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Questions for sustainability in 2008

David Beach  |  01/03/08 @ 4:17pm

The coming year will be critical for the progress of sustainability in Northeast Ohio. In 2007, we saw some major initiatives begin, and Cleveland was in the spotlight for hosting Solar 2007 and other national green conferences. In 2008, the region will have to build on the momentum. Will we be able to follow through?

Here are some of the key questions for the region's sustainability movement in 2008:

  • Global climate change has emerged as the over-arching issue affecting the sustainability of human civilization. How will our region begin long-term planning to respond to the scientific finding that we need to reduce carbon emissions 80% in the U.S. by 2050? (We've created a Climate Change section to be a community workspace for this planning.)
  • State policy sets many of the rules for our energy system. Will the current debate over electricity restructuring result in a requirement for renewable energy sources ? a policy that can stimulate advanced power industries and economic development in Ohio?
  • If we can stimulate more green jobs in renewable energy and conservation, can we assure that some of these jobs employ urban youth? As Van Jones of the Ella Baker Center says, "The green economy has the power to deliver new sources of work, wealth and health to low-income people - while honoring the Earth. If you can do that, you just wiped out a whole bunch of problems. We can make what is good for poor black kids good for the polar bears and good for the country."
  • A Cuyahoga County task force has been studying how to site wind turbines on Lake Erie? Will we finally get the world's first freshwater wind farm and become a center for all things wind?
  • Will Cleveland Public Power (CPP) break the hearts of local environmentalists (and many long-time CPP supporters) by buying a big share of a new coal-fired power plant in southern Ohio? In an age of climate uncertainty when carbon prices might rise unpredictably, will the city be stuck with 50 years of expensive coal power?
  • Cleaner, greener, healthier cities can save money while improving quality of life. Will more local governments in Northeast Ohio "get it" and develop sustainability programs?
  • Will regionalism take off in 2008? We'll know if the soon-to-be-released report on regional tax-base sharing by the Northeast Ohio Mayors and City Managers Association generates the political will to reduce the ruinous competition for new development between communities in Northeast Ohio.
  • Will the new management team at the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District be able to form a regional stormwater utility with the much-needed vision and capacity to improve green infrastructure - river corridors, greenways, forest cover, wetlands, and parks?
  • The Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA), the five-county transportation planning agency, is facing a perfect storm of challenges ? including political fallout over the recent compromise to allow a new I-90 interchange in Avon, federal pressure to improve the region's air quality, and increasingly tight budgets for transportation projects. Will the storm force NOACA to adopt a new vision for sustainable transportation that focuses on developing walkable neighborhoods?
  • From day one, planning for the $1 billion Cleveland Innerbelt project has made almost no one happy. Will delays and budget cuts in 2008 force ODOT to rethink the whole thing?
  • The one, big, tangible improvement that seemed to be guaranteed by Cleveland's ambitious lakefront plan was the reconstruction of the West Shoreway - transforming it from a highway that blocks access to the lakefront to a boulevard that links neighborhoods with the lake. Will delays and cost increases kill the project, or will Cleveland make sure it happens?
  • Northeast Ohio has the great fortune to have four projects in the U.S. Green Building Council's pilot program to establish green standards for neighborhood development (LEED-ND). In a slow housing market, will the developers be able to follow through with the best green design?
  • Whatever the ultimate decision on a new Cleveland Convention Center, will it be a visionary green convention center that will attract eco-minded travelers from all over the world?
  • Can we make 2008 the year for a big push to complete the Towpath Trail through the Flats to the lake?
  • Will the region's largest employer become the biggest advocate for sustainability? It could happen if the Cleveland Clinic continues to explore what it really means to be a green hospital system.
  • Will land conservation efforts in the region continue to become more effective and strategic via the new Lake Erie Allegheny Partnership for Biodiversity and the Western Reserve Land Conservancy?

These are just some of the issues we will track on GreenCityBlueLake in 2008. What issues do you think will be significant? Post a comment with your ideas. (Login to the site, and click on the "Add new comment" link of this page)

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