Category: Climate Change

Insights into Sustainable Cleveland

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A sustainable city is a thriving city.  The city of Cleveland, Ohio is participating in a series of ten-year plans to create a thriving city for its citizens and visitors. Promoters of these projects hope to unite Cleveland citizens to build a collective vision for a viable future. During the autumn of 2009, the city began formulating a plan of action to create eco-friendly environments in the city, a plan known as Sustainable Cleveland.  Since the start of Sustainable Cleveland, the citizens of the city have worked to develop and achieve goals.  

The vision has been to make Cleveland a green, bright city with a blue lake, shaping the communities into something better, and to enhance the city’s natural environment.  The achievements may create health benefits, financial stability, uniqueness, and more opportunities for all people.

Green City Blue Lake: What Does This Mean?

Green city blue lake is one of the driving ideas behind Sustainable Cleveland.  GreenCityBlueLake is actually an institute of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.  The museum works with the Sustainable Cleveland action plan to promote ecology and create healthy living environments where people can flourish.

One goal of the initiative is to make Cleveland, Ohio a metropolitan area that exists harmoniously with the natural environment.  The goal is to make Cleveland a green, ecologically friendly city that respects the blue lake that borders it, Lake Erie.

By researching solutions, bring citizens together, communicating ideas, demonstrating ideas, and working for change, the GreenCityBlueLake Institute plans to create a sustainable Cleveland.  Since 1992, this institution has led multiple eco-projects in the Ohio city.  Some of its achievements include:

  • Bike lanes
  • Lorain-Carnegie Bridge
  • City of Cleveland Office of Sustainability
  • Cleveland Carbon Fund
  • Cleveland EcoVillage
  • Cleveland Environmental Center
  • Cleveland Water Alliance
  • Climate Change Planning (Northeast Ohio and Cleveland)
  • Ohio Smart Growth Agenda
  • Balanced Growth Program (Lake Erie)
  • PNC SmartHome

Ten-Year Celebration

In 2019, Sustainable Cleveland celebrated its tenth birthday.  Not only was it ten years since the birth of Sustainable Cleveland, but the year also marked exactly fifty years since the devastating fire on the city’s Cuyahoga River, a fire caused by pollution.

Although Sustainable Cleveland’s 2009 plan originally mentioned ten years, it did not technically have an end date.  Cleveland’s sustainability thus continued in 2019 as Sustainable Cleveland 2019 and was poised to continue beyond that.  Since the beginning of its sustainability efforts, the city has focused on key areas that could benefit people and the environment.

Since 2009, Cleveland’s sustainability efforts have accomplished many different achievements, including energy efficiency, healthy local food, clean water, less waste, and much more.  They have engaged thousands of people through different professional and social environments to make Cleveland an eco-friendly city.  Some achievements of Sustainable Cleveland and Sustainable Cleveland 2019 include:

  • Improving air quality and water quality
  • Enhancing the lives of animals in the area
  • Developing bicycle infrastructure (more than seventy miles)
  • Initiating the Cleveland Tree Plan and the Cleveland Tree Coalition
  • Reaching a tree canopy goal (50,000 new trees by 2020)
  • Distributing 4,000 free rain barrels to Cleveland residents
  • Promoting solar energy
  • Decreasing Cleveland’s carbon footprint
  • Encouraging people to live in Cleveland

While this is a list of recent accomplishments, there is also a long list of other goals and accomplishments of the city’s sustainable efforts. 

What Is the Future of Sustainable Cleveland?

While Cleveland has achieved so much from 2009 to 2019, people can do even more to make it a more livable place.  The sustainability team developed an updated Climate Action Plan (CAP) that included nearly four hundred stakeholders, raising the stakes even more.  While developers built this plan on previous work, the plan included priorities such as:

  • Social and racial equality
  • More green jobs
  • Climate action
  • Business leadership

This new plan for sustainable Cleveland seems much greater, but it is still realistic and achievable.  It will require help from workers, businesses, Cleveland citizens, and organizations to make this great city even greater.  It is more than just creating a better-looking city.  It is about creating a healthy, nature-filled environment where everyone can thrive.

