Grand Rapids Mayor George K. Heartwell has joined 45 other mayors and county officials from around the country who have committed to creating more resilient cities, towns, and counties in response to our nation’s growing climate change issues, extreme weather, and energy challenges.
As an Inaugural Signatory of the Resilient Communities for America campaign, Mayor Heartwell is among the first locally elected officials in the nation to showcase his leadership on these key issues challenging America’s communities. Additionally, Haris Alibašić of the City of Grand Rapids’ Office of Energy and Sustainability serves on the Resilient Communities for America Advisory Committee to provide guidance on partnerships and policies related to resiliency.
The national campaign recognizes that local governments like Grand Rapids are on the front lines of responding to increasing disasters and disruptions fueled by a changing climate. An unprecedented increase in heat waves, droughts, floods, severe storms, and wildfires have all devastated communities nationwide over the past two years and cost America an estimated $188 billion in damages. Communities are also put at risk by unreliable and costly energy due to volatile global prices, lack of cohesive energy policy, and aging infrastructure taxed by extreme weather.
“Climate change and the resulting impacts have already and will continue to affect all sectors of a community including economy, social well-being, and environmental stability,” stated Heartwell in a press release. “Local governments are making significant strides to prepare their communities for new climatic trends that if unattended to, due to current resource and economic stress will lead to further instability and ultimately the reduction in societal benefit that a community’s efforts produce. We are pleased to join other communities around the nation to start addressing these important issues. ”
The Resilient Communities for America campaign seeks to champion the work of Mayor Heartwell and other locally elected officials and governments at the forefront of the emerging national movement to build resilience and to inspire hundreds more to follow their lead. Local governments can take a wide range of actions to prepare and protect community members, businesses, infrastructure, and natural resources, by allowing communities to bounce back faster from disruptions and disasters. Every one dollar spent on disaster risk reduction can save four dollars in recovery and emergency response costs—making resilience efforts a sound investment for our community.
Increasing average temperatures in the Great Lakes region put vulnerable populations at risk and can lead to higher insurance costs, emergency management budgets, and greater property damage leading to clean-up and rebuilding costs, and potential loss of tourism and recreation. Additionally, hotter summers and more frequent and severe storms are straining energy, stormwater, and sewer and water infrastructure.
In response to these challenges, the City of Grand Rapids has already taken a range of cost-effective actions that increase our resilience:
- Developed energy conservation strategies and continues to focus on energy efficiency to further reduce its energy consumption and demand throughout the organization and in the community. Current consumption levels are below previous year’s levels, at 99,700 MWh. Since 2006, the City reduced its electric consumption by over 10%.
- Has set a goal to achieve 100% of the City’s power from renewable sources by 2020. Diversified energy sources are key for local resilience—including solar, small wind, and geothermal—and key for greenhouse gas reduction. Currently, the City’s mix of renewables is at 23% of the entire City’s electricity demand.
- Reduced total fuel consumption by 19% over the last eight years. This equates to an annual savings of over $500,000.
- To offset the urban heat island effect, the city plans to increase its tree canopy cover to at least 37.5% between 2011 and 2015 and diversify the type of tree species planted around the City.
- The City has incorporated climate adaptation and mitigation strategies and considerations into its Sustainability Plan and its Emergency Action Guidelines.
- Together, with local partners, the City is developing a Community Resiliency Plan as part of its Sustainability Plan to further provide focus on energy, economy, transportation, and biosystems, and to inform decision making in the areas of sustainability, ordinances, policy, adaptation and mitigation strategies, and the Emergency Plan.
In signing the Resilient Communities for America Agreement, Mayor Heartwell joins 45 other leading mayors and county leaders from across the country, including Mayor Vincent Gray of Washington DC, Mayor Kevin Johnson of Sacramento, CA, Mayor John Cook of El Paso, TX; Mayor Dawn Zimmer of Hoboken, NJ, and Mayor Kristin Jacobs of Broward County, FL.
The campaign Agreement letter they signed lays out three commitments for locally elected officials:
To urge state and federal leaders to support local resilience initiatives and to take meaningful steps to build resilience and security throughout the nation.
- To build community resilience through their own self-defined local actions and goals (emphasizing actions that address climate change, energy security, infrastructure renewal, and economic recovery).
- To share their solutions and success stories with other local governments to help accelerate their progress on resilience
The Resilient Communities for America campaign is being coordinated by ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability USA, the National League of Cities, the U.S. Green Building Council, and the World Wildlife Fund.