Svante Myrick

City of Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick announced a proposal for new climate goals that have been laid out in a Green New Deal for Ithaca. The announcement closed out an evening hosted by Sunrise Movement Ithaca, which focused on the federal Green New Deal. The proposal will be discussed at the May 15 City Administration Committee meeting.

Some of the new city goals are to meet the electricity needs of city government operations with 100-percent renewable electricity by 2025 and to make Ithaca a carbon-neutral city by 2030, meaning to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 100 percent. In order to achieve these goals, the mayor has proposed several different actions.

Myrick wants to create a climate action plan in 2020 to provide details on how to achieve these goals as well as update the plan every five years. Myrick also wants to adopt a Green Building Policy for all new buildings in 2019 and adopt a Green Building Policy for existing buildings by 2021. This will require additional staff to ensure the plan is implemented. Myrick’s plan is to set realistic goals that ca be attained instead of those that will be indefinitely prolonged.

“The scale of the problem facing our planet demands that we not simply set goals that we feel are reasonable,” Myrick said. “Just as Kennedy declared in 1962 that we would put a person on the moon before the decade was out, though how that would be achieved was yet unknown, we must set a similarly bold goal and then challenge ourselves to reach it. With a lack of leadership at the federal level, it has fallen to the states, to local governments, and to individual citizens to lead the way.”

During the next City Administration Committee meeting, a resolution will be brought forward to adopt the new goals. Members of the public are invited to make comments at the beginning of the meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. and will be held in the third floor Common Council Chambers. An agenda for the meeting can be found on the city’s website. Deborah Mohlenhoff, chair of the City Administration Committee, is looking forward to the comments and feedback that will develop from the meeting.

“The economic development potential of a Green New Deal for Ithaca is exciting and should not be ignored,” Mohlenoff said. “Beyond helping address climate goals and improving the health and resilience of our community, this initiative will potentially bring hundreds of millions of dollars of new local investment and hundreds of local jobs in fields such as renewable energy, construction, installation, and home retrofitting.

Other members of the City of Ithaca Common Council have found the project is an ambitious undertaking that will set an example for other upstate cities to follow. Seph Murtagh, head of the Planning and Economic Development Committee, is intrigued to see the development of language for the proposed Green Building Policies.

"This ambitious proposal is many things: it's inspiring, it's daunting, and I believe it's necessary," Murtagh said. "It's hugely inspiring, because the City has this opportunity to take our leadership to a new level. But the question people are already asking is, 'How are we going to get there?' The coming Green Building Policy and the planned work on policies targeting energy use in existing buildings will get us a long way. As we plan for future projects, we'll need diverse input to ensure that this historic initiative will benefit our entire community."

As the driving force for the Ithaca Green New Deal, the mayor is examining ample scientific evidence and the emerging international consensus that global warming must be limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius. He also said local sustainability professionals, activists, and the emerging youth climate movement have urged the City to show greater leadership in undertaking this challenge. Local residents proud to see city officials taking a genuine interest in this work, though, Myrick acknowledges the City can’t do it alone. He noted it found will be crucial to pressure both state and federal government officials for support while taking concrete steps to lower local emissions.

“There is no historical precedent for the pace and the scale of the transformation needed to achieve carbon neutrality in Ithaca by 2030,” Myrick said. “I intend to call on all citizens, businesses, and institutions in the community to help us achieve this ambitious goal. Building on our past successes improving equity and sustainability in the City, together we will achieve a more inclusive, healthy, and prosperous Ithaca.”

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