Atlanta’s new clean energy plan shares aspirations with proposed Green New Deal

By David Pendered

Atlanta’s newly adopted Clean Energy Plan to guide the city’s planned transition to 100 percent clean energy shares some similarities with the Green New Deal legislation filed in Congress, and arrives just in time for this week’s Climate Realty Project training session that’s headlined by Al Gore.

Solar panels on the roof the Atlanta Community Food Bank. Credit: David Pendered

Commercial buildings in Atlanta are included in a program Atlanta is creating to lower the cost of installing solar panels. File/Credit: David Pendered

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms portrays the plan, Clean Energy Atlanta, in terms that go beyond fossil-free energy. The mayor says in her letter that prefaces the report:

  • Clean Energy Atlanta is a social contract to protect the health and welfare of its citizenry. As such, we call upon the people of Atlanta to join us in the clean energy movement.”

These far-reaching words likely will be talked up by Atlanta’s environmental advocates with the sell-out crowd signed up for the Climate Realty training program. The former vice president is to lead the event, March 14 through March 16, to educate volunteers on steps they and their businesses can take to improve the environment.

The aspirational aspects of Clean Energy Atlanta is one of is major attributes, according to Jennette Gayer, state director of Environment Georgia. Gayer observed that accomplishments begin with a plan, and this one gives environmental advocates a platform from which to work with colleagues around the state.

“We’ll be working with other cities, like Athens, to follow Atlanta’s lead and also commit to 100 percent clean and renewable energy,” Gayer said. “It is exciting to think about the leverage that brings to the statewide conversation happening around renewables and efficiency, at the PSC [Public Service Commission] or the Legislature – major population centers demanding more clean and renewable energy can only help our statewide carbon footprint.”

These two notions, from Gayer and the mayor, resonate with the Green New Energy legislation. Though filed just a month ago, the twin bills sponsored by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), House Resolution 109 and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA.), Senate Resolution 59, have moved to the center of national debate and spurred criticism from President Trump.

english avenue, boarded house

Residents of lower income neighborhoods, including English Avenue, pay a higher proportion of their income on energy than do residents of wealthier neighborhoods. File/Credit: David Pendered (2018)

In addition, the principles outlined in the proposal have emerged as a litmus test among Democratic presidential contenders. One of them, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, has said a battle against climate change will be a central focus of his campaign.

One Republican Georgia congressman has stepped up to lead the GOP response to the Green New Energy Legislation.

Rep. Jody Hice, of the northeast Georgia 10th District, filed a resolution that would compel the House to consider the Green New Deal legislation the moment after it approves House Resolution 132. Hice’s resolution would allow for a total of one-hour of debate. Hice’s plan is expected to reduce support for the proposal.

Both Clean Energy Atlanta and the Green New Deal cite in their foundation-building passages environmental statements that enjoy widespread support. Atlanta’s plan references the Paris Agreement, the climate change agreement signed in 2015. The federal legislation cites last year’s reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Fourth National Climate Assessment.

Atlanta’s plan provides plenty of specifics. Here are two examples, one regarding the relative burden of home electrical costs and the other the city’s tree cover:

  • “For Atlanta’s three least-burdened neighborhoods, the average household income is $90,000 per year with average monthly electricity and water bills of $330. In Atlanta’s three most-burdened neighborhoods, the average household income is $26,000 per year with average monthly electricity and water bills exceeding $245 a month.”
  • “Atlanta is experiencing major losses to its ecosystem too, ranking first for the number of tree species that can no longer survive within its borders and having lost 14 percent of native species already. Due to current increases in temperature, Atlanta has lost many species, including the Eastern White Pine, and in the coming decades is expected to lose the Cucumbertree Magnolia and five species of oak trees once iconic to the treeline. Atlanta’s reputation as a “city in the forest” is in jeopardy.”
Energy efficiency, balcony

Atlanta homeowners can reduce their consumption of fossil fuel by insulating their homes to prevent seepage, as is the case in this home in Southeast Atlanta. File/Credit: David Pendered (2016)

The Green New Deal begins with the statement that the federal government has five duties to perform. Two of the five duties relate specifically to the environment and the others speak to issues more social in nature:

“[I]t is the duty of the federal government to create a Green New Deal –

  • “to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions through a fair and just transition for all communities and workers;
  • “to create millions of good, high-wage jobs and ensure prosperity and economic security for all people of the United States;
  • “to invest in the infrastructure and industry of the United States to sustainably meet the challenges of the 21st century;
  • “to secure for all people of the United States for generations to come – (i) clean air and water; (ii) climate and community resiliency; (iii) healthy food; (iv) access to nature; and (v) a sustainable environment;
  • “to promote justice and equity by stop- ping current, preventing future, and repairing historic oppression of indigenous peoples, com- munities of color, migrant communities, deindustrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, and youth (referred to in this resolution as ‘‘frontline and vulnerable communities’’)….”

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

3 replies
  1. Avatar
    Justin Wiedeman says:

    What a joke. A political deflection from corruption. I will not at all be surprised if Keisha Lance Bottoms is indicted. Fake tax returns in the campaign do not explain the lavish spending and credit provided by a small private bank to buy a million vacation home that can’t be rented in Martha’s Vineyard. This after a decade long history of property tax liens for income taxes, property taxes and HOA dues. Come on people – look at this for what it is. A diversion from yet another corrupt Mayor of Atlanta.Report

    Reply
  2. Avatar
    Bob Peppel says:

    15.000 years ago there were glaciers in Ohio. As soon as they prove that carbon emissions caused them to recede, I’ll buy into the green new deal.Report

    Reply

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