8 cities share how racial justice is embedded into their climate plans

July 20, 2020 by  
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8 cities share how racial justice is embedded into their climate plans Jesse Klein Mon, 07/20/2020 – 02:00 As COVID-19 rampages through vulnerable minority populations with tragic consequences, and protests for racial justice surge among a similar demographic, city climate planners see a renewed focus on climate justice. The pandemic, in some ways, has been a trial run for the anticipated coming impacts of climate change — a not-so-distant future in which low-income and minority populations are the most at risk. As mayors make quick strategic changes to address the short-term COVID crisis, they are also in the midst of planning for similar long-term climate issues. Last week, the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group , an organization of mayors from around the global, launched a Detailed Agenda for Green and Just Recovery from COVID-19 to ensure that this crisis propels sustainable innovations instead of a return to old ways.  “Equity is really at the heart of our recovery in the city,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell of her city, New Orleans, during the C40 press conference. “We’ve had 542 deaths [due to COVID-19] in our city and out of the 542, 404 were Black or Brown. Our response to this pandemic is an opportunity to create a much more healthier, more sustainable and equitable city, no doubt about it.” Another organization, Climate Mayors , a network of 438 United States mayors, hopes to provide peer-to-peer sharing between American cities to help adapt to and in some ways reverse our changing climate. It has helped fill the U.S- shaped hole in leadership left by the Trump administration.  “We want to make sure we’re reflecting back to the international community that there is a lot of effort going on to reduce emissions and energy technology,” said James Ritchotte, director of Climate Mayors. GreenBiz recently spoke with eight chief sustainability officers and mayors that are part of the Climate Mayors network to understand what actions they are taking to ensure climate justice is embedded into their climate resiliency plans. Below are excerpts from the interviews, edited for length and clarity. Boston Boston is aiming to be carbon neutral by 2050 by focusing on their 86,000 buildings. The city is also investing in seawalls to prevent erosion due to sea level rise.  Christopher Cook, chief of environment, energy and open space On COVID-19 pandemic learnings that can apply to climate change initiatives:  What COVID has put in the forefront is how interwoven racial equity is with our climate crisis. Those social equity gaps in our society show how intentional we have to be in the climate work to make sure that we’re not exacerbating the situation. We have to be very intentional about job creation, or else our most socially vulnerable won’t be able to fully participate. We started very intentional conversations with our Office of Workforce Development to make sure that we are connecting directly with communities of color, and are starting a job training program for city retrofitting. On how COVID-19 gives us a chance to help vulnerable populations:  We can take [the pandemic as an] opportunity to be intentional about creating a cleaner respiratory environment for our citizens, especially those living in affordable housing. People need to have air filters and high-quality HVAC systems. Can we also use this as an opportunity to electrify those systems and retrofit those systems? So as we make buildings more efficient and cleaner from a carbon perspective, can we also make them healthier buildings? Carmel, Indiana Carmel is focusing on making its city greener through transportation initiatives, including more bike access and roundabouts.  Mayor James Brainard On how making the city more bike accessible is an environmental justice issue: Everybody talks about affordable housing, it’s really more about affordable living. A lot of city design requires huge amounts of a poor person’s expenditures be spent on gas, automobiles and insurance. We unveiled 225 miles of bike trails so you can get anywhere within the city of Carmel by bicycle, which is also important for environmental justice. To somebody who can’t afford a car, that makes a huge difference. So many times we’ve designed our cities so that not having a car isn’t even an option. We are also working to make our city beautiful, too. Wealthy people can travel to some of the most beautiful places on earth. But for people who can’t, they have a right to have their city be beautiful as well. So we focused on that through public art and beautiful parks and trails. On environmentalism as a Republican issue:  [Environmentalism] is a Republican issue. It was Teddy Roosevelt that started the national parks. It was Eisenhower who set aside the arctic reserve. It was Nixon and Ford who signed the EPA into existence. The Migratory Bird act was Nixon. The Endangered Species Act was for Nixon. The Republicans were very much environmentalists, starting with Teddy