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Dear Decaturish – What else can Decatur do to tackle climate change?

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Dear Decaturish – What else can Decatur do to tackle climate change?

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The boundaries of the city of Decatur. Source: Google Maps


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Dear Decaturish,

What else can Decatur do to tackle climate change?

The short answer to that question is lots. The first step is to understand that the climate crisis is both an individual and a collective challenge. The Decatur Environmental Sustainability Board and the City Commission have been finding ways to get involved at both levels. The city’s most recent Sustainability Report outlined steps that individuals can take and a few the city has already taken, such as preserving green spaces and creating solar buying programs. But, what else can be done?

In the City of Decatur, more than half our carbon footprint (global warming) comes from energy used for electricity, heating, cooling, and transportation. Lowering our footprint is a necessary, important, and pressing goal. However, we need a plan. A Decatur Climate and Energy Plan would divide the problem into smaller parts and create a blueprint for change. The process started at the 2030 strategic plan listening sessions in January. The next step would be bringing in outside experts to assess where we can make the biggest impact, how we get there, and at what cost.

The Plan could focus on reducing our largest sources of carbon emissions by:

– Converting additional city buildings and schools to clean renewable energy like solar,

– Transitioning our city vehicles such as police cars, small trucks and school buses to electric vehicles,

– Making our buildings energy efficient, and

– Developing policies that promote and incentivize these changes for the commercial and residential segments.

The key is doing this in a fair and equitable way for our entire community, regardless of the color of our skin, where we come from, or what’s in our wallets. The concept is: think globally, act locally, and include everybody. Luckily, other cities and institutions in Georgia are already helping forge the way. The opportunities to save money and reduce our carbon footprint are endless. We can look to them for guidance.

Take Emory University, for example. A few months ago, the university signed a solar power agreement to install 15,000 solar panels on buildings and parking lots across their campus. This will save approximately 4,300 metric tons of carbon, or the equivalent of 929 cars on the road in one year. The solar arrays will be owned and operated by Cherry Street and require no upfront investment.

The University of Georgia has chosen to tackle the climate crisis with electric busses. Thirty-three to be exact – more than any other university in the country. Each bus reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent and lowers daily operating costs by 95 percent, according to the UGA website.

Another example is a pay as you save program to insulate low-income housing in southwest Atlanta. Many residents of the Atlanta area have a high energy burden. This means they spend more of their income on energy than many other residents. They can’t afford to insulate their residences because it requires money to pay up front, or taking out a costly loan. The program allows people to use the power company’s resources to finance energy efficiency while they benefit in immediate energy bills savings. It’s a win-win for climate change and utility customers.

All this to say that solutions to the climate crisis exist right now. In Decatur we have an exciting future ahead of us to make our city healthier, more equitable, and livable as well as to do our part. You can help by speaking up for clean renewable energy at the virtual Decatur2030 Strategic Planning sessions in the coming weeks.

– Hobart Stocking

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