PEC Applauds Pittsburgh’s Climate Vision, Presses for Action

The following remarks were presented to Pittsburgh City Council at a public hearing held November 29, 2017. To read PEC’s full commentary on the City’s Climate Action Plan, click here.

Good evening. My name is Lindsay Baxter and I am the Program Manager for Energy and Climate at the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, whose Pittsburgh office is located at 2124 Penn Avenue.

On behalf of the Environmental Council, I’d like to thank City Council for its thoughtful consideration of this plan. The climate action plan is near and dear to my heart as I was the lead author of the City’s first climate action plan, adopted in 2008, and subsequently had the honor of helping to implement that plan as the City’s Sustainability Coordinator.

I strongly encourage the City Council to adopt an updated climate action plan.

I believe the greatest value of the Pittsburgh Climate Action Plan to be establishing an overarching climate goal, to which the activities of not only municipal government but also businesses, universities, non-profit organizations, and community groups can contribute. We have seen this occur with the 1st and 2nd iterations of this plan that businesses and universities use the Plan’s goal to guide sustainability projects in their own buildings and operations.

However, I urge the City to make revisions to the draft that is currently available at, dated September 26th 2017, prior to adoption by Council.

I have previously submitted written comments focused on the Energy Generation and Distribution chapter, for which I participated in the stakeholder meetings. I strongly encourage you to tighten the scope of this chapter to focus specifically on those activities that will result in the most significant reductions of greenhouse gases.

I understand the desire to be as comprehensive as possible, but fear the number of unconnected activities listed distracts from the overall goal and can be confusing, particularly to community partners not well-versed in the technical content.

The urgency of climate change necessitates a plan that leads to action, rather than one that establishes a vision only. A strong, defensible goal with actions that clearly contribute to its attainment will make this a useful, implementable plan.

Significant work has gone into the planning process to date, not only by City employees but also the nearly 150 entities who participated in the stakeholder processes, including businesses, non-profits, universities, and government agencies at all levels. The Energy Chapter in particular has benefitted from assistance from the National Academies, Science Ambassadors program, and University of Pittsburgh, in prioritizing potential actions.

Not all of this work is reflected in the current draft, but I am optimistic that with limited effort the plan can be re-worked to be more strategic, implementable, and understandable.

In closing, I would like to reiterate my appreciation for the City’s leadership on this issue and to offer my assistance, and the assistance of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, to the Office of Sustainability staff to support your continued efforts to revise and finalize this plan.