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Cities are the Engines to Drive a Green and Just Recovery

Cities are the engines that can drive a green and just recovery from COVID-19. On Monday, May 10, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan joined a group of leading global and city leaders to meet with U.S. Special Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, to work together to secure a sustainable and equitable future for all, followed by a panel discussion hosted by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), a not-for-profit charity that runs the global disclosure system for investors, companies, cities, states and regions to manage their environmental impacts.

The virtual meeting, convened by C40 Cities, provided an opportunity to discuss collaborations on climate initiatives and continue momentum around a renewed sense of international climate cooperation. Mayor Durkan briefed Secretary Kerry on the climate policies and projects being delivered in Seattle and our commitment to inclusive climate action in line with the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement. Speakers also shared ideas on how to build national government support for city climate action and ambition on the road to COP26.

Mayor Durkan also participated at the CDP North America workshop panel, “Breaking Through Barriers: How We Can Deliver on the Decade of Action”, and was joined by Marilyn Waite, Program Officer, Environment, William & Flora Hewlett Foundation and Jeannie Renné-Malone, VP of Global Sustainability, VF Corporation. 

Panelists discussed the many successes and challenges encountered along the way, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, as cities, businesses, and philanthropies work to fundamentally reshape our economy for a fossil-fuel free future.  

Here in Seattle, many City staff and departments were redeployed to support community members access basic health care and safety needs. Our greatest successes have come when we center community and work to build Seattle back better by ensuring those who have been most burdened by COVID-19 and climate change are the ones who will benefit most from our clean energy transition.  

For example, Mayor Durkan lauded that the City was able to give out $500,000 in Environmental Justice Fund grants (the most-ever!) to community-led organizations who are designing projects that will advance climate justice and directly benefit those most in need. Seattle is also working to establish a Green New Deal oversight board with community members and labor representatives to ensure a just transition and create better pathways and funding mechanisms to support good paying jobs in the clean energy economy.   

“Our economic recovery is tied to our climate and equity goals; We can’t meet our climate goals unless we are centered and realize the ways environmental injustice has happened so we can build our city back better”

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan

In February, Mayor Durkan signed legislation making Seattle’s building energy code one of the strongest on climate in the nation. The updates to the energy code will require nearly all new commercial and large multifamily buildings to use clean electricity for space and water heating and maximize building efficiency and on-site renewables. In addition, the same criteria applies when existing buildings are substantially upgraded or space or water heating equipment is replaced.  

And in March, Seattle released its new Transportation Electrification Blueprint, a first of its kind, comprehensive City-wide plan that outlines how the City will move toward a clean and equitable transportation system. Through this work, we will electrify everything that moves people, goods, or services in and around our City in order to reduce climate emissions and air pollution, increase electric mobility options, and create a pipeline of green jobs and workforce diversity.