This show aired on Friday May 3, 2019 on PhillyCAM’s radio station WPPM 106.5 FM in Philadelphia. Hear the audio afterwards as a podcast. The script is below. Produced by Meenal Raval & Rachie Weisberg, and technical assistance from Jane-janette Ansah at PhillyCAM.
Hello and welcome to Philly Talks Climate — where we talk about the climate crisis, how it affects Philadelphia, and how we solve this for our region. I’m Meenal Raval, and I’ll be your host. I’m joined this week by a new friend Rachie Weisberg of The Sunrise Movement.
Last week you heard about Emissions-free electricity and the nuclear bailout being debated in Harrisburg. It’s not too late to contact your elected reps, asking them to oppose the nuclear bailout. The $500 million a year could, and should, be spent on the needed rapid transition to energy efficiency & renewable energy. You can find details on the Engage page of our website – Philly Talks Climate dot com.
This week, we’ll learn about two movements: the Ready for 100 campaign and the Green New Deal. Both have been making news — nationally and locally. We’ll also consider how we translate both these movements for local climate action in Philadelphia.
What is Ready for 100?
Ready For 100 is a national campaign led by the Sierra Club — working to inspire our leaders to embrace a vision of healthier communities powered by 100% clean renewable energy. Asking mayors, CEOs, religious leaders, school principals, civic and community leaders, parents and students to commit to solutions that help us achieve 100% clean, renewable, and just energy across the United States by the year 2050 — or sooner!
Ready for 100 is a distributed campaign, creating networks of local leaders. Local volunteer leaders working locally, each in their own city or town, while the national team amplifies our local stories. They’re all working to shift our public will to transform our energy sector to a just, 100% renewable energy future.
What is the Green New Deal?
The Green New Deal is a vision to transform our current economy into a more sustainable economy. An economy that is 1. environmentally sound, 2. economically viable and 3. socially responsible.
Sounds good to me….
The Green New Deal looks at the climate crisis holistically, simultaneously combining quick action to get to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and 100% renewable energy by 2030 along with an “Economic Bill of Rights” – the right to single-payer healthcare, a guaranteed job at a living wage, affordable housing and free college education.
The phrase Green New Deal has been popularized in the last year by the Sunrise Movement and US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. This phrase has been used earlier by the Green Party, by Thomas Friedman, and others.
There are a myriad interpretations of the Green New Deal, at the Federal, State and Local levels — all trying to right the climate crisis. Our focus will be at the local level, for the City of Philadelphia.
News You Can Use
This past April, the Chicago City Council passed a Ready for 100 resolution. They agreed that extreme weather — experienced as heat, heavy precipitation and severe flooding — was costing them money as well as lives. And so they set goals for “100 percent renewable electricity in buildings by 2035 and electrification of the city’s bus fleet by 2040.” Unanimously!
What next for Chicago? Their Mayor’s Office of Sustainability and the Ready for 100 Chicago Collective are to take the lead to develop a community-wide transition plan by December 2020 to achieve 100% renewable electricity.
Also this month, New York’s City Council passed a set of 6 bills that many call a “Green New Deal for New York City” — the most ambitious municipal emissions reduction bill in the world. We like this because it lists specific things New Yorkers need to do, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at a city-level.
New York City’s Green New Deal is doing this with several bills.
One bill requires buildings of over 25,000 square feet ― the biggest source of carbon pollution in the city ― to install new windows, insulation and other retrofits to become more energy efficient. Starting in 2024, the legislation orders landlords to slash emissions 40% by 2030, and double the cuts by 2050.
Wow! 80 percent reduction by 2050 from the largest buildings in the City!
Another bill will study the feasibility of closing all 24 oil- and gas-burning power plants in city limits and replacing them with renewables and battery storage.
Yet another bill establishes a renewable energy loan program.
Two more bills require certain buildings to cover roofs with plants, solar panels, small wind turbines or a mix of the three.
The last bill in this initial bunch tweaks the city’s building code to make it easier to build and install wind turbines.
Future legislation could take on loftier goals. There’s a plan, promoted by the environmental justice group UPROSE, to open a manufacturing hub for wind energy equipment on the rapidly gentrifying industrial waterfront of Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood.
Then there’s Council member Constantinides’ proposal to close the notorious prison on Rikers Island, in the East River just north of his district, and convert the 413-acre facility into a solar farm and water treatment plant.
This is all sounding quite real, and very exciting. We’re past the point of dreaming. Real climate action could solve many of our societal problems as well, as promised by the Green New Deal.
What could this look like for Philadelphia?
Similar to most other cities, our greenhouse gas emissions come from the fossil fuel energy we use to power our buildings, our transportation systems, and how we generate electricity.
