Tomorrow is Earth Day. The first Earth Day was 51 years ago and was spearheaded by then US Senator from Wisconsin Gaylord Nelson. Ahead of the holiday, the Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway unveiled a two-year plan to address climate issues. “We have so little time to make a difference before we will experience irreversible and catastrophic changes to the climate,” she stresses. “So now is the time to do this work. Now is time to double down.”
Rhodes-Conway is calling the initiative Climate Forward. Many of the goals under the program expand Madison’s current commitment to sustainability. They include meeting all municipal electric needs with renewable energy, replacing thousands of streetlights with LED bulbs, and pushing forward with electric busses and the bus rapid transit system, which has been a consistent key goal of the Mayor.
Also expanding is the city’s Green Job training program that hires and trains people in environmental trades–like installing solar panels. At the press conference, Common Wealth Development Executive Director Justice Castañeda noted the importance of city training programs.
Rhodes-Conway also announced today, a new $250,000 grant from the state. The grant will be used to make improvements to rental housing on the Northside. It’s specifically for naturally occurring affordable housing (NOAH). That’s a category of homes that aren’t government subsidized housing, but are affordable because of the cost of rent and the incomes of residents.
The city will partner with Sustain Dane, Elevate, and the Northside Planning Council to make updates to about 100 apartments. Sustain Dane Executive Director Claire Oleksiak says the improvements are critical–both to the people who live there and the environment. “Building energy efficiency provides housing that is safe and comfortable in extreme heat and cold temperatures , which are become more frequent in our region due to climate change. And it takes less energy to have a safe and comfortable living environment,” she explains. “Projects that combine the efforts of community members, municipalities, utilities, businesses, individuals, funders, these are the type of collaborations that move us forward in addressing climate change, equity, and affordable housing.”
The city’s climate plan also looks to impact commercial buildings–one of the largest contributors to carbon dioxide emissions in the city. Alder Tag Evers (District 13) says the city can’t impose energy and building codes that are stricter than the state’s. “But that does not mean we are handcuffed and unable to do anything in this regard,” urges Evers. “We can and must be creative and collaborative with out stakeholders in the community.”