Jul 8, 2017 by

Mayor Landrieu calls climate change an “existential threat” to city.

The administration of New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu released a climate action strategy on July 7, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

In response to the dire threat posed by climate change, New Orleans released a climate action strategy on Friday that includes more than two dozen actions aimed at cutting the city’s greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030.

Cities must take the lead on climate programs in the wake of the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in his state of the city address on Thursday.

“There is no other city in the world that has more at stake than the city of New Orleans,” he said.

Landrieu, who serves as the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, said in a statement last month on behalf of the organization that withdrawal from the Paris agreement “is a shortsighted decision” and that mayors “will do what we need to do on our own” without federal support.

In New Orleans, the city plans to address climate change by getting 100 percent of its power generation from low-carbon sources by 2030, with interim goals of 65 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2025. New Orleans also wants to see the installation of 55 megawatts of locally generated solar energy, a 50 percent increase in non-automobile trips through a redesign of regional public transit, and a reduction of 50 percent of waste bound for landfills through expanded recycling and other measures, with the goal of “zero waste achieved by 2050.”

In outlining the new strategy, the city stated that if it fails to address greenhouse gas emissions, New Orleans would be forced to grapple with 4.3 million metric tons of emissions by 2030. Under the new goal of a 50 percent reduction below 2014 levels, officials estimate they will be able to cut greenhouse gas emissions to about 1.8 million by 2030.

To reach its goal of 100 percent low-carbon electricity by 2030, New Orleans said its electric power could come from renewable sources such as solar, wind, hydropower, and geothermal and from such sources as nuclear, waste-to-energy, battery storage, and demand-side management. New Orleans’ electric generation mix in 2014 — the baseline year for which the city collected greenhouse gas information to set its goals — was composed of 57 percent nuclear, 18 percent natural gas, 4 percent coal, and 21 percent of mixed-origin power purchased from the city’s regional grid operator.

“Thanks to Entergy’s early leadership as a U.S. utility that recognized the threat of global climate change, about 57 percent of our power now comes from nuclear so we are more than halfway to our goal already,” the city says in the strategy. “Recently, Entergy affirmed a goal to procure 100 MW of renewable energy, which would take us from 0 percent to more than 5 percent.”

Floodwaters from Hurricane Katrina fill the streets near downtown New Orleans on Aug. 30, 2005. CREDIT: AP Photo/David J. Phillip

In his state of the city speech, the mayor emphasized that the wetlands that provide New Orleans protection from storms “are disappearing faster than anyplace else in the world.” Landrieu argued that the debate over coastal restoration has presented the city with many false choices. Drilling for oil and gas off Louisiana’s coast can continue as long as the state and city adopt energy conservation measures and restore wetlands disturbed or eliminated by the energy industry, he said.

A 2006 study by the U.S, Geological Survey and Gas Research Institute concluded that 36 percent of the wetland loss in the state was directly caused by the oil and gas companies’ activity. More recent projections say Louisiana is losing land much faster than officials thought, primarily due to oil and gas industry activity, NPR reported in January.

Landrieu’s speech was not filled with only doom and gloom. He referenced the investments made by the city since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. “We have rebuilt this city with a special focus on neighborhoods that have been hardest hit by the storm,” he said.

But more work needs to be done to improve the city’s schools, housing, streets, and infrastructure. “All of those issues I just talked about — all of them — are dwarfed by two existential and immediate threats that are at our door and threaten our very future,” Landrieu said, citing climate change and the city’s high crime rate.

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