Roosevelt. Ford was always environmentalist, and got a lot done. And it disappoints me that this is something the Republican party has not focused on recently. On how two ideologies can come to the same decision that benefits climate: I had a guy who was very conservative giving me a hard time about spending $750,000 on switching to LED streetlights. So I said to him, “Well, what about the cost savings?” Because of less electricity, the savings will be about a 22 percent a year annualized rate of return on that money we invest. I showed him the bills. And he said “Oh, I guess this is a pretty good idea.” So he didn’t care about the environment. But he did care a lot about the return on investment. By the time we ended the conversation he got to the same place. But not for the environmental reason, but for a fiscal reason. People can get in the same place for different reasons. Houston Houston has committed to 100 percent renewable energy for all municipal buildings on its way to reaching carbon neutrality by 2050 .   Marissa Aho, chief of resilience officer On Houston’s strategy for imbedding climate justice into climate resilience: In January we released a report with recommendations particularly related to flood resilience. We focused on three historically underinvested communities in Houston: Independence Heights; Greenspoint; and Kashmere Gardens, which is part of Mayor [Sylvester] Turner’s Complete Communities Plan initiative, which is looking at 10 of our most historically under invested African American and Hispanic, Latinx neighborhoods, and creating action plans to improve quality of life. A majority of the key actions are really understanding that our most vulnerable people, places and systems are disproportionately affected when there is any disruption. So, we have a number of targets but one is to address the huge disparities in life expectancy depending on what neighborhood you grew up in or live in. And that pre-COVID was a 24-year disparity.  Los Angeles Los Angeles is on track for a 45 percent decrease in emissions by 2025 with the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. The city’s climate initiatives was written in conjunction with creating new green jobs as part of Los Angeles’ Green New Deal.   Lauren Faber O’Connor, chief sustainability officer On how Los Angeles plans to address heat issues to benefit lower-income communities:  A big concern of climate change are impacts of heat and extreme heat in Los Angeles. Some of our citywide goals just facilitate a cooler, more resilient city, and I mean cooler as in temperature. This needs to happen citywide but we’re targeting the rollout in communities that are in greatest need and have the lowest tree canopy and the most vulnerability, like an elderly population, low-income population who may not be able to run an AC if they even have an AC. We want to make sure that we’re cooling those neighborhoods, and doing it in a way that meets their needs by focusing on the walk to a bus stop and at the area around the bus stop. The laying of cool pavement to reduce the urban heat island effect by literally paving a lighter shade over our streets. And then combining those with local tree planting to create more canopy cover and doing those things in neighborhoods that need it the most. On focusing money towards overlooked communities: The Transformative Climate Communities Program was created by the state through the climate investments, cap and trade dollars. We worked with local community leaders to prepare projects that would apply for state funding. The first year the Watts neighborhood was awarded a $30 million grant. Watts has a really incredible history, including the Watts riots in the 1960s. It’s a lively community. They’ve suffered a lot of injustices and need more significant and more direct investment. We prioritize that with incredible innovation by electrifying the local buses, electrifying the service in Watts. But also providing an EV Car Share service, bike share and bike lanes, multiple pedestrian improvements to allow for more walking, rooftop solar for home. What’s incredible is that when we hear from our community leaders, they would say to us that Watts is always last. In this project, LA has put Watts in the front of the line. Oakland, California Oakland’s climate action plan to get to carbon neutrality includes funding for a downtown shuttle, constructing electric vehicle charging stations and launching a green retrofitting program for residential houses, among 29 other initiatives.   