Pittsburgh may be most famous for their sports teams and their reputation as the heart of America’s steel industry. It’s a reputation that would suggest blue collar sensibilities that aren’t necessarily in lockstep with the green energy movement. But Pittsburgh is taking a bold approach to their energy usage. The Steel City has announced a bold initiative that few other metropolises have committed to: transitioning to 100% renewable energy by 2035.
And while Pittsburgh should be proud of leading the charge in taking a responsible approach to climate change, they aren’t the only city to do so. In the wake of President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Change Accord, 180 U.S. mayors committed to such a plan.
Mayor Bill Peduto made the announcement in June of 2017 as part of an initiative by the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 plan. This initiative ensures standards that actually go above and beyond the terms of the Paris Climate Change Agreement. And community organizer Eva Resnick-Day highlighted how important Pittsburgh’s commitment is. It’s the first post-industrial American city to sign on for such a commitment. Considering the amount of pollution inherent in steel production, it’s a bold move not just for the future of the city but for the future of the world.
And while the Sierra Club was the force behind the Ready for 100 plan, other non-profits are stepping up to bat to help Pittsburgh ensure a smooth transition. Local group Sustainable Pittsburgh has signed on to work closely with the Pittsburgh government in pursuit of those goals, and they’ve partnered with the Power of 32 and CEOs for Sustainability on a more focused model for change in the energy sector. Renewable Energy for the Power of 32 will leverage the influence of major energy users in the region like hospitals, businesses, and schools to speed up the process of adopting renewables. The logic is that the sectors that use the most change can do more good to change the conversation and the economics of the situation than well-intentioned but smaller grassroots movements could. Also assisting with Pittsburgh’s transition is a renewable energy advisory firm known as CustomerFirst Renewables. Based out of Washington DC, they’ve worked hard to negotiate renewable energy deals throughout the United States.
There’s no doubt that Pittsburgh has a tall hill to climb, but they’re fortunate to have partners in the effort. With powerful business interests and driven NGOs united in the push towards energy independence, Pittsburgh may be building a blueprint for other cities to follow.