On Thursday, Mayor Toni Harp announced new city initiatives promoting sustainability and emissions reductions.
At a City Hall press conference, Harp signed a document launching the New Haven Climate and Sustainability Framework. In doing so, she joins the Compact of Mayors, the largest cooperative effort among mayors and city officials to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and climate risks in cities. It includes 626 cities around the world, representing 487,888,517 people — or 6.74 percent of the world population.
These measures are the result of community pressure from about 30 local organizations to update the city’s 2004 Climate Action Plan, according to Krysia Solheim, a consultant that works with the city’s Engineering Department.
“Cities are in the best position to affect change because they are responsible for 70 percent of global emissions,” Harp said.
The city’s goal is to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent below 2001 levels by 2050. The process of creating an action plan for doing so began in January 2016. The city documented all its climate and sustainability efforts, researched practices from across the world and identified six key areas to work on: transportation, buildings, electric power, materials management, food, and land and infrastructure.
Solheim, who has been coordinating the effort, emphasized the importance of looking to other cities as examples.
“We took some of the innovative action plans of other cities and applied them to New Haven,” she said.
The New Haven Climate Sustainability Framework serves as a draft. The city is hoping to get public feedback through the recently-launched website and three public forums that will be held in the coming months to make the plan more “visionary, inclusive and implemental,” Harp said.
The next step in the process, according to Chris Schweitzer, who works for the New Haven Leon Sister City Project, one of the organizations that pushed for a new climate action plan, is to create another draft incorporating the community feedback. This draft, he hopes, will demonstrate New Haven’s serious commitment to climate protection and help in securing grants.
He noted that with the new presidential administration, it may become more difficult to secure federal grants for the initiative. Still, Schweitzer is hopeful that lack of funding will not prevent the initiative from moving forward.
“It will be harder to get federal funding, but states have a lot of power,” he said. “States have the ability to borrow a lot of money and pay it back over a long time.”
At the press conference, Harp stressed that New Haven’s commitment to climate protection and sustainability mirrored that of the state.
Schweitzer also pointed out the low cost and long-term payoff of the plan.
“A lot of this stuff can pay for itself,” he said. “Also it creates a lot of jobs that will increase tax revenue and will help local industry.”
He added that the movement will lead to “safer streets, cleaner air and energy savings.”
Activists are planning a climate march on Washington, tentatively scheduled for April 29.