Guest Essay: How the region can cut greenhouse gas emissions in half and meet 2030 climate goals

Recently, President Joe Biden committed to reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2030. It’s an ambitious goal that a visionary group, the Cincinnati 2030 District, has already been working on for more than two years, with lessons that may help the entire region respond to the crisis of climate change.

The Cincinnati 2030 District brings together property owners and managers, developers, and commercial tenants in the urban core to reduce their buildings’ energy use, water consumption, and transportation emissions by 50% over the next nine years. Many climate researchers believe it’s important to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 if we hope to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
Elizabeth Rojas, director of the Cincinnati 2030 District
So far, our 39 members have committed more than 300 buildings with 26 million square feet to the same goals proposed by President Biden. Our members include some of the region’s largest employers, as well as small and medium-sized businesses that believe environmental sustainability is good for workers, their company, and the community as a whole.

They are taking stock of how they use energy, water and transportation to find both small wins and grand solutions to reducing consumption and emissions, such as changing to LED lighting, purchasing power from green sources, and installing EV chargers.

The 2030 District is part of a nationwide, 23-city network that targets energy and water use in urban business districts. Our first progress report shows we are on target to reach our goals. The urban built environment is estimated to generate 75% of annual greenhouse gas emissions, with buildings alone responsible for 39% of all emissions.

This work is especially important in Ohio, which is the sixth-largest emitter of carbon dioxide emissions among U.S. states due to reliance on coal and natural gas, yet also ranked eighth in the country for clean-energy jobs.

Of course, it’s not just energy consumption that’s important to building health: We also believe that well-run buildings support the health of their occupants. That’s why the Cincinnati 2030 District is proud to be the first district in the network to launch an effort to make buildings healthier for the people who work in them by improving air and water quality; providing access to natural light, nutritious food and ergonomic work environments; and eliminating harmful chemicals and building materials.

Our guide to occupant health will be released in the coming months. We worked with The Health Collaborative and the International Well Building Institute to ensure the Occupant Health Pillar targeted the health challenges specific to our region, and we’re excited for the project’s potential.

The Cincinnati 2030 District is an initiative of Green Umbrella, the regional sustainability alliance. Green Umbrella is currently hosting the Midwest Regional Sustainability Summit, which ends May 14, with a theme this year of “Accelerating Action: The Path to 2030.” The summit features healthy buildings and a wide range of sessions on how to respond to the climate crisis and create a stronger, more resilient region.

We hope you’ll join us in the search for ways to meet the 2030 challenge.

Elizabeth Rojas is Director of the Cincinnati 2030 District.
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