Ideas for a Sustainable Future

We often hear about how fast our world is aging and how air pollution, waste, and other factors are ruining the good things we have.  To keep the environment as healthy and life-filled as possible, it is up to us to make sure it is healthy and clean.  People in the past would often view fossil fuels and as limitless resources and treat nature as a giant dumping ground.

Trash, debris, air pollution, and other things dirty the once-clean and healthy earth.  These conditions made Sustainable Cleveland not only a want, but a need.  The driving forces behind Sustainable Cleveland are more than just climate action and cleaning up a city.  It is also about transforming an economy.

Multiple projects related to Sustainable Cleveland have created more opportunities for businesses of all kinds.  They have also aimed to make Cleveland a more attractive home.  Although many people may benefit from the city’s sustainability efforts, the number of Cleveland residents continues to decrease.  The Sustainable Cleveland team has developed different ideas to bring people to the city:

  • Open space and recreation district

A new zoning plan that will create more public parks, gardens, open spaces, and areas for recreational activities.

  • Midtown mix-used district

Another new zoning plan but instead of parks or gardens, this plan encourages compact land development that is pedestrian-oriented.

  • Live-work overlay district

This plan permits the use of older, unutilized buildings for a combination of uses, such as living and working.  Recycling these older but usable buildings saves time, money, and energy.

  • Urban lot sizes

Instead of using large amount of land for houses, smaller, urban-style lots recreate the look of older cities and reduce sprawl.

  • Transit-oriented development

Public transportation systems may reduce asthma rates, pollution, and household transportation expenses.  Rail stations and transit stops may make transportation more accessible.

  • Housing trust fund

The city is exploring financial incentives for green or high-performance building.  The Cleveland Community Development Department dedicates funds to support affordable housing.

  • Pedestrian-oriented development

Pedestrian-oriented development (POD) strives to increase pedestrian convenience.  It focuses on building and parking lot placement to make it easier and less dangerous for people.

Conclusion

After a successful decade, Sustainable Cleveland has no intention of disappearing in future decades.  Its plans have improved the life of Cleveland residents and may continue to so in the future.

Get Green Columbus Project – An Overview

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The Get Green Columbus initiative began on January 28, 2005.  Columbus mayor Michael B. Coleman issued a Green Memo that urged the city’s residents to live environmentally-friendly lives.  The memo discussed several policy frameworks that aimed to create healthier environments.

Since the Green Memo, the city of Columbus had made significant progress in becoming a more sustainable and environmentally friendly city in every area, from rehab to businesses.  For these efforts, the city has received awards and recognition.  These include a designation as the most improved city from SustainLane in 2008, the Environmental Public Servant Award from the Ohio Environmental Council in 2009, and recognition as the greenest fleet in the nation at the 2009 Green Fleet Conference’s 2009 Environmental Leadership Awards.

Collaborating with City Agencies & Community Leaders

One driving factor for the success of Get Green Columbus was Mayor Coleman’s Green Team.  This team was responsible for administering environmental policies, educating the community about the risks of not taking care of the environment, and identifying the necessary resources to implement Get Green Columbus initiatives.

Joining Mayor Coleman’s Green Team were the Environmental Steward Office (ESO), who collaborated with the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio (SWACO).  The ESO functioned as an internal team of experts and green coordinators who represented each department and division within the city. On October 4, 2007, Mayor Coleman joined other elected officials in signing the Central Ohio Green Pact.  This pact aimed to

  • Produce greener public fleets
  • Create a stronger green economy
  • Collaborate with others to purchase more green products
  • Adopt sustainable land use policies
  • Build more green facilities to reduce energy consumption and waste
  • Educate and involve the community
  • Decrease emissions
  • Protect environments from climate change
  • Preserve green space and develop greenways
  • Expand and encourage mass transportation

 Implementing Recycling Strategies and Reducing Solid Waste

SWACO and the city of Columbus also initiated a recycling program that is now known as RecyColumbus.  The goal of this project was to make it easy for people to recycle their household goods. It allowed Columbus residents to place recyclable items on their curbs or drop off such items at recycling centers.  In 2009, the municipality recycled 15,126 tons of materials.

