Publications

- July 1, 2019: Vol. 6, Number 7

Cities take the spear: While the feds dawdle over the Green New Deal, some U.S. municipalities are setting bold agendas

by Mike Consol

The Green New Deal, proposed by progressive members of the Democratic Party earlier this year, has been derided and stalled at the federal level, but it is beginning to germinate in some U.S. cities, large and small. The Green New Deal calls for public investment in renewable energy and the power grid in an effort to achieve decarbonization.

Los Angeles and New York City are among the metropolises rolling out local versions of the national plan, and even smaller cities such as Ithaca, N.Y., are taking action.

New York City’s plan has set a goal to reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030, and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 with 100 percent use of clean electricity sources.

The strategy rolled out by Los Angeles is an update of the city’s four-year sustainability plan targeting development of renewable energy and reducing carbon emissions to zero. Its goals include a zero-carbon electricity grid, and zero waste. The zero waste L.A. economy, if achieved, would mean not transport garbage to landfills, and recycling all wastewater into drinkable water. It is an update of the city’s Sustainable City Plan that Mayor Eric Garcetti released in 2015.

Ithaca has presented sustainability goals that build on Green New Deal initiatives proposed at the state level.

Prime targets in some cities for reducing emissions are buildings and transportation, both major contributors to carbon output. For example, New York City is banning the construction of new glass-walled buildings, while planning to electrify transportation fleets and implement a congestion pricing plan.

The broader objective by these and other U.S. cities is to spearhead the fight against climate change, even as the White House has withdrawn from the Paris Climate Agreement, and a divided Congress is unable to move legislation. City officials are considering climate change a public health issue. According to the World Health Organization, urban outdoor air pollution, from the burning of fossil fuels and biomass is estimated to cause 3 million deaths worldwide per year.

But both Los Angeles and New York City are also banking on the economic impact the move to sustainability will make, and the green economy’s ability to create new jobs in the shift away from fossil fuels.

“We need to counter this assumption that climate action is somehow bad for the economy,” Emma Stewart, director for urban efficiency and climate at the World Resources Council told Utility Dive, an industry trade publication. “That’s just not been proven out. In fact, the growth economies have all taken aggressive climate action.”

For investors, the opportunities to profit on the conversion to a renewables-based economy are manifest.

 

Mike Consol (m.consol@irei.com) is editor of Real Assets Adviser. Follow him on Twitter @mikeconsol to read his latest postings.

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