbus is buying EVs, and 30 other cities are exploring a joint purchase of 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.

Ohio cities are leading by saying that they’ll step up with climate actions. 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.

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