Left Justified: Rockford should be a 'cool' city

How do we, on the local level, respond to the threat of global warming with smart energy solutions? “Cool Cities” are taking some action to reduce heat-trapping emissions, lower energy bills, save taxpayer dollars, and protect our environment. At a time when the federal government is failing to act, mayors and local leaders are curbing global warming. We want Rockford’s mayor and City Council to be a cool city.

Monday, March 26, 7:30 p.m., the BlackHawk Sierra Club will give a presentation about the Cool Cities campaign, a way to end global warming one city at a time.

Ron Feit, Blackhawk Sierra Club political chairman, will lead the presentation and give a PowerPoint presentation to explain the Cool Cities campaign and to offer an opportunity to be a part of a global solution. Where: Unitarian Universalist Church, 4848 Turner St., Rockford. This meeting is free and open to the public.

Beginning with Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, more than 200 mayors representing 42 million Americans in 38 states have signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution in their cities to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. These “Cool Cities” may meet this goal with solutions that reduce energy waste and pollution, and save money.

Scientists have concluded that burning fossil fuels like oil, coal and natural gas is causing global temperatures to rise. This heating of the earth poses a serious threat to our health, safety, economy and environment. The good news is, we have tools to reduce global warming pollution, and cities of all sizes are pursuing energy solutions. While every city’s energy solutions plan will be unique, there are three key common Cool City strategies: Green Vehicle Fleets, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

The biggest single step we can take to curb global warming is making our cars, trucks and SUVs go farther on a gallon of gas. Many cities cut their global warming emissions by purchasing gas-electric hybrid vehicles for their city fleet. Can you imagine Rockford doing that? Some cities provide incentives like free parking to encourage the purchase of hybrids by local residents and businesses.

Energy efficiency means using less energy to light streets and power buildings and industrial facilities. Lowering energy costs helps communities invest more in other areas. Fossil fuel power plants account for more than one-third of U.S. global warming emissions. Saving energy also means less pollution. From high-tech interior and street lighting, energy-efficient building standards and retrofits, cities in every region of the country are modernizing systems. Rockford can, too.

Cities across the nation are investing in clean and renewable power like solar and wind to lower global warming emissions. Too bad Boone County nixed wind farms. Many cities are adopting “renewable energy standards” that require a percentage of electricity sold in a city to come from renewable sources. Other cities are incorporating renewable energy technologies, such as solar photovoltaic panels, into public building designs. Renewable power and energy efficiency replace electricity from dirty, fossil fuel-burning power plants.

The most successful Cool Cities get the entire community to help meet the goals of the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. Local businesses, builders, faith groups, environmentalists and labor unions work together to make their cities more livable and vibrant while lowering energy bills, creating good jobs and tackling a global problem. See if your alderman will help.

More cities are joining in the Cool Cities movement to lead our country and our world into a new energy future. Cool Cities are literally re-energizing our nation, proving that we can solve global warming one city at a time.

Now, it’s Rockford’s turn.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

from the March 21-27, 2007, issue

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