Different agencies also collaborated with the city of Columbus to recycle items and reduce waste.  Such partnerships are working together to recycle 66 percent of the waste that would otherwise go to local landfills.

Improving Indoor and Outdoor Air Quality

Another achievement of Mayor Coleman’s Get Green Columbus was the creation, adoption, and implementation of the City of Columbus Green Fleet Action Plan, a plan first issued on January 1, 2008.

The goals and targets of the Green Fleet Action Plan included:

  • Reducing fuel
  • Purchasing and using biodiesel and compressed natural gas
  • Obtaining green grants and Green Fleet Awards
  • Implementing green purchasing language

Protecting Water

Protecting water quality was another focus of Get Green Columbus.  The initiative focused on flood reduction, waterway quality, stream restoration, and several multi jurisdictional watershed planning efforts.

In 2005, the Columbus Division of Sewerage and Drainage launched Project Clean Rivers.  Several programs and services were part of this project.  All had the same goal: achieving clean water.  This project also included the Wet Weather Management Plan, a $2.5 billion strategy to eradicate sewer overflows.

Such water protections were attempts to ensure the safety of Columbus’s groundwater and its surface resources.  Also contributing to such water protection efforts were the city’s public health authorities, who annually permit and inspect sewage treatment systems on private properties.  The authorities inspected more than 300 systems in 2009 alone.

Promoting Green Businesses

Another green effort of Mayor Coleman was a program to recognize and award businesses that made efforts to become more environmentally responsible.  This program, called the GreenSpot Program, has been successful in serving as a public engagement model for the city of Columbus and other communities throughout Ohio and North America.

Fostering the Greening of Columbus

On February 22, 2007, Mayor Coleman agreed to the U.S. Council of Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement as part of his contribution to the Get Green Columbus initiative.  Since then, the city of Columbus has conducted greenhouse gas emission inventories of its operations.

In 2005, the Columbus operation baseline emissions reported 317,926 metric tons of carbon dioxide.  The city of Columbus has aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2 percent every year until the year 2030.

According to reports, the sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Columbus in 2005 are:

  • 31 percent from buildings
  • 37 percent from wastewater treatment
  • 18 percent from drinking water treatment
  • 12 percent from transportation

The 10-Year Action Plan

In another environmental development, on May 4, 2009, Mayor Coleman announced a 10-year action plan.  The plan contains a list of improvements as well as efficiencies to correct imbalances.  The summary report of the Get Green Columbus program discusses the

  • Continuation of green initiatives
  • Expansion of energy-saving measures
  • Creation of weatherization systems
  • Establishment of efficient lighting
  • Upgrades of HVAC systems

Other Green Memo suggestions called for the city of Columbus to plant more trees and to construct capital improvements to protect the environment.  The city succeeded in its goals to plant a total of 20,000 trees.  Reports stated that the city of Columbus planted a yearly average of 5,500 trees and lost 1,500 trees yearly, which meant that the city planted 4,000 trees every year.

Local partners worked with the city of Columbus to achieve most of the project’s goals.  One improvement was improving access to fresh and nutritious foods for residents who were in need.  Columbus Public Health organized community farmers markets throughout the city, an effort that provided fresh food to city residents.

Speaking of Columbus and plants, the city is the home of the American Community Garden Association.  It is also the location of the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, which opened the unique Community Garden Campus.  These efforts educate people about the beauty and usefulness of plants and protecting them, issues important to Get Green Columbus as well.