About 60% of our emissions are from the energy we use within our buildings, about 17% are from how we move around the city, about 19% from industry… we have industry in Philly?! and around 3% from our waste processing.
Unlike other cities, however, Philadelphia is the poorest big city in the country. We have one of the highest rates of asthma in the country, and 50% of our recycling is currently getting burned in nearby Delaware County. So improving local air quality is crucial for us.
- There’s one ask most groups agree on… Emissions free public transit. This means all-electric SEPTA buses; all 1400 of them coursing thru our city, and often the primary transportation option for many of us. Doing so would be felt immediately with improved air quality and reduced noise levels. Doing so would be seen and felt by all. Our ask? Zero-emission all-electric buses by 2032.
- We love our city’s goal of Zero Waste by 2035. But did you know that this means zero waste to landfill? It’s not just our recyclable material getting incinerated, but also most of our trash. So much discarded material, simply being pushed up into our already overburdened atmosphere and our lungs. Our ask? Zero waste means zero waste. No landfills, no incineration.
- There are millions of dollars currently being invested in our City’s Rebuild initiative. An initiative to rebuild our parks, recreation centers and libraries. In all the media we’ve seen around Rebuild, we see no mention of solar on any roofs, nor net-zero construction. These public spaces need to be readied as cooling centers and as demonstration centers for buildings that remain comfortable without much dependence on fossil fuels. Especially for neighborhoods with less tree canopy; that get hotter due to all the asphalt surrounding the homes. These are often our poorer neighborhoods. Our ask? Ready public spaces as cooling spaces and demonstrations of net-zero construction.
- We hear that we’re wasting 30% of the energy used in building, energy that’s simply going up the chimney and heating the planet. Looking at statistics by building type, we need to focus on office buildings, colleges, multi-family houses and hospitals – since they’re responsible for some of our biggest emissions.
Maybe for office and college buildings, our city council could demand on energy efficiency investments like NYC just did — insulation, programmable building controls, replacement windows, etc.
- We’ve also heard from architects that it’s possible to retrofit existing buildings to passive house (Passivhaus) standards. What’s Passivhaus? It’s a rigorous standard for energy efficiency in a building, resulting in ultra-low energy buildings that require little energy for space heating and cooling. We could retrofit our energy-guzzling offices and colleges, and especially all of our row homes.
That’s 5 ideas for any City Council candidate to run with.
Who’s asking for projects like this?
There’s an alliance of over 30 local groups, the Alliance for a Just Philadelphia. They’re asking that we 1. Commit to the goals of a Green New Deal. 2. Commit to a healthy fossil-free energy system. 3. Make transit equitable, affordable and safe.
There’s a national youth led group, The Sunrise Movement, that has a local chapter here in Philadelphia and they’re promoting a Green New Deal for Philly. Among the many things they’re asking for is a participatory study. So that we procure all of our electricity from renewable sources — for residents as well as businesses. The transition plan that the Sunrise group asks for would move Philadelphia to a democratically controlled 100% renewable energy system by 2030, create unionized jobs, and ensure that the decisions and benefits center Philadelphia’s working class and communities of color.
I believe the Reclaim Philadelphia team is asking for a “democratically controlled renewable energy system” too. This doesn’t sound very different from the Ready for 100 Collective in Chicago working with their Office of Sustainability.
We too have a Ready for 100 team in Philly. They’re asking that we transition to 100% renewable electricity by 2035 (or sooner), and 100% renewable energy for heating and transportation by 2050 (or sooner).
For over a year now, this team has been ready with an Action Plan. Ready to develop legislation around an Equitable Strategy, around Municipal Energy Use, and around working with our utilities PECO and PGW and the Public Utility Commission. Also on this Action Plan is language to mandate Energy Efficiency, Transportation Electrification and a Just Transition for Labor.
What’s happened in Philly, to date?
Anger at President Trump trying to pull the US out of the Paris Climate Accord spurred the introduction and passage of resolution 170706 by Philadelphia City Council in September 2017. A resolution that commits the City of Philadelphia to meet or exceed its share of the targets set by the Paris Climate Accord for the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. Sponsors were Councilmembers: Bass, Green, Johnson, Gym, Jones, Reynolds Brown, Henon, Blackwell, Oh.
That same month, September 2017, our Office of Sustainability under Mayor Kenney’s administration published a plan, the Municipal Energy Master Plan, to transition City buildings to 100% renewable electricity by 2030.
About a year later, in August 2018, our Office of Sustainability published a “Vision” document, think of it as a “playbook”, for achieving 80% greenhouse gas reduction by 2050. It’s called Powering Our Future. On the same document, Mayor Kenney “pledged to meet a 100% clean energy goal as part of our long-term commitment to reduce citywide carbon emissions 80% by 2050”.
