Goal: Philadelphia Reduces Its Vulnerability to Rising Energy Prices
Cities have always been associated with power. Today, however, in a world of rising energy prices and uncertainty around future supply, cities that can lower their energy consumption will have an enormous advantage in the competition for residents and investment. Greenworks Philadelphia therefore has placed increasing energy efficiency and cultivating renewable energy sources at the center of its sustainability strategy. Such efforts will lead to a decreased dependence on carbon-based energy sources; personal and commercial financial savings; and the creation of new businesses and new jobs.
Goal: Philadelphia Reduces Its Environmental Footprint
For the past two decades, warning bells have sounded that global climate change is real and, if ignored, will have a devastating impact on our planet. Those bells—rung by scientists, political leaders and environmentalists—have grown louder over the last few years as weather prediction models depict ever faster and steeper global warming trends. Out of the current policy debate has emerged an understanding that global population centers—which produce 75 percent of the world’s energy consumption and related greenhouse gas emissions—have a substantial role to play in reducing the emissions that lead to global warming, especially since dense cities like Philadelphia produce less greenhouse gas emissions per capita. Philadelphians on average emit 10.2 tons of carbon equivalents each year versus a national per capita rate of 23.6 tons. To be certain, one of the central arguments of Greenworks Philadelphia is that sustainability will lead to a healthier, wealthier and more competitive city. But it should not be ignored that nearly all of its proposed initiatives will also positively impact the larger planet by reducing the city’s carbon footprint, improving regional air quality and diverting solid waste from landfills.
Goal: Philadelphia Delivers More Equitable Access To Healthy Neighborhoods
Prior to settlement, the land that is now Philadelphia consisted of streams, forests and wetlands. As William Penn planned his utopian city, he hoped to preserve much of this natural setting, believing that open space was essential for pleasure and health. Today, with 9,200 acres spread over 63 neighborhood and regional parks, Fairmount Park remains one of the country’s largest municipally-operated park systems and still plays an integral role in watershed management and protection, even as its emphasis has shifted to recreation.
Philadelphia Creates Competitive Advantage From Sustainability Public policies that favored suburban sprawl over urban density helped pull people and jobs away from Philadelphia. In 1950, Philadelphia had a population of more than 2 million people and had built an urban infrastructure capable of supporting 2.5 million. But when the century ended, the city held less than 1.5 million residents. Yet cities like Philadelphia remain efficient organisms, using less energy and producing fewer greenhouse emissions per capita than their surrounding suburbs or newer sprawling metropolises. In a world where carbon emissions exact an environmental cost, water is becoming scarce and oil supplies are in decline, Philadelphia offers distinct competitive advantages. Philadelphia’s challenge then is to seize this moment. It must leverage its existing assets, particularly its transit system and walkable neighborhoods; invest in its existing infrastructure; and flex its economic muscles to attract new residents and companies. The burgeoning green economy, with jobs that range from low-skill weatherization to high-skill machining and design, represents an opportunity for Philadelphia to once again be one of the world’s workshops.
Goal: Philadelphians Unite To Build a Sustainable Future In developing this strategy, the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability engaged in conversations with hundreds of Philadelphians from every city neighborhood. Through those discussions, which also took place on-line, Philadelphia’s have helped shape the ambitious goals, targets and initiatives that form Greenworks Philadelphia. In the coming months and years, we will reach out to residents and businesses who might not yet know what sustainability means, but who also have a stake in Philadelphia’s future. Through this engagement, Philadelphians will come to understand that green isn’t only about the environment; it’s about finding a job and being able to afford to heat and cool your home.
The Mayor’s Office of Sustainability knows that success on all of Greenworks Philadelphia targets will require the effort and input of many partners—from our United States Senators and Representatives and their legislative counterparts in City Hall and Harrisburg, to countless local nonprofit organizations, businesses and residents. And nothing will be possible without the dedication and efforts of the City’s workforce, particularly those operating departments that are already engaged in many of the described initiatives.
But Philadelphia’s success is most dependent upon its citizens. Without their involvemt.