Climate Now
Climate Now
Feb 6, 2023
How to decarbonize a city
Play • 32 min

In November 2021, the City of Ithaca announced the approval of a plan to decarbonize all of its buildings by 2030. In this first-of-its-kind decarbonization plan, Ithaca outlined a pathway to electrify roughly 6,000 homes and buildings as a first step to enacting the city’s own Green New Deal - a resolution established to locally address climate change, economic inequality, and racial injustice. The task is monumental - technically, financially and practically. First, an effective decarbonization plan had to be developed - how do you actually decarbonize 6,000 buildings? Second, the city had to figure out how to finance a ~ $500 million dollar infrastructure investment project with a city budget of ~ $90 million dollars. And finally, the city had to ensure that they had buy-in from building owners and that building retrofits were prioritized equitably and without disadvantaging any groups, particularly those who have been traditionally marginalized in the past.

So how are they doing it, and can other cities learn from the path that Ithaca has forged? In a three-part live event series, Climate Now brought together experts, city planners, and local business and community leaders to explain what it has taken for Ithaca to enact its decarbonization plan, what has worked well, and what lessons can be learned. Our next episode will highlight the key takeaways from those conversations - stay tuned!

Key Questions:

  1. Ithaca, NY made a plan to decarbonize 100% of its buildings as part of a strategy to reach net-zero emissions by 2030. What is actually involved in accomplishing such a goal? 
  2. How can a small city with limited resources finance their own clean energy transition?
  3. What considerations are needed to ensure that such decarbonization plans are carried out equitably, and to the benefit of the entire community?
  4. How might other municipalities learn from Ithaca’s model?

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