Carl Pope: Cities Can Lead ... Cities Want to Lead ... So Let them!
Prospects for the Paris climate summit is much brighter than for any climate gathering since Kyoto in 1997. Three main factors are driving Paris towards success: China's decision, partly driven by its air pollution crisis, to become a major advocate of change both domestically and globally has upended the politics of North vs. South. The dramatic fall in the price of clean energy options like wind and solar has made climate progress seem like an enticing economic opportunity, not a burdensome shared sacrifice. And the opening up of the Paris process to the first responders to climate risk—cities and their leadership—has disrupted the ability of nation state negotiators to just stand pat.
Welcome to #Cities4Climate – a historic event recognizing local climate action during #COP21 https://t.co/SQcYBll6JI https://t.co/r8u5TDKVa0— Mike Bloomberg (@Mike Bloomberg)1449214354.0
Cities, after all, already contain half the world's population and are the source of 70 percent of its emissions. By 2040 their population share will be more than 70 percent and they will emit about 90 percent of all climate pollutants. So they clearly have to drive the solution. And because they are also the focus of the worst heat waves, the most damaging sea level rise and the biggest natural disaster burdens, they are powerfully motivated to curb climate disruption.
Finally, in a world where clean energy is suddenly cheap, the real conflict of interest is between fossil fuel producers (who want high prices for coal and oil as long as possible) and energy consumers, who want cheap, clean energy today if possible. And with few cities, the economies of the world's big cities are tied to energy consumption, not fossil fuel production. So while oil and coal interests can tie down national governments and prevent them from decarbonizing quickly, cities want to get on with the job—and they are.
City governments don't yet control all of their own emissions. But they do generally manage three sectors—buildings, transportation and waste—which are responsible for about 1/3 of urban climate pollution. A study by the Stockholm Institute found that by 2050 cities adopting economically profitable, emission reducing solutions in these three sectors could cut global emissions by 8 GT of CO2 a year—for comparison , the 2030 climate pledges currently on the table from all the world's sovereign nations add up to Y GT. So the city capacity is very consequential. A study by the New Climate Economy also found that cities could save $17 trillion with these measures. Cities are also poised to save 1GT even before 2020—and early progress is the most valuable climate progress.
Overheard at the Climate Summit for Local Leaders earlier today #Cities4Climate #Quote https://t.co/TFy6nef55E— Cities4Climate (@Cities4Climate)1449238727.0
Cities are already leading the day. The White House celebrated the collective work of more than 100 U.S. cities in their commitments to the Compact of Mayors, a coalition of cities pledging to undertake transparent, data-driven approaches to reduce city-level emissions, lower climate change risk and work to complement national and international efforts to protect our climate.
But cities can do far more if properly empowered. In the U.S., for example, some cities control the source of their electricity and where they do, they are moving rapidly to lower carbon sources. Omaha, Nebraska, owns its own power and has committed to cut its carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030, far more than the 30 percent Obama Clean Power Plan target. In six U.S. states, including California, Illinois and Ohio, cities can choose their own electricity providers. So far 1,300 cities, with 5 percent of the U.S. population, have taken advantage of this, including such behemoths as Chicago and Cincinnati. And in every case the city gets cheaper power and cleaner, lower carbon electrons. U.S. cities are leading the way.
Electricity is not the only climate pollution source that cities need to be empowered to tackle. In many countries, cities are hampered by the lack of authority to issue bonds to pay for low carbon infrastructure like mass transit to building retrofits, even when such infrastructure is wildly profitable and would enable cities to cut taxes. Other cities in the emerging world have permission to borrow, but haven't been given the necessary financial tools to qualify for a credit rating—so they can't borrow affordably. Once Lima Peru got a credit rating, it built a rapid transit system that is transforming the face of the city.
Many cities lack the authority to insist that cars and trucks coming in burn clean fuels in clean engines—the resulting pollution problems not only disrupt the climate but also impose enormous health burdens on urban residents. Paris has been forced to consider banning diesel cars from the city, but has no influence over the lax, shoddy regulations that the member states in the European Union have established over vehicle emissions, as revealed in the last Volkswagen scandal. When Mike Bloomberg was Mayor of New York and tried to reduce traffic congestion and pollution in Manhattan with congestion pricing, the state legislature blocked him. And his efforts to encourage hybrid taxes in NYC's yellow cab fleet were hampered by federal rules and regulations.
So the key to unlocking the full potential of city climate leadership is to empower cities with the policy levers to clean up not only buildings and transit, but electricity, fuels and vehicles—if every city had the strongest tools that are currently available only to a few, the world's climate prospects would glow far more brightly.
Cities can lead. Cities want to lead. Let them!
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It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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<div id="fea63" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9a6f211c2bc5aedd34837944cb8eeedf"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1281000111481294849" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Water in Illinois is overwhelmingly public. Why is Tammy Duckworth sponsoring a bill that aims to change that? https://t.co/1V36Kkd99s</div> — The American Prospect (@The American Prospect)<a href="https://twitter.com/TheProspect/statuses/1281000111481294849">1594249201.0</a></blockquote></div>
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