Daniel Hamilton, sustainability program manager On climate programs that address inequities:  When we talked about the need to create denser urban environments to accommodate more people, the community said, “Well, it’s not just about the densities and the land use. Its about housing discrimination.” The climate solutions to these couldn’t be ignorant of or silent on those types of topics. The action items are designed specifically to address the broader social issues as well as climate issues. It’s not just a greenhouse gas reduction policy. It’s a policy that targets the systems that create the greenhouse gases in ways that address historic inequities and provide some solutions. An example of this would be the action items focused on anti-displacement, so keeping people rooted in Oakland. When we talked about this densification of land uses, housing came up as a big issue. But the final action item doesn’t say “provide greater densities.” The final action item is actually support for the community land trust model to build wealth within the communities to allow people who are in Oakland to stay in the community and not have to move out to second- and third-tier suburbs and drive a lot further to get to the same jobs they exist in today. Orlando, Florida Orlando hopes to power the city entirely off renewable energy by 2050 . But the city’s 2018 Community Action Plan is on an even quicker timeline, establishing goals for 2040 that include getting the government’s 232 buildings up to LEED code, planting 20,000 trees and increasing the electrical vehicle infrastructure.  Chris Castro, director of the office of sustainability and resilience On creating programs that help low-income communities meet overall climate goals:  Low- and moderate-income communities often are spending two and three times as much per square foot on utilities than more affluent communities. The landlords of these homes or apartments are reluctant to make ongoing maintenance improvements to them. So they have very outdated air conditioning systems, outdated insulation and lighting. As a result, they have less resources, but they’re spending more on their utility bills. In one of our notorious communities of color, Paramore, people are burdened by upwards of 18 percent of their household income being spent on utilities . The average across in Orlando is 4.5 percent. That has helped us to develop new programs. We’ve partnered with a nonprofit called SELF, Solar Energy Loan Fund. We helped them establish their regional headquarters in Orlando. They provide funding, specifically to low and moderate income communities for home energy improvements, reducing energy and water use, lighting and HVAC, onsite solar, and even sewer and water improvements. It’s a loan product that is really looking at an unsecured very low interest loan for homeowners. So a person with a low credit score of 500 can get a loan for 5 percent to 6 percent interest from SELF versus getting laughed out of the bank when they’re asking for a loan to get a new AC system. This is an opportunity for people on the low and moderate income spectrum to have the financial tools to make these home improvements that improve quality of life, save energy, save water and reduce carbon right at the end of the day. I think we’ve invested about $150,000 over the last few years to help them out. Richmond, Virginia To reach the city’s goal of an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emission by 2050, the sustainability office is focusing on increasing alternative energy options with solar panel installations.  Alicia Zatcoff, sustainability manager On climate mapping helped with the COVID response: We have a pretty sophisticated mapping, the equity index. We have gone through and assessed and about 20 social vulnerability factors including geographic-based and demographic factors, resulting over 140 layers and pieces of data on the map. We rank those pieces of land using our climate equity index to identify where new parks or open spaces could be. We mapped our heat index looking for our heat islands. Using the equity index we can prioritize those areas, which is a different approach than we would have taken a year or two ago. So we’ve done that for climate. And then when COVID hit, we went back to see what the risk factors are for getting COVID and then the factors for getting severe disease or dying. And what we found is they are so closely aligned with the climate risk and vulnerability factors. The community that was on the frontline of climate change, we’re also on the front line of COVID. Saint Paul, Minnesota Saint Paul’s top priorities are to become a carbon-neutral community and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent by 2050. The government buildings are hoping to decarbonize by 2030.  Russell Stark, chief resilience officer  On how car sharing will benefit low-income communities  We are making sure that at the same time that we’re reducing emissions, we’re actually creating a mobility access benefit for our lowest-income communities. For example, car sharing has operated on a round trip model. Most of the parking locations are where the market is, usually around colleges or high density neighborhoods or in some cases better-off neighborhoods. When we thought about expanding our car share was to expand the service into some of our lowest income communities and communities of color. We are partnering with community-based organizations to expand that service into 10 locations that really haven’t had the service before. Topics Cities COVID-19 Racial Issues Environmental Justice Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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8 cities share how racial justice is embedded into their climate plans

