Jobs are the heart of Nutter's sustainability plan

Posted: April 29, 2009

If talk about greenhouse gases or carbon footprints makes your eyes glaze over, think about this:

New parks and leafy trees throughout the city, more farmers' markets with fresh food for sale, cheaper household energy bills and - most importantly - more than 10,000 new jobs.

That's Mayor Nutter's vision for the city in his new sustainability plan, Greenworks Philadelphia. The agenda, which Nutter was to reveal today, sets 15 targets to make Philadelphia a greener place to live by 2015.

The targets include weatherizing city homes, to make them more energy-efficient; increasing recycling rates; lowering greenhouse-gas emissions, and providing local food within walking distance of more residents.

Federal tax dollars from President Obama's $787 billion stimulus package will help the city achieve some of the goals, officials said.

"Greenworks Philadelphia is about the future of Philadelphia," Nutter said. "First and foremost it's about jobs and the economy, it's about energy savings, it's about reducing our dependence on foreign oil and about decreasing our carbon footprint."

With a walkable Center City, extensive public-transit network and massive urban park system, Philadelphia is already considered an environmentally sound place to live. The sustainability Web site www.sustainlane.com last year ranked Philly as the nation's eighth-most environmentally friendly city out of 50 surveyed.

But the city is burdened with older energy-inefficient buildings, a relatively low recycling rate and air quality that does not meet new federal standards.

Director of Sustainability Mark Alan Hughes said that Greenworks builds on the sustainability work already under way in the city, and sets short-term goals to improve lagging areas.

"We tell you exactly what we're going to do," Hughes said. "Unlike other cities, this is not a 2030 plan; this is not a 2050 plan. This is a 2015 plan."

Hughes also stressed that this effort will impact Philadelphians directly, improving quality of life in the city and creating jobs.

"My job is not to sell Philadelphians on carbon reduction," Hughes said. "This is about poverty reduction. This is not about polar bears. This is about prosperity. This is much more an economic-development plan than a traditional environmental plan. This is about jobs, jobs, jobs."

Green jobs, loosely known as work that provides an environmental benefit, are at the heart of the plan. Hughes said that now is the time for this effort because of funding for green jobs in the stimulus package.

Hughes said that the city is set to receive millions in federal dollars for weatherization of homes and for green-jobs training. Those green jobs could be in weatherization, agriculture, landscaping or engineering, he said.

By 2015, the city hopes to double the number of green jobs in the city, from 14,379 to 28,800.

Hughes said that most of the costs associated with the plan will be covered by stimulus or state money, or through money already in the city budget - like funds that have been put aside to provide an incentive program to encourage greater recycling.

And he stressed that a higher recycling rate and more energy-efficient municipal buildings will save the city cash. For example, if energy consumption in city buildings is reduced by 30 percent, the city should save an estimated $36 million in 2015.

Many other major cities have put out environmental or sustainability plans in recent years. New York announced an environmental plan in 2007, Chicago put out a climate agenda in September.

Like those cities, Philadelphia aims to improve air quality and make buildings more efficient. But the local plan includes goals like the green-jobs target and a pledge to bring locally produced food within a 10-minute walk of all residents.

Christine Knapp, director of outreach for the environmental group PennFuture, said that those goals are what sustainability is all about.

"Sustainability is about sustaining a community," said Knapp, who serves on Nutter's Sustainability Advisory Board. "People need jobs, people need access to health care and health equity. I think this is a broader look at sustainability." *

|
|
|
|
|