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How Philly is Prepping Against Climate Change
Energy

How Philly is Prepping Against Climate Change

Philadelphia skyline from the Ben Franklin Bridge
Philly Vs. Climate Change.

Over 400,000 individuals invaded New York on Sunday to make a statement to world leaders about climate change.

Mayor’s National Climate Action Agenda

Yesterday, Mayor Michael Nutter announced the formation of the Mayor’s National Climate Action Agenda with Mayors Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles and Annise Parker of Houston. Nutter is currently in New York City for the Clinton Global Initiative meeting and was announced on day one of Climate Week, an international platform for government, business and civil society to work together on low carbon solutions to the climate change crisis.

As Nutter mentioned,

“Now, it’s time that cities across the nation come together and work toward a greener, more sustainable future that prepares all Americans to cope with the climate changes that are now impacting our world.”

We’ll keep watching to see what else comes out of the Climate Week after Sunday’s events.

So what is City of Philadelphia’s response to Climate Change?

Last week, I attended Climate Change: The Local and State Response Workshop hosted by the Philadelphia Green Condo Association. Partner at Ballard Spahr, Robert McKinstry described the state’s response to the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Mayor’s Office of Sustainability Policy and Outreach Manager, Sarah Wu, described the City’s climate adaption planning process.

Here’s the Cliff’s Notes.

Pennsylvania – Clean Power Plan & Climate Change

McKinstry shared how Pennsylvania is a major polluter in the states and world (mostly due to coal production). The Clean Power Plan required PA to reduce carbon intensity reduction target of 32% in 2030 from 2012 rates. Essentially, the 2012 rates are 1531 lb/MWh, the 2020 goal is 1179 lbs/MWh to the eventual 2030 goal of 1052 lb/MWh. Pennsylvania’s plan is dependent on switching to natural gas from a coal and oil platform, as natural gas produces electricity with 40% of coal. Increasing renewable energy is another piece of the plan.

Overall, Pennsylvania’s implementation of the Clean Power Plan will depend heavily on November’s governor elections (and who you vote for). Tom Corbett hasn’t done much for PA’s environment, with nonprofit PennEnvironment giving the governor an F rating. Tom Wolf is likely to implement the Clean Power Plan more aggressively.

Philadelphia’s Plan for Climate Change

Sarah Wu showed a few projections of Philadelphia’s precipitation and temperature change due to climate change, averaging between a 1-4 sea level rise in the city. Philly’s set to rise a little faster than the rest of the globe due to our position. Conservative or aggressive models aside, we can plan on a hotter, wetter Philadelphia by the end of the century.

Philadelphia climate change models
Climate Change models: Wetter. Hotter. Philadelphia.

Philly’s adapting by the infamous Green City, Clean Waters with stormwater gardens and other sustainable infrastructure. One controversy is that the city is adapting their current plans to climate change models, rather than focusing on preventing the changes. For example, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation are piloting a controversial program for responsible forest restoration, planting trees that will be adaptable to how the climate (i.e. higher precipitation and temperature) will be in 100 years, not what’s been historically protocol for plants in the PA climate.

With Sunday’s Climate March over 400,000 strong, it’s interesting that much of the City’s strategic planning involves adaption. Grist recently debated the moral difference of climate change adaptation versus prevention, explaining Carbon emitted today affects temperatures 30 (or so) years from now. So mitigation today doesn’t actually benefit humanity today; it benefits humanity 30 years in the future, when the carbon that would have been emitted would have wrought its effects.

Philadelphia’s Greenworks plan is addressing one of the biggest opportunities to reduce carbon: buildings account for 62% of the overall greenhouse gas emissions. Wu noted that the City’s benchmarking project recently sent out report cards for commercial buildings address. The report cards addressed an inherent competitive nature: businesses are excited to ‘beat’ buildings of similar sizes for carbon reduction. Soon enough, the competition will expand to multi-family structures to reduce energy use. After all, simply ‘paying attention’ to one’s energy choices can reduce energy 6% alone because of informed decisions.

So what can you do to help ensure Philadelphia continues making progress against climate change?

Vote in November. There will be a question on the ballot if we want to make the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability permanent. I’d advise to vote yes. 😉

 

Photo: Green Philly Blog

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Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with local beer and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Sir Floofus Drake. View all posts by Julie Hancher

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