TODAY’S STUDY: Southeastern Cities’ Take On Climate Change
Southeast Cities’ Climate Action Moment: City Leaders and Citizens Must Act to Accelerate the Upward Trend of Setting Climate Goals and Measuring Progress – Philanthropists Must Increase Climate Action Giving in the Southeast
June 2018 (Community Sustainable USA)
Introducing the Southeast Climate Commitment Index
The Southeast Climate Commitment Index (SCCI) was created to guide city leaders, citizens, the philanthropic community, and others in their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and advance renewable energy. The index ranks all cities (or counties in the case of consolidated city-county governments) with populations above 50,000 in the Southeast states of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and Florida (the Southeast). The SCCI measures the commitment of each of the 131 cities to renewable energy and to tracking and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The index consists of 21 indicators in six categories: greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories, measurable GHG reduction goals, government installation and procurement of renewable energy, measurable renewable energy goals, climate action plans, and city resolutions for climate action. A low SCCI score indicates a lack of existing and expected measurable commitments to renewable energy and to tracking and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and does not indicate a failure in environmental stewardship.
● Virginia leads the Southeast both in the percent of cities that scored in the SCCI top twenty and in the highest average SCCI score per city.
● West Palm Beach, Florida, Atlanta, Georgia, Sarasota, Florida, Arlington County, Virginia, Boynton Beach, Florida, and Alexandria, Virginia claimed the top five SCCI scores.
● The number of Southeast cities setting measurable climate goals is growing, and that trend is expected to continue. Over 20% of Southeast cities have set one or more measurable government or community GHG emission reduction or renewable energy goals, and an additional 6% of cities expect to set goals by 2021. Seventy-three percent of cities have yet to commit to climate goals.
● Leading Southeast cities are setting aggressive GHG emission reduction goals and renewable energy goals. A quarter of government GHG emission reduction goals and over two thirds of community GHG emission reduction goals are set at 70% or greater reduction by 2050 (or earlier) from baseline, the majority of those aligning with the scientific consensus of what will be required to avoid the most disastrous impacts of climate change. Over 60% of government goals for renewable energy and close to 70% of community goals for renewable energy are set at 100%.
● Southeast cities that have set or expect to set measurable government or community GHG emission reduction or renewable energy goals are tracking their progress. Eighty-nine percent of goal setting cities have completed GHG inventories, and 73% of goal setting cities expect to complete GHG inventories by 2021.
● The total number of government and community GHG and renewable energy goals adopted by Southeast cities is expected to increase by 82% between 2018 and 2021, from 50 goals to 94 goals.
● The number of Southeast cities having installed or procured renewable energy to meet electric demand is expected to increase by 72% by 2021, from 36 cities to 62 cities. Close to 50% of Southeast cities expect to install or procure renewable energy to help meet electric demand by 2021.
● Over one third of Southeast cities have joined national or international pledges to advance renewable energy in their communities and track and reduce GHG emissions.
● Southeast cities across population sizes are setting climate goals and tracking progress. The SCCI top ten scoring cities ranged in population size from 57,000 (Sarasota, Florida) to 470,000 (Atlanta, Georgia).
● Both Democrat and Republican leaning cities are setting climate goals and tracking progress. Seventy five percent of the SCCI top twenty scoring cities, however, are Democrat leaning.
● Southeast cities across income levels are setting climate goals and tracking progress. Of the SCCI top twenty scoring cities, 30% have poverty levels greater than 20%.
How City Leaders Can Help
● If your city has already set goals and is tracking progress ○ Strengthen existing GHG goals that are weaker than 80% reduction by 2050 ○ Provide inspiration, education, and support to leaders of other cities in your network that have not yet set measurable climate goals ○ Learn about opportunities to directly or indirectly procure cost-effective large scale renewable energy (greater than 10 megawatts) (LSRE). Procurement of LSRE (in addition to maximizing energy efficiency) is required to achieve robust GHG and renewable energy goals. Read about LSRE procurement by 12 Florida cities in Appendix C
● If your city has not yet completed a GHG inventory or set measurable climate goals ○ Reach out to leaders in the SCCI top twenty for education, including lessons learned, inspiration, and support ○ Join the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy, ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability USA, or another local government focused organization that provides resources for climate action, and follow their protocol as soon as possible ○ If you don’t have a sustainability director, budget for and hire one
How Citizens Can Help ● In all cities ○ Ask all candidates for local elected positions to commit to renewable energy and reducing, measuring, and tracking greenhouse gas emissions and vote for local leaders that are committed to measurable climate action
● If your city has not yet completed a GHG inventory or set measurable climate goals ○ Educate your city leaders and fellow citizens about the Southeast’s climate action opportunity. Hold a public community meeting and one-on-one meetings with city leaders, and spread the word through public access TV, social media, and the local paper ○ Aggressively advocate for setting climate goals and measuring progress to city elected officials and staff through attendance at city council meetings, in-person meetings, emails, and phone calls ○ Contact the Sierra Club Ready for 100 campaign to access resources to help your city advance renewable energy ○ Join a local climate action organization, or start a local chapter of a national or regional climate action organization, and encourage organization-level advocacy for setting climate goals and measuring progress to city elected officials and staff
How Philanthropists Can Help
● Identify and prioritize high-impact changes in the Southeast and increase funding to private and public organizations for research and outreach to achieve them