Google Street View cars will map air pollution in cities worldwide

September 13, 2018 by  
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Air quality sensors are coming to a Google Street View car near you. The tech giant just announced plans to introduce sensors from a San Francisco company called Aclima that test air quality in cities and towns all across the globe. The Google Street View cars take photographs and incorporate them into Google Maps. Aclima is installing the air quality sensors in Google vehicles based in Mexico City, Houston and Sydney. The sensors will detect amounts of carbon dioxide , nitric oxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide wherever the cars go. The goal is to map out where pollution is becoming a problem and inform users about which areas of towns and cities have the poorest air quality. Related: Google hits its incredible 100% renewable energy goal A few months ago, Aclima installed some air quality sensors in London to test whether or not they would work with Google’s vehicles. All of the company’s hard work paid off and directly led to the partnership and expansion. This is not the first time Aclima has worked with Google and its Street View division. In 2015, Aclima helped Google determine the air quality on the company’s campus in California . Aclima has also used the cars to test air quality around the Bay Area. Since collaborating with Aclima three years ago, Google’s cars have traveled about 100,000 miles in California. So far, the sensors have generated more than a billion points of data, a lot of which can be used to plan future urban development projects. For example, developers can use the data to pinpoint where pollution problems exist and build neighborhoods in places where the air quality is higher. Google plans to have the sensors installed in its fleet by the end of this fall. Google Earth Outreach manager Karin Bettman said, “These measurements can provide cities with new neighborhood-level insights to help accelerate efforts in their transition to smarter, healthier cities .” + Aclima + Google Via Tech Crunch , Fast Company Image via Aclima

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Google Street View cars will map air pollution in cities worldwide

Pipeline leaks 8,000 gallons of jet fuel into Indiana river

September 10, 2018 by  
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An oil company based out of Texas has confessed to a faulty pipeline leaking 8,000 gallons of jet fuel into an Indiana river. Buckeye Pipe Line, based out of Houston, admitted that it detected a pressure loss in its fuel line last week. A break in the line poured thousands of gallons of fuel into a river near Decatur, Indiana, a town with slightly less than 10,000 people. Buckeye Pipe Line closed its line as soon as it detected the leak. Unfortunately, the leak still dumped thousands of gallons of jet fuel into St. Marys River, which runs about 100 miles northeast of Indianapolis. Officials in Decatur installed booms in the river to help stop the spread of the fuel while workers skimmed it from the surface of the water with vacuums. Related: TransCanada natural gas pipeline explodes in West Virginia The mayor of Decatur, Kenneth L. Meyer, believes removing the fuel will take weeks. The Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ) is monitoring the situation and checking fuel levels in businesses and homes close to the spill site. The EPA is also checking the quality of water at different spots further downstream to determine how far the spill has traveled. Residents of Decatur first learned about the spill late Friday night after the local police issued a warning. The Decatur Police Department told citizens to stay away from the river until the cleanup was over. Buckeye Pipe Line is not planning on re-opening the line until the pressure issue is dealt with and everything is safe to run. Although 8,000 gallons of jet fuel ended up in the river, the EPA does not believe the town’s water supply will be affected by the spill. Residents might, however, notice a change in air quality . Meanwhile, this spill offers environmentalists further evidence of the dangers of new oil and gas pipelines. Via Associated Press and EcoWatch Image via  Ray Bodden

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Pipeline leaks 8,000 gallons of jet fuel into Indiana river

