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Walk the talk: Cleveland turning more to sustainability

Marc Lefkowitz  |  06/19/14 @ 1:00pm  |  Posted in Transform

Cleveland has been bending the arc of sustainability from aspiration to action lately. The city appears to be employing a strategy of tying green projects to its Climate Action Plan (CAP) while leveraging its capital budget.

Write the book<br />Cleveland Climate Action Plan lays out the vision and action steps the city will take to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent.

Since the 2013 release of its CAP, which set 33 actions around an aggressive 80% reduction of its carbon emissions by 2050, Cleveland has come out with a handful of high-profile requests for proposals (RFPs).

Mayor Jackson put it this way: “Whether it’s planting trees, building green, creating healthier transportation options, or reducing waste and recycling, we can increase the livability of our neighborhoods and enhance quality of life.”

City Hall’s recent actions line up with that statement. This week, the city released an RFP calling for a Tree Plan.

“With many sustainability initiatives underway, including a recently-released Climate Action Plan, the time is right to consider the future of Cleveland’s urban forest,” it reads.

The Tree Plan is a response to the Cuyahoga County tree assessment which estimates that trees cover only 18% of Cleveland while the county has 37.6% of land shaded by trees. It is also Action #27 in the CAP, which has a goal of planting 75 new acres of trees by 2020. The city estimates that greening land and water use will absorb 0.9% of its greenhouse gas.

The Tree RFP calls for a street-by-street assessment, goal setting and action steps for increasing tree cover in the city. GCBL reported that similar tree plans have lead to concerted planting efforts like New York’s Million Trees campaign.

After declaring 2014 the Year of Zero Waste, the Cleveland Office of Sustainability started searching for ways to reduce its tonnage. The CAP calls for a landfill diversion rate of 50% by 2030, and Action #22 calls for programs & policies to encourage waste reduction & diversion by residents and business. In its carbon analysis, waste reduction could lower the city’s emissions by 0.6%.

In an email, Sustainability Chief, Jenita McGowan, says the intent of its Waste RFP, which was sent out in May, is “seeking a long-term waste management solution for the City of Cleveland. The RFP is soliciting proposals from qualified firms interested in proposing to design, build, own and operate a Waste Reduction and Recycling (WR&R) Project for the City of Cleveland. The RFP is designed to work in concert with the ongoing expansion of automated waste collection and curbside recycling pickup, efforts to improve recycling habits by residents, and the city’s Climate Action Plan.”

Burning coal makes Energy by far the biggest pollution source in Cleveland. In the CAP, the city found that energy efficiency in buildings could erase 14% of its GHG emissions, and renewable energy powering homes and business amounts to the single largest opportunity (17%) for the city’s GHG reduction.

To that end McGowan announced this week that the City is also currently conducting a renewable energy site screening (Action # 10), which includes identifying vacant land where large scale solar or wind energy could work.

With its own utility, Cleveland Public Power, the city is in a position to ink deals with solar PV system operators like the recent 1 megawatt installations at Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Agency’s headquarters on Kinsman Road and that Case-UH power provider, Medical Co., installed on vacant land on Euclid Avenue.

While sustainable mobility only accounts for 0.2% of GHG reductions, Cleveland’s 70 miles of Bikeway Plan and its RFP for a Bike Share operator are indicators of the importance the city places on personal mobility choices (Action #20) both for health and environmental reasons. The city’s goal is reduce single occupancy vehicle trips from 69% to 62% by 2020, and to 55% by 2030. The city has shown a willingness to “own” the bikeways plan—by adopting Complete Streets policy and adding bikeways to its 2014 capital budget.

But, it has not yet shown, as in other cities, that it wants to make Bike Share a city program. An overdue implementation plan should deem who is the “owner,” and perhaps the city will step forward into the role (which could then give a signal to the private sector that Cleveland is serious about bike share). Given its recent signs of action, is it a stronger possibility that Cleveland would want to own this role? In other cases, such as the Tree RFP, the city’s new and energized arborist, Jennifer Braman, seems to have her hand firmly on the wheel of where she’d like the plan to go.

The recent flurry of action from the city and in particular its Office of Sustainability bodes well for a more robust set of actions aimed at the dual prong of mitigating climate change and bolstering Cleveland’s green economy.

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Heavy Metal
4 years ago

What are the complete street improvements west of Stokes on Cedar? Until we find out why the city is not complying with the much heralded Complete Streets Ordinance for so many roads projects, it shouldn't be trumpeted as making one bit of difference.

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