Environment

A loose coalition of Louisville residents is hand-delivering letters in an effort to pressure city leaders to take further action on climate change.

In the letters, the group asks Mayor Greg Fischer to reduce the city’s dependency on fossil fuels, and transform the region’s transportation system and land use.

Activist and Urban Ecology Expert Margaret Carreiro delivered January’s letter to a representative from the Louisville Office of Sustainability on Tuesday.

“We want [Fischer] to know that there is a dedicated group of concerned citizens that want to keep reminding him that we need to be taking steps and action,” Carreiro said.

Last month, Louisville announced a plan aiming to cut emissions 80 percent citywide by 2050. That target is part of a Compact of Mayors that Fischer signed in 2016, agreeing to assess and address the city’s greenhouse gas emissions.

A 2018 inventory found Louisville decreased greenhouse gas emissions by about 10 percent between 2010 and 2016. However, a significant part of that decrease came from Louisville Gas & Electric’s decision to close the coal-fired power plant at Cane Run Generating Station and instead open a natural gas plant.

Even with the decrease in emissions, Louisville emits more carbon than the U.S. national average, according to the inventory.

The city is now conducting a survey to gauge public interest on a variety of options to reduce emissions 80 percent by 2050.

Fischer’s goal is far less ambitious than a resolution that was introduced to Louisville Metro Council, asking the city to become 100 percent renewable by 2035.

The latest science from the United Nations’ scientific panel on climate change says the world has just 12 years to drastically reduce its reliance on fossil fuels to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

Even the U.S. Department of Defense released a report this month warning that climate change is a national security issue with potential impacts on military sites and operations.

Climate change in the coming decades is likely to increase temperatures and weather variability in Kentucky, impacting everything from crop yields to forests to waterways.

Environmental activist Jackie Green said reducing carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050 is much too late.

“We are asking the mayor to focus on actually doing something to minimize climate change rather than simply mitigate climate change,” he said.

The city did not immediately return attempts for comment.

Green said activists will continue to hand deliver a letter on the 22nd of every month until Earth Day in April.

Read December’s full letter below:

Dear Mayor Fischer:

We are citizens of Louisville seeking bold, decisive action from Metro in minimizing* climate change.

Children around the world are walking out of school protesting the climate inaction of adults.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-climate-change-australia-protests/australian-kids-walk-out-of-school-to-protest-climate-inaction-idUSKCN1NZ0FN

Children in the US are suing the federal government for failure to minimize climate change. https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/03/kids-sue-us-government-climate-change/

Our local electrical power is generated by burning hydrocarbons (fracked natural gas and coal). Our public transit system is weak. Our transportation is dependent on hydrocarbons. And we are destroying the remaining local natural areas and farmland. Louisville plays a role in creating climate instability. Louisville must play a role in minimizing climate change. We would like for Louisville to play a leadership role among North American cities in minimizing climate instability.

We present this letter asking for immediate action on two fronts: 1) reducing our local dependency on coal and fracked gas and 2) transforming our regional transportation and land use. At noon on the 22nd** of every month (22 April 2019, Monday, is Earth Day) we, Louisville citizens (adults and children), will return to your office for progress reports. Actions that Metro can take quickly include: installing solar panels on all appropriate city owned properties, eliminating city owned surface parking lots (Mudd lot, Metro Council lot, impound lot, etc.), and re-prioritizing urban transportation to serve pedestrians, TARC and cyclists. We can offer specific measures that can be taken to re-prioritize urban transportation.

A bold vision backed up with bold and timely action addressing climate instability can set Louisville apart from other cities. A vision that goes beyond mitigating climate change to include minimizing climate instability will motivate youth and forward looking corporations to invest in the vision, in the city. A commitment to renewable energy, to strong urban public transit, to smart land use, and to reducing surface parking lots will generate a redevelopment investment boom in urban Louisville and her near neighborhoods. That investment will benefit all of Louisville.

We look forward to working with you to make Louisville the most sustainable city in North America.

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.