World’s first zero-emissions fossil-fuel plant expected to go live in 2018

December 5, 2017 by  
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North Carolina-based NET Power is pioneering a novel approach to capturing carbon dioxide in its reportedly zero-emissions natural-gas pilot power plant in Houston, Texas . The company is investing $150 million in its innovative design, which is centered around turbine technology that is mostly unchanged since its invention over 150 years ago. The key difference is that NET Power’s turbine uses carbon dioxide , rather than a mixture of hot gases, to transfer heat, which is then converted into mechanical energy and, ultimately, electricity. NET Power hopes that its plant design will prove efficient enough to be mass marketed and installed at natural gas power plants around the world. The turbine technology used in NET Power’s demonstration plant is based on the Allam cycle , named after its creator Rodney Allam, who developed the system in collaboration with colleagues at 8 Rivers , an investment firm focused on innovative technology . “He did it old-school style—with just pen, paper, and a four-function calculator,” said Walker Dimmig, a principal at 8Rivers, according to Quartz . “We had to hire an engineering firm to redraw Rodney’s drawings on the computer, and verify whether what he claimed would be feasible.” The Allam cycle exploits the unusual qualities of carbon dioxide, which, under high pressure and temperature, becomes a “supercritical fluid,” a state of matter that shares characteristics of a liquid and a solid. In its supercritical fluid form, carbon dioxide has proven to be an efficient extractor of heat energy in a turbine . Related: World’s first ‘negative emissions’ power plant opens in Iceland In collaboration with Toshiba, NET Power modified turbines to be compatible with the Allam cycle. Because of their highly efficient design, NET Power’s turbines are one-tenth the size of normal turbines. After some final tests are conducted and minor problems are fixed, NET Power expects its plant to begin its operation in 2018. At full capacity, it will produce enough electricity to power 40,000 homes. NET Power plans to license its technology, rather than building its own plants, a practical move in response to a challenging market. However, if the natural gas boom is here to stay, NET Power hopes that its carbon capture technology may prove useful and popular as the world shifts towards a cleaner energy economy. Via Quartz Images via Depositphotos , NET Power via NPR , and NET Power

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World’s first zero-emissions fossil-fuel plant expected to go live in 2018

16 green holiday gifts for gardeners and backyard farmers

December 5, 2017 by  
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Gardening, backyard farming, and homesteading have become more popular than ever, and chances are you have at least one green thumb to shop for this holiday season. From monthly seed subscription boxes to eco-friendly gardening tools , terrarium kits , and even backyard beehive s, we’ve rounded up some fabulous gift ideas for plant lovers of all ages and abilities. Check out what we’ve found in this year’s Green Holiday Gift Guide! GIFTS FOR THE GREEN THUMB >

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16 green holiday gifts for gardeners and backyard farmers

Why thousands of snakes are invading Bangkok homes

December 5, 2017 by  
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A plunger won’t help you here—unless you have one hell of a swing. As the Times reports, Bangkok officials received 31,801 calls this year alone from frightened residents seeking help in removing snakes from their homes. The jump in calls is said to be in part due to an extra wet rainy season, but at the heart of the issue is something greater: urban sprawl . Indeed, as the city’s population has grown along the Chao Phraya River Delta, snakes have been forced from their natural habitats into the cozy, dry quarters of humans. Worst still, some (including the eight-foot-long variety)  are using the toilet as their primary point of ingress. Bangkok hosts more than 8.2 million inhabitants. The city is also built on more than 600 square miles of delta. The presence of snakes has always been significant, but as humans claim more land for new development, the snakes have no other choice than to try to take some of it back. In fact, most of the 31,801 calls have come from areas with new construction. “When people build houses in their habitat, of course they will seek a dry spot in people’s houses because they can’t go anywhere else,” Prayul Krongyos, the city’s fire department’s deputy director told the Times. Related: This modular orphanage in Thailand was built using local and recycled materials Indeed, calls have jumped from 29,919 in 2016, and 10,492 in 2012. The paper also points out that these figures don’t even include the brave residents who battle snakes on their own, which they says is likely in the thousands. “There’s no way we could survive if there were more fires than snakes,” said Krongyos. That day, his department fielded 173 calls about snakes and just five for fires. As for what happens to the snakes once caught, the punishment is far more humane than one might venture. Snakes captured by firefighters are brought to a wildlife center and later released in the wild. Other individuals have created snake-saving initiatives, including Nonn Panitvong, a leading expert in biodiversity. He set up “Snake at Home,” a message group that seeks to prevent snakes from being killed when discovered. Snake at Home allows those who find a snake in their home to snap a photo and send it to one of the group’s volunteers who can tell them if the snake they’ve found is venomous. The group has more than 29,000 followers. As the Times shares, “Thailand has more than 200 snake species , including about three dozen that are venomous. But most do not pose a threat to people…The reality, though, is that humans cause snakes much more harm than the other way around.” Snakes also keep rat and other vermin populations in check in the bustling city, and many folks consider crossing paths with one a sign of good luck. Via NYT Images via Pixbay and Wiki Commons