Following up on the Municipal Energy Master Plan from September 2018, this past December of 2018, our City’s Energy Office negotiated, City Council approved, and Mayor Kenney signed a power purchase agreement, basically a contract. For…. ? For a new solar power plant that will cover 22% of municipal buildings. At a price that’s the same as what our city is currently paying, fixed for 20 years.
Just this news, that renewable electricity could be price competitive to what we’re currently buying has made some news. And now, UPenn, Temple and SEPTA are considering similar contracts for their energy needs. It’s unclear what percentage these organizations are considering, or if they’re committed to a 100% clean energy goal.
Just before the December holidays, City Council passed Resolution 181067, authorizing the Committee on the Environment to hold public hearings on the Municipal Energy Master Plan and the City’s goal to transition to 100% clean renewable energy for municipal buildings by 2030. Sponsors were Councilmembers: Reynolds Brown, Green, Greenlee, Gym, Domb, Squilla, Henon, Parker, Johnson, Blackwell.
Though adopted, Council has yet to schedule a public hearing on this.
So, some steps. Some very good first steps. But it seems that no council member has stepped up to become our climate champion.
We need to set community-wide goals to transition to renewable energy, like Chicago has done. And we need specific policy asks, like NYC has done, and our Ready for 100 team has begun drafting.
Public goal setting should make all of us aware that new fossil fuel projects have no place in our city. Not even “clean-burning” gas. Especially not “clean-burning” gas. We know gas is a fossil fuel, extracted most likely by fracking, and is NOT clean.
Engage with your Elected Reps
We need to remind Council members of their commitment to the Paris Climate Accord. Ask them about resolution 170706, and what they’re doing about it. We’d love to hear their response.
Connect with Others Concerned about the Climate Crisis
You just missed the 2nd Pennsylvania Youth Climate Strike this morning outside City Hall and across Pennsylvania. The students strike to protest our government’s inaction over climate change. Mainly, the students demand that our federal government:
- Enact radical legislation to combat climate change on local and state levels in Pennsylvania and the United States.
- Adopt the Green New Deal to shift our country to 100 percent clean, renewable, and net-zero emission energy sources through a fair and just transition for all communities and workers.
- Declare the climate crisis a national emergency — because that’s what it is.
Tomorrow, Saturday May 4th, the Sunrise Movement in Philadelphia has organized a town hall at the Friends Center. This is part of the national Sunrise Green New Deal Tour discussing the Green New Deal, both locally and federally. Join us from 3 till 5 at the Friends Center, 15th & Cherry in Center City Philadelphia!
You’ll find details on the Connect page at Philly Talks Climate. A shout-out to the teams at Sunrise Movement Philly, and co-sponsors 350 Philly, Reclaim Philadelphia, and the LILAC team at Philly DSA for organizing this!
You’ve been listening to Philly Talks Climate, online at phillytalksclimate dot com, with Meenal and Rachie!
Thanks for listening!
Do it Now – We need to build a better future – and we need to start right now
Related Media to reference in discussion above
- April 10, 2019 – Common Dreams – ‘Monumental’: Chicago Commits to 100% Renewable Energy by 2040 – The city council’s vote makes Chicago the biggest city to pass such an ordinance
- April 10, 2019 – Sierra Club – Chicago Becomes the Largest City in the Country Committed to 100 Percent Clean Energy
- April 11, 2019 – Sierra Club – Chicago Goes All In On Clean Energy
- April 11, 2019 – Huffington Post – New York City Charges Ahead With Its Own Green New Deal – The nation’s largest city is poised to enact what may be the most ambitious municipal emissions reduction bill in the world.
- April 17, 2019 – The Intercept – A MESSAGE FROM THE FUTURE WITH ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ
- April 17, 2019 – City and State NY – Constantinides on NYC’s very own Green New Deal – The City Council passing legislation to cut greenhouse gas emissions, more, on Thursday.
- April 18, 2019, Fast Company, New York City is about to pass its own Green New Deal
- April 18, 2019, New York Times, Amory Lovins & Rushad Nanavatty, A Market-Driven Green New Deal? We’d Be Unstoppable — Any serious energy transformation will need to harness America’s powerful and creative economic engine.
- April 22, 2019 – United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America – What is the “Green New Deal”?
- April 22, 2019 – Curbed – NYC passes its own ‘Green New Deal’ in landmark vote – “You cannot overstate how big a deal this is,” said one advocate
- April 22, 2019 – Utility Dive – NYC passes sweeping ‘Climate Mobilization Act
- April 23, 2019 – The Guardian – It’s time for nations to unite around an International Green New Deal
- April 25, 2019 – Streetsblog – Vancouver Unveils Boldest Climate Action Plan
- Green Party’s Green New Deal