The City of Pittsburgh is well on its way toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions by twenty percent in the next decade, according to the Pittsburgh Climate Initiative (PCI).
PCI reports that over half of the recommendations in the Pittsburgh Climate Action Plan, v. 2.0 have already been completed or are in-progress, just one year after the plan was adopted.
The plan is an update to a 2008 climate action plan and includes 126 specific recommendations for reducing greenhouse gas emissions throughout the city. Of those, 33 have been completed and 44 others have been implemented and are in progress. Examples include purchasing at least fifteen percent of electricity used by the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority from renewable energy sources, upgrading Pittsburgh Housing Authority buildings for energy efficiency and reducing energy use in city government buildings by twenty percent over five years.
The plan includes both government operations as well as private businesses. Local corporations, including Bayer, BNY Mellon, Highmark, UPMC, Eaton Corporation, Del Monte Foods, evolve:ea, and Pashek Associates have already collectively saved over $4.2 million, 67 million kilowatt hours of energy and 91 million gallons of water, through the Green Workplace Challenge. Colleges and universities are also involved in this effort through the 11-member Higher Education Climate Consortium.
Community members have also gotten involved through the Black and Gold City Goes Green campaign. Participants have reported actions that together have added up to an annual reduction of more than eight million pounds of carbon dioxide.
Examples of recommendations from the 2008 plan that have been successfully accomplished include hiring a city sustainability coordinator and creating a Sustainability Commission, improving recycling in the City-County Building, retrofitting streetlights to be more efficient, helping businesses complete greenhouse gas emissions inventories, establishing a Higher Education Climate Consortium and completing greenhouse gas inventories for most of the colleges and universities in Pittsburgh.
While the 2008 plan recommendations focused largely on preliminary steps, the updated plan focuses much more on measurable actions. Because only three percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Pittsburgh are the result of government operations, a goal in 2013 is to engage more residents and businesses in climate protection efforts.
While much of the media attention on climate change has focused on the effects to sensitive species and ecosystems, PCI urges Pittsburghers to recognize the predicted impacts of climate change on our region, including higher summer temperatures, longer heat waves and a greater incidence of torrential downpours and flash flooding. As an area already challenged by poor air quality, flooding, and combined-sewer overflows, the Pittsburgh region has a clear incentive to reduce the effects of climate change.