ITHACA, N.Y. – Mayor Svante Myrick released a proposal for a local Green New Deal on Friday, after announcing that he would pursue local measures to address climate change at a May 2 forum hosted by Sunrise Movement Ithaca. The proposal calls for the City of Ithaca to be carbon neutral by 2030 and for city operations to meet their electricity needs with renewable energy sources by 2025.

“The scale of the problem facing our planet demands that we not simply set goals that we feel are ‘reasonable,’” Myrick said in a press release. “Just as Kennedy declared in 1962 that we would put a person on the moon before the decade was out, though how that would be achieved was yet unknown, we must set a similarly bold goal and then challenge ourselves to reach it. With a lack of leadership at the federal level, it has fallen to the states, to local governments, and to individual citizens to lead the way.”

Myrick proposed a set of specific actions to achieve the broad environmental goals:

  • Create a Climate Action Plan in 2020 to provide details on how to achieve the Ithaca Green New
  • Deal, and update the plan every five years
  • Adopt a Green Building Policy for new buildings in 2019
  • Adopt a Green Building Policy for existing buildings by 2021
  • Assign additional staff as needed to implement the plan

Common Council passed a Green Building Policy in May 2018, but it has not been codified and implemented.

The City Administration Committee will consider a resolution to advance the Ithaca Green New Deal to Common Council at its May 15 meeting. The resolution cites the 2018 Intergovernmental on Climate Change report’s warning that global warming needs to be limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change.

“To accomplish this, scientists say that the entire world needs to get to net-zero emissions by 2050, meaning the same amount of greenhouse gases would have to be absorbed as released into the atmosphere, and… the United States should take a leading role in achieving that, but with active resistance at the federal level, it has fallen to the states, to local governments and to individual citizens to lead the way,” the resolution reads.

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The resolution acknowledges that the Green New Deal circulating in Washington, D.C. calls for leaders to address economic inequality and racial injustice alongside climate change, and credits local sustainability professionals, activists and the youth movement with leading the way in Ithaca.

In a statement, Alderperson Seph Murtagh said the proposal was timely and will require community-wide participation to succeed. “This ambitious proposal is many things: it’s inspiring, it’s daunting, and I believe it’s necessary,” Murtagh said. “It’s hugely inspiring, because the City has this opportunity to take our leadership to a new level. But the question people are already asking is, ‘How are we going to get there?’ The coming Green Building Policy and the planned work on policies targeting energy use in existing buildings will get us a long way. As we plan for future projects, we’ll need diverse input to ensure that this historic initiative will benefit our entire community.”

Deb Mohlenhoff, chair of the City Administration Committee, said the proposal could boost the local economy. “The economic development potential of a Green New Deal for Ithaca is exciting and should not be ignored… Beyond helping address climate goals and improving the health and resilience of our community, this initiative will potentially bring hundreds of millions of dollars of new local investment and hundreds of local jobs in fields such as renewable energy, construction, installation, and home retrofitting,” she said in a statement.

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Myrick said curbing climate change will require action at the state and federal level too, and said it would be important to keep pressure on representatives. He called on the local community to lead the way, though.

“There is no historical precedent for the pace and the scale of the transformation needed to achieve carbon neutrality in Ithaca by 2030,” Myrick said. “I intend to call on all citizens, businesses, and institutions in the community to help us achieve this ambitious goal. Building on our past successes improving equity and sustainability in the City, together we will achieve a more inclusive, healthy, and prosperous Ithaca.”

Devon Magliozzi

Devon Magliozzi is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at dmagliozzi@ithacavoice.com or 607-391-0328.