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Why thousands of snakes are invading Bangkok homes

$30M contract cancelled by FEMA after supplies to Puerto Rico fail to arrive

November 29, 2017 by  
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A recently formed Florida-based company was granted a $30 million contract to provide vital supplies to Puerto Rico in its recovery from Hurricane Maria , only to have the contract cancelled by FEMA after Bronze Star LLC failed to deliver emergency tarps and plastic sheeting for urgent repairs. While no payments were ever made to the company, the botched contract resulted in four weeks of inactivity, between when the contract was given and when it was cancelled, while Puerto Ricans went without the vital supplies they need to rebuild. This failure comes amidst a period of heavy rainstorms, during which emergency tarps would have been very helpful in protecting people — many of whom remain homeless in Puerto Rico. It is not known how thoroughly FEMA vetted Bronze Star before granting the contract, but there are certainly warning signs regarding the company’s seriousness. Formed in August 2017, Bronze Star had never delivered supplies or been awarded a government contract before. The company, founded by two brothers, was listed at an address in a single-family home in a residential subdivision in St. Cloud, Florida . Kayon Jones, co-founder of Bronze Star, claims that, prior to accepting the contract, manufacturers had promised him that tarps would be ready and fit for usage. Related: Tiny Montana company signs $300M contract to help restore power in Puerto Rico Jones also claims that the difficulty in acquiring the tarps was due to their being manufactured in Houston, Texas , which is recovering from Hurricane Harvey. “We were trying to help; it wasn’t about making money or anything like that,” said Jones in an interview with the Associated Press . Although more than half a dozen other businesses bid for the contract, FEMA has not disclosed details as to why the deal was ultimately granted to Bronze Star. Via Associated Press Images via United States Department of Agriculture (1)

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$30M contract cancelled by FEMA after supplies to Puerto Rico fail to arrive

Abandoned house transformed into a gorgeous sanctuary on a remote Chinese mountain

November 29, 2017 by  
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This rustic sanctuary nestled in a remote village in China combines modernity and vernacular design to extraordinary effect. Architecture studio RSAA approached the home renovation with a strong sense of respect for the history of the building and its stunning natural surroundings. The original house, nested on the top of a mountain in the north of Anhui Province, China , was uninhabited for years until the owner decided to renovate it into a modern residence. The design team introduced dramatic changed to the space, cutting, lowering and rebuilding parts of the house to facilitate optimal views of the surroundings and accommodate new functions. Related: Decrepit cave transformed into a beautiful modern home in China New and old coexist in the renovated house, with semi-private and semi-open areas creating a more complex spatial flow. At the core of the structure is an outdoor atrium that was once an indoor space. Here, the original gable has been transformed into a decorative wall that blocks vertical views of the living room and bedrooms. Old bricks were used to rebuild one of the original walls at the site. In the process of rebuilding the wall, many old bricks were cut into slices and used as traditional decoration to hide the steel structure inside. The architects emphasized the junction between different kinds of materials and employed local craftsmen who used traditional building techniques . + RSAA Via Archdaily Lead photo by SU Shengliang

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Abandoned house transformed into a gorgeous sanctuary on a remote Chinese mountain

Cities and the private sector partner for high-power innovation

November 1, 2017 by  
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Cities such as Houston and Amsterdam are tackling current climate-related challenges and generating savings and economic opportunities.

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Cities and the private sector partner for high-power innovation

Designing the Tesla building

November 1, 2017 by  
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As DHL, IKEA, Volvo and General Motors go, the building industry follows?

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Designing the Tesla building

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