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How One City is Fighting Climate Change Locally

Photo: Courtesy of Science in HD on Unsplash

Sam Liccardo

San Jose Mayor

Whether you’re a business owner, a politician, or a resident, switching to green energy can not only help slow climate change, it may save you money, too. 

That’s what’s happening in cities around the United States through initiatives like the Community Choice Energy program in California’s Central Valley. San Jose, home to the creative hub Silicon Valley, is the largest city to launch such a program.

“With a challenge as all-encompassing as climate change, it’s easy for us to believe it’s someone else’s responsibility and that someone else holds a bigger lever of change than we do,” San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo said. “But mayors throughout the world are increasingly recognizing that the most impactful change is local and if we can provide models for other cities throughout the word to follow, we can collectively move the needle against this challenge.”

Building a partnership

Businesses that choose to switch to renewable energy can reap numerous benefits. 

“There’s no question that substantial change requires sacrifice and some pain but we have seen through many of the bold steps we have taken that we can demonstrate the benefits of business to making greener choices,” Licardo said. “We can save them money, we can improve the work environment for their employees, and we can elevate their branding.”

Companies are taking notice. Adobe recently announced it would build a gas-free, all-electric headquarters in downtown San Jose. Ebay has committed to using 100 percent renewable energy at its headquarters in San Jose.

Promoting and implementing green-energy programs is ultimately a partnership between businesses and their governments, Liccardo said. That’s especially true in communities like San Jose. 

“We need them, for example, to inform us about policies that would be most impactful,” he said. “We need them to lead by example, and we also need their technology … we need to better understand, for example, how we can leverage solar to boost renewable consumption in our city.”

Making green energy a priority

“The city’s priority to use green energy is clear. You can find examples in its bus rapid transit system, and bike sharing and electric scooter programs. San Jose also recently became the first major city to mandate that all new construction of residential and municipal buildings be electric,” Liccardo said.

“We’re willing to be the laboratory — perhaps less elegantly, the guinea pig — for those innovators who want to test their technologies with civic impact,” he said.

Residents are on board, too. In San Jose, much of the population knows firsthand the importance of protecting the environment. Residents of San Jose feel the impact of big floods, fires and poor air quality, i.e. “the impact of climate not only on the environment, but on lives,” Liccardo said.

“The important thing to recognize is wherever we come from in the world, there are unique connections to nature that orient all of us to do the hard work of being better stewards for our environment,” he said.

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