Final Words

Get Green Columbus illustrate that teamwork and collaboration can make good things happen for a city and its residents.

Consequences of Climate Change in MENA

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Due to its unique geographical attributes, MENA is highly vulnerable to consequences of climate change. One of the main climate change impacts is sea level rise on coastal areas of MENA nations. This includes many of the large and small islands in the GCC region such as Kuwait, which are highly vulnerable to the impacts of sea level rise. Inundation will adversely affect cities, roads, agricultural areas, as well as beaches and salt marshes in the MENA region.

Continued use of non-renewable water is major factor in depleting groundwater reserves in MENA region and puts regional countries at severe risk of climate impacts. Depletion of groundwater through urbanization has led to the loss of freshwater springs/aquifers. The GCC countries are heavily dependent on energy-intensive desalination plants for its freshwater supplies which is further driving up electricity demand.

The MENA region is highly vulnerable to tensions brought on by spike in food prices. Due to growing water crisis and desertification, the region is staring at a food crisis in the coming years. The region is grappling with the realization that its barren soil and dwindling water supply will be insufficient to feed the population, even with intensive irrigation and modern farming technology.

Lack of Seriousness

Unfortunately the level of seriousness that should have been shown by the regional governments is somewhat lacking. Climate change mitigation is not among the top priorities in most of the MENA countries.

There is lack of effective laws/regulations, absence of long-term climate action frameworks, weak coordination among different ministries and among regional governments and lack of public awareness.

The Way Forward

An efficient and effective environmental governance framework is essential for more productive and measurable interaction amongst various stakeholders and across key sectors. National, regional and international linkages within targeted sectors are essential to coordinate climate action in MENA.

Proactive involvement of public and private sectors, civil society organizations as well as research and academia in climate change mitigation is also a crucial issue. Environmental education will also go a long way in inculcating sustainable lifestyles and responsible behavior among local population and expatriates.

It is realistically possible that climate change will precipitate environmental degradation and drought-like conditions in MENA which will cause deterioration in livelihoods, and put pressure on populations to migrate en masse. Needless to say, Arabian Gulf is the most unsustainable region in the world. The craze for big cars and tall buildings coupled with apathy towards the environment and natural resources is pushing the region towards the worst-case scenario.

For more information, you may email the author Salman Zafar on salman@ecomena.org or salman@cleantechloops.com

Climate Change in Kuwait

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Kuwait is facing a wide range of climate change challenges including sea level rise, water scarcity, desertification and loss of diversity. Kuwait is characterized by high temperature, high humidity and arid lands resulting in seriously degraded soil and land damage in addition to salt intrusion in the aquifers affecting the small scale agricultural lands thus enhancing the food security threat in the region. Kuwait is also highly susceptible to climate change due to its total dependence on oil exports.

Since 1975, Kuwait has experienced 1.50C to 20C increase in temperature, which is significantly higher than the global average. In recent years, there has been a sharp change in rainfall pattern in Kuwait which may be attributed to climate change impacts.

The country used to experience 125mm of average rainfall each year which has now been replaced by sudden spells of rainfall and long intervals of dryness. In addition, there has been marked increase in sand and dust storms in last few decades which are noticeable signs of change in climatic conditions in Kuwait and neighbouring GCC nations.

Kuwait is both physically and biologically threatened by the global warming phenomenon. Over the next few decades, Kuwait could be potentially facing serious impacts of climate change in the form of floods, droughts, depletion of aquifers, inundation of coastal areas, frequent sandstorms, loss of biodiversity, significant damage to ecosystems, threat to agricultural production and outbreak of diseases.

There is an urgent need to implement climate change mitigation and adaptation measures, and prepare a strong framework for socio-economic development which may be sustainable in the long-run.

For more information, please email Salman Zafar on salman@cleantechloops.com or salman@ecomena.org

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