A Local Climate Action Agenda for Syracuse, NY
Shared for feedback by Frank Cetera
Compiled by Frank Cetera, Green Party Candidate for Syracuse Common Council At-Large, with thanks to the Green Education and Legal Fund – gelfny.org
With materialism continuing to be the feeder for large corporate growth and resource/energy usage, and the federal government abdicating responsibility to protect Americans from the threat of climate change, it is imperative that local governments increase their actions to halt the use of fossil fuels and transition to 100% clean renewable energy as soon as possible .
A 2015 report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency showed that aggressively combating climate change would result in 12,000 fewer deaths in major U.S. cities due to extreme heat; up to $2.8 billion in avoided flooding costs; and $6.4 billion in avoided urban drainage costs by 2100. 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are estimated to come from urban areas.
Renewable energy represents an enormous economic opportunity for our nation and our nation’s cities to create jobs in an emerging industry, increase economic security, expand prosperity for local residents, reduce air pollution and associated public health risks, reduce the strain on water resources, save consumers money, and address environmental justice challenges in communities.
A Local Climate Action Agenda for Syracuse, NY
Join the US Conference on Mayors in Committing to 100% Clean Energy by 2030 – 35
- The City of Syracuse shall develop a master plan with benchmarks and timelines on how to get to 100% clean energy for 2030 or 2035 – for electricity, buildings (heating / cooling), transportation.
- The plan will be developed with active participation by local residents, including communities most vulnerable to climate change.
- It will address issues such as environmental justice, a just transition for workers, and the need for energy democracy (community, worker and public ownership and democratic control).
- A climate change task force with broad representation from impacted communities, workers, scientists and climate activists will be created to guide the city’s efforts.
A significant expansion of renewable energy in both the transport and heating/cooling sectors is a strategic priority. It will likely require storing excess energy in the form of either heat or electricity in individual homes and businesses. Energy efficiency must be a top priority. After reducing energy use as much as possible, the transportation and heating/cooling systems must become electrified. an integrated approach across policy areas is needed, such as fiscal, energy, economic, as well as infrastructure policy.
Increase investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. This includes increasing distributed renewable energy generation within the City. Buy and create more demand for electric cars and trucks. Increase our efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, create a clean energy economy, and stand for environmental justice. Plant more trees. Protect the local food shed.
Offshore Wind has been very slow to develop in the US due to the unwillingness of state and federal officials to provide firm incentives, instead relying upon “market forces.” The first wind farm just came online but at much higher prices than in Europe. The city should be willing to commit that part of its energy mix will be from offshore wind in order to assist in its development.
The city will conduct an assessment to establish its community energy consumption baselines. These provide greater understanding of the current state of energy use and start to prepare the data needed for formulating a 100% RE scenario and its specific pathways.
The city will also conduct an annual inventory of greenhouse gas emissions, and avoid taxing renewable energy projects, and divest from fossil fuels, including its pension funds and its banking. The City will take action to halt the development of fossil fuel infrastructure (e.g., denial of any permits subject to local control) by directing law departments to investigate how best to maximize local control.
The City plan should also examine adaptation and resiliency efforts. This would include how to relocate buildings out of flood zones; how to increase the resiliency of infrastructure (power plants, sewage and water treatment plans) impacted by rising waters; protection of residents during heat waves, droughts, wildfire, etc; and emergency services during severe weather. It will explore establishing micro-grids.
Stay Ahead of the Curve
- Climate change will bring with it changes to our cultural and social fabric as well.
- Planning requires follow-up and implementation after research and distribution.
- Climate action includes not only our immediate needs, but those of future generations.
- Extreme weather emergencies will require planning for climate refugees from southern locations, as well as how to adjust our local foodscape for changing USDA zones.
A large decrease in energy consumption can come from non-technological measures that support a cultural focus on energy savings that lead to behavior change. This can be done by promoting a culture of sustainability within the community, which is based not only on raising the level of awareness among citizens (e.g. through education and awareness campaigns) but also on increasing their level of engagement within their community.
Make the review, update, and audit of the city’s sustainability plan an annual event. Provide leadership to the residents of the city that action is being taken, and recommendations are being followed up on, reviewed, and adjusted. Make the city’s sustainability plan a living document in that it is regularly updated and reviewed, but also becomes a part of the fabric of the residents’ lives.
Assist in the protection of the local food shed (protect farmland from urban sprawl). Promote urban agriculture and green space; support community gardens and farmers markets. Create food resilience plans, including how to feed people in extreme weather emergencies. Conduct perennial food landscaping projects underneath canopy trees that also will reduce heat island effects in the city. Identify major pest concerns such as Asian Long Horned Beetle, and ticks
Work with residents to prepare for influxes of new immigrants from locations that are experiencing major climate change emergencies, such as in the Caribbean and the Southwestern United States.
Promote the study and understanding of ecology as a basis for decision making such as in the case of the newly emerging tick epidemic; which science is recognizing as a result of climate change that is driving the animals that circulate the tick increases to new places and new peoples.
Enact Building Codes for Net Zero Carbon Emissions, Mandate energy retrofits
- By upgrading infrastructure, energy conservation can be achieved. Technologies that enhance energy efficiency and save energy through improvements in infrastructure and efficient technologies include cogeneration systems, district heating and cooling systems, decentralized electricity generation, smart grids and micro-grids.
- Considerable amounts of energy and carbon emissions can be saved by aggressively retrofitting existing buildings.
- Reducing carbon footprint will be part of code enforcement.
Energy retrofits of existing buildings should be required when they are sold or refinanced. Policies must establish strict standards for all new buildings and local governments should invest in retrofits of existing public building stock. New buildings should incorporate green roofs and solar / energy efficiency, including solar. Upgrade building codes to promote carbon free.
Eliminate carbon footprint of all public buildings immediately and rapid phase in of residential buildings. Change boilers in public buildings (schools) away from natural gas to carbon free (solar, heat pumps, geothermal).
The city will actively work to ensure that the Green Jobs Green Homes law is implemented. This is an on bill utility financing system for energy retrofits. The law allows all residents, including tenants, to get a free energy audit. Any energy upgrades that have a rapid break even point are supposed to be paid for up front by the utility company, which recoups the investment through the utility bills (i.e., the energy savings).
Mass Transit and Electric Vehicles
- Take measures to encourage public transit
- Improve bicycling infrastructure
- Convert city vehicle fleet to electric
Increase funding and service for public transit, including buses, and development of transit aps). Cities’ zoning laws should prioritize the development of housing around mass transit hubs and discourage suburban sprawl.
The City will implement bike sharing programs. It will fund safe bike lanes. The City will move to restrict the use of cars and trucks within the city (e.g., congestion pricing, no car zones, increased parking fees especially for single passengers). Financial and other incentives for carpooling.
The City will develop “green streets” – natural and engineered methods for controlling storm water that would otherwise gather pollutants and rush from hard street surfaces into storm drains and out into local waterways.
Buy all electric vehicles for city fleet within five years. The city will look to require all vehicles within the city to be carbon free within 10 to 15 years.
- It is important that ensure future community control and ownership of the energy system.
The City will enact Community Choice Aggregation to give local residents control over the local energy supplies. Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) is a system adopted in Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Illinois, which allows cities, and local governments to aggregate the buying power of individual customers within a defined jurisdiction in order to secure alternative energy supply contracts on a community-wide basis, but allowing consumers not wishing to participate to opt out. The CCA would be used to promote renewable energy, including the development of community shared renewables.
Public power is another option to explore. Encourage the development of community shared renewables.