How Cities Can Address the Climate Challenge
As global warming threatens to wreak havoc on the planet, governments, businesses and citizens are taking action to fight the problem. But it will take more than a shift in energy consumption habits and demands from leaders to bring the world to a sustainable future.
One way to help reduce climate change is to improve scientific literacy and inspire young people to think about their role in tackling it. That’s why we created the Climate Challenge.
Cities are large, densely populated areas that provide employment and social services. Energy and resources flow in and out of them to support the population and infrastructure, but they also have significant environmental impacts.
Some American cities are growing rapidly, while others are shrinking. This is a natural process that happens due to high immigration levels and other factors, such as the economy or aging demographics.
When you consider this fact, it’s easy to see why the Climate Challenge’s work with cities is important. Cities account for more than 70% of global carbon emissions, and mayors have the power over two of the largest greenhouse gas emitters: transportation and buildings.
In addition to reducing their own carbon emissions, cities can take an active role in accelerating clean energy by leading the charge to renewable energy and advancing public policy that prioritizes clean power. To support this work, WRI launched the City Renewables Accelerator in 2019 to give cities expert technical and policy guidance.
While this approach is not a silver bullet, it is an effective way to reduce carbon emissions and build community support for clean energy. Since 2019, cities have locked in 21.5 million metric tons of CO2 reductions, the equivalent of taking 4.6 million cars off the road.
Another key part of a climate-resilient city’s plan is to make its neighborhoods more energy efficient. This requires improving the buildings that make up its cityscape and using those investments to cut emissions.
Many cities have already taken an active role in promoting energy efficiency and supporting residents to upgrade their homes to improve their energy bills. Pittsburgh, for instance, has teamed up with property owners to unlock over $40 million in potential savings and new revenue to meet its climate goals.
The city has also enacted a program called PACE loans that allows homeowners to finance upfront costs of residential energy improvements, such as HVAC upgrades or insulation, and pay it back over time. This is especially helpful for people who aren’t able to get credit or have difficulty getting traditional financing.
The health care system provides a variety of medical services to individuals and communities. It includes hospitals, community health centers, clinics and other facilities. It also encompasses the systems that control and distribute healthcare resources, such as pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, human resources and financing.
The United States’ health care sector is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. It contributes 8.5 percent of the nation’s carbon footprint, which translates to more than 400,000 disability-adjusted life years lost on an annual basis.
These emissions are associated with the production, transportation and use of health goods and services, including medicines and equipment. They are also caused by the operating and powering of health facilities, such as hospitals.
Despite its role as a major contributor to climate change, the health care industry is pursuing climate action in many different ways. It is responding to federal climate legislation through actions such as reducing its energy use and buying renewable energy, and it has committed to a 50% reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and net zero by 2050.
While these commitments are a first step in decarbonizing the health care sector, they do not address all of the challenges and solutions that need to be addressed. To be successful, they must be combined with other strategies to improve the environment and build climate-resilient hospitals and communities.
Building a sustainable and climate-resilient health care system requires attention to many issues, including water quality, energy consumption and supply, and environmental pollution. These are the core factors that affect both people’s access to healthcare and their ability to receive the highest quality care.
Across the world, hospitals and health systems are working to reduce their carbon emissions, increase resilience and leadership in ways that protect both patients and the environment. Some health systems, such as UC Davis Health, have even been recognized for their efforts by Practice Greenhealth. They are leaders in reducing their own emissions, implementing sustainability and leadership goals, and promoting regional climate resilience planning.
MIT is one of the world’s leading academic institutions, with a strong reputation for its research in engineering and physical sciences. It also has excellent departments in the social sciences, humanities, arts, and business.
Its students hail from all 50 states and 100 countries. They come from a wide range of economic backgrounds and MIT has always been considered a home for those who have felt that they have nowhere else to go.
The MIT campus is a thriving hub for student activity and innovation. Smart residence halls and common spaces are designed to encourage innovative collaboration; cutting-edge laboratories and centers reinforce the curiosity that drives us.
At MIT, research is a core value and faculty members work across disciplines to pursue their passions and make the most of the Institute’s resources. This has a positive effect on the quality of the education and research available to students.
MIT’s research is known for generating big discoveries and breaking new ground. In 2021 alone, MIT researchers made breakthroughs that spanned from a promising new approach to cancer immunotherapy to confirmation of a 50-year old theorem. The school also has an extensive climate change research program that seeks to address the most difficult unsolved climate challenges.
Some of MIT’s top climate scientists are working on projects to reduce the amount of carbon emissions produced by industry, develop technology that can improve the way we manage water, and find ways to remove carbon dioxide from the air. MIT is also a leader in climate change adaptation and resilience.
As part of the MIT Energy Club, it hosts a yearly energy conference and regularly invites speakers from major corporations, governments, and other organizations to talk about how they’re dealing with the changing climate. This is a great opportunity to meet experts in the field and learn how you can help make a difference.
MIT has also established its own “Climate Grand Challenges” initiative. This is an effort to mobilize the entire MIT research community around problems that will deliver game-changing advances in the fight against climate change. MIT’s Climate Grand Challenges have five main areas: reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, risk forecasting, carbon removal, resilience and adaptation, and understanding the impact of climate change on the global economy and society.
Better buildings are one of the most powerful ways that individuals and businesses can help address climate change. They save energy and money, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make buildings more resilient. They also improve the lives of people who live or work in them.
Several cities and states, including Boston, have adopted building performance standards that require new buildings to be more efficient. This can dramatically cut energy consumption and lower emissions.
In addition, many schools and public buildings, such as colleges and universities, are also pursuing LEED certification and sustainability initiatives.
While these efforts can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, they’re only as effective as the policy changes that support them. Developing better building codes, establishing more aggressive energy efficiency standards for new buildings, and supporting renewable energy generation are just a few of the policies that can drive energy use down and cut carbon emissions.
The Better Climate Challenge, launched by DOE, is driving portfolio-wide accountable and transparent commitments from companies, states, municipalities, and other organizations to slash their energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent or more by 2030. This challenge will support partners with technical assistance and opportunities to share real-world pathways to achieve their goals.
Through the Better Climate Challenge, DOE has partnered with more than 345 organizations in 9 key market sectors, including commercial, data centers, higher education, industrial, K-12 schools, local government, and multifamily housing. These Better Climate Challenge Partners are reducing energy use and saving millions of dollars annually.
During a recent webinar, DOE hosted a discussion on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Climate Planning with two Better Buildings Challenge Partners: Shanda Demorest from Health Care Without Harm, who discussed how the health care sector can increase their sustainability and lead the environmental health and justice movement; and Tonie Miyamoto from Colorado State University (CSU), who shared examples of how CSU’s campus is spearheading DEI initiatives as part of its climate action plan.
The webinar included the example of Columbia Association, which leveraged resources and technical assistance from the Better Climate Challenge Low Carbon Pilot to assess water heaters at Kendall Ridge Pool. After evaluating the options, Columbia Association replaced a large propane water heater with two heat pump water heaters, which will cut energy use and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.