City officials say election results won’t change Philly’s sustainability plans

Mayor Jim Kenney said last week’s presidential election results didn’t change the fact that carbon pollutants cause climate change and, because climate change is real, he said, the city relationship to energy must change by using less of it and increasing the use of renewable resources.

At the Energy Coordinating Agency’s annual sustainable energy conference on Thursday, Kenney said the city would move forward with the targets proposed in its sustainability plan, Greenworks, regardless of what comes out of Harrisburg or Washington.

“We can’t dwell on too much on what might be coming down the road,” Mayor Kenney said. “We can control our own destinies here in Philadelphia –or in New York, or Washington; in Boston, in Chicago– and we will continue to move in that progressive fashion.”

President-elect Donald Trump has said he wants to revive the coal industry, expand oil and gas drillings, and reduce environmental regulations, and roll back policy commitments, such as the international Paris climate agreement and Pennsylvania’s Clean Power Plan. But Philadelphia’s sustainability director said that won’t stop the city’s efforts under Greenworks, which set goals to make the city more sustainable for all and to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

“Cities have been leading on sustainability and climate for years already, and we will continue to do that,” Christine Knapp, director of Philadelphia’s Office of Sustainability told PlanPhilly. “It would be nice to have help from Harrisburg or from DC, but the plan that we put together doesn’t rely on them.”

Sam Robinson, deputy secretary of policy and planning in Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Wolf’s Office, said although the state may lose some flexibility around issues and programs, it is committed to continue reducing carbon emissions.

“We don’t know what the future of Clean Power Plan is going to be,” Robinson said. “But we still want to make these things happen.”

Emily Schapira, executive director of the Philadelphia Energy Authority (PEA), said most of the funding for the its 10-year initiative to advance energy efficiency and clean energy while creating 10,000 jobs comes from the private sector. And even though Trump’s victory hurt the renewable energy business, Schapira is optimistic.

“I think the market understands the value of energy efficiency and the return on investment there, the same thing with clean energy and solar, so I think that will continue to drive forward,” Schapira told PlanPhilly. “And the reality is coal doesn’t have long to live no matter how you feel about it. So we need to be finding other sources of energy.”

Although cost is still a big barrier for clean energy, Schapira said that solar prices have decreased 80% in the recent years and will continue to come down.

“We did an analysis for the school district this past summer where we found that just here in the city they could do solar at the same exact price they pay for regular utilities right now,” Schapira said. “So it’s totally cost neutral, it would not cost them anything extra to do it, and it has tons of educational benefits too.”

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