Philadelphia will attempt to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 in the face of worsening effects of climate change, including hotter temperatures and more frequent and severe storms, Mayor Jim Kenney announced Friday.
The goal comes as an advanced timeline to the one set out when President Donald Trump announced his intention to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement. At that time, the city had committed to reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, but scientific consensus indicates “that we have to go further if we are truly to prevent the worst impacts of climate change,” Kenney said.
“Every day, we see new evidence that climate change is real and that it is hurting our residents, particularly people of color and low-income and working-class resident. We must do our part to achieve climate justice and ensure all Philadelphians benefit from a healthy environment now and for generations to come,” the mayor said.
The steps the city is taking to achieve its new carbon neutrality goal will be outlined in a “Climate Action Playbook,” which brings together existing sustainability plans and programs. The playbook is currently in draft form, and the city is asking residents to take a survey to provide feedback “to help inform future climate action in Philadelphia.”
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The city also announced Saleem Chapman as its Chief Resilience Officer. Chapman’s role will be to help prepare the city for the effects of climate change in the coming years.
Chapman noted that last summer, while the city continued to struggle with the coronavirus pandemic, it was also dealing with sweltering heat disproportionally hurting people in lower-income neighborhoods.
A new Environmental Justice Commission – composed of people with lived experiences and an interest in the effects of climate change on Philadelphia – will seek to remedy some of the “racial and class disparities in exposure to environmental harm,” according to a city press release.
“It is clear that climate change will bring more unprecedented tests, and as it further amplifies many of the city’s existing struggles – such as poverty, health inequity and aging infrastructure – it makes it all so important that as we take action today to ensure that as we rebound from these disruptions, we don’t simply return to the same inequitable systems,” Chapman said. “Instead we use those events to advance toward a more healthy, more just and more prosperous future for all.”