While most U.S. cities are starting to seize the opportunity to address climate change, few are prioritizing the needs of low-income people and communities as part of their green strategies and programs, a new report from Living Cities finds.
A consortium of foundations and financial institutions, Living Cities surveyed leaders and policy makers in forty of the country's largest cities by population and found that 80 percent of big cities rank sustainability among their top five priorities, while more than three-quarters have, or soon will have, detailed plans on how they are going to reduce greenhouse gases. According to the report, Green Cities: How Urban Sustainability Efforts Can and Must Drive America's Climate Change Policies (45 pages, PDF), rising energy costs have driven increases in public transit ridership in virtually every city in the survey; nearly all the cities in the survey hope to attract green-collar jobs and industries; and roughly a quarter of them have green building mandates that apply to private construction projects.
The report identifies three areas in which significant headway is being made and where opportunities for further progress exist, especially as new resources become available through the stimulus bill. Two of the areas — retrofitting buildings and developing a green workforce — can be fostered by partnering with area colleges to create green-focused training programs with special outreach to the under- and unemployed. The third, significantly cutting emissions from vehicles, can be advanced by investing more money in public transportation, with an eye to connecting poorer neighborhoods to their overall plan.
"This report shows that cities are leaders in using green strategies to advance economic recovery efforts and create better jobs," said Don Chen, program officer at the Ford Foundation, a Living Cities coalition member. "But it also signals the urgent need for these efforts to reach more people — including low-income and working families — to build stronger communities for the long term."
For a complete list of the cities surveyed, visit the Living Cities Web site.