US cities expand efforts to tackle climate change

Leading US cities are expanding their clean energy efforts to tackle climate change, yet many more lag far behind, and only one-fifth have community-wide greenhouse gas reductions goals and are on track to meet them, according to the 2020 City Clean Energy Scorecard.

New York City leaped to first place in the ranking—spurred in part by a new law ensuring upgrades to many inefficient buildings—followed by Boston (pictured) and Seattle (tied for second place) and Minneapolis and San Francisco (tied for fourth place).

The scorecard from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) analyses the efforts of 100 major U.S. cities—home to 19 per cent of the nation’s population—to make buildings and transportation more energy efficient and scale up the use of renewable energy. It provides the most comprehensive national measuring stick for climate progress and a roadmap for future improvements. Over time, the Scorecard has adopted metrics to assess community involvement and equity as part of cities’ clean energy efforts.

The report, expanded from 75 cities last year, finds that 20 cities are now on track to meet their own community-wide greenhouse gas emission reduction goals - nine more than a year ago. Yet the remainder of the cities are not on track, haven’t provided adequate data, or have not set a goal. 

“Many cities are really seizing the moment and embracing policies that help them fight climate change, while too many others are, frankly, doing very little,” said David Ribeiro, director of ACEEE’s local policy program and the lead report author. “We want to show all the cities, even the leaders, the further steps they can take to cut carbon emissions most effectively and equitably.”

Washington, DC, Denver, Los Angeles, San José, and Oakland rounded out the top 10 highest-ranked cities, with the two latter cities making the top ten for the first time.

Boston and Los Angeles updated codes to require new buildings be pre-wired for electric vehicle charging stations at more parking spaces, and San Francisco convened a network to work with marginalized communities to establish equitable zero-emissions residential building strategies. 

St. Paul (no.16) was the most-improved city, taking key steps to improve efficiency of existing buildings, reduce total vehicle miles traveled, and embrace renewable energy. St. Louis (no.28) was the second-most-improved city; in April, it became the third city in the country to require large existing buildings to meet a performance standard, which will drive energy efficiency upgrades.

 

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