This is an op-ed written and submitted by Sunrise Ithaca. It was not written by The Ithaca Voice. To submit op-eds, please send them to Managing Editor Matt Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The urgency of climate change is on display each day. We see it with every record-breaking heat wave, every community facing toxic levels of pollution, and every household displaced by climate disasters. It is clear that the climate crisis has already arrived, and its effects are being felt most strongly by marginalized communities. The immediacy of the crisis motivated Ithacans to band together in 2019 and demand bold action from our city, which eventually resulted in the city government passing the Ithaca Green New Deal (IGND).
Three years later, the City seems to have lost its sense of urgency. Progress is frustratingly slow, and the promises of community-wide carbon neutrality and the equitable sharing of benefits feel a long way off. Proposals for action are continuously stalled, and the 2030 deadline only gets closer with each year. The problem is that the IGND is being treated as a solution rather than a starting point, and goals mean little without action.
We can not afford to wait any longer, and we need the City of Ithaca to act with the urgency that the climate crisis necessitates. This is why local organizations, including Sunrise Ithaca, the Ithaca Tenants Union, the Ithaca Communist Party USA, and Zero Waste Ithaca, are all coming together to demand that the City declares a climate emergency. This declaration, already made by over 2,100 local governments in 39 countries, would stress the need for the government to take immediate action to mitigate human-made global warming and recommit to the goals of the IGND.
Declaring a climate emergency additionally allows us to incorporate three fundamental demands:
- 24/7 Carbon Free Energy: The City must have a “time-stamp” verifying that every kWh of energy used in Ithaca comes from 100% renewable sources. This can be achieved by reducing City consumption and aiming to meet remaining needs with locally produced renewable energy.
- Community Participation: The City must incorporate community input into the decision making processes for IGND implementation. Avenues for participation could take several forms, such as a monthly community dialogue, the formation of a community-based committee, and/or the creation of a well-publicized online platform for sharing progress and soliciting feedback. Additionally, the City must make an effort to prioritize accessibility for low-income and BIPOC residents. Such efforts could include, but are not limited to, holding meetings outside of regular work hours, offering multiple meeting times to account for varied schedules, and providing childcare for in-person meetings.
- No Rent Increases: Efforts to make buildings more energy-efficient can not come at the expense of tenants, and the City must ensure that green improvements to rental units do not result in rent increases. Passing the Right to Renew Leases would be one component of this commitment, as it would prevent unjust evictions if a tenant is unable to pay an increased rent price.
These demands provide an opportunity to update the IGND and make it more robust as we face a critical moment in the fight against climate change. We cannot wait any longer to take concrete actions that will help preserve the future of our communities. The time to act is now.