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St. Pete plan to address climate change, environmental challenges advances

Margie Manning



The St. Petersburg City Council next week will take up a sweeping plan designed to make the city more resilient in the face of climate change and more environmentally and economically sustainable.

The Integrated Sustainability Action Plan provides guidance and tools for city government, local businesses and others in the community to meet ambitious goals, including a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and 100 percent reliance on clean energy by 2035. See the full plan here.

The council’s Health, Energy, Resiliency & Sustainability Committee voted unanimously Thursday to advance the plan to the full council for consideration April 18.

St. Petersburg City Council member Darden Rice

“This is a big day because this is something that we all, as an administration and council and community, have been working on as a team effort for a really long time,” said Darden Rice, the council member who chairs the committee.

Too often, social equity is overlooked, and this plan puts equity issues front and center, she said.

“Sustainability can’t just be about environmental issues. Sustainability also has to be about economic development. But economic development can’t just be about buildings and cars. Economic development also has to be about people. And when it’s about people, that’s the bridge to how we figure out talking about inclusion and equity,” Rice said.

The plan stemmed from an executive order issued by Mayor Rick Kriseman in 2017.

“We never had a climate action plan, we never knew where we were or how to improve if we don’t know where we are,” Sharon Wright, the city’s sustainability manager. “We needed a blueprint and something we could use to work with the community and point out priorities and continue to find out how to get some of those done.”

The plan calls for the city to work with businesses on a wide variety of issues, such as increasing the percentage of third-party certified green building stock and increasing the percentage of the population employed by green businesses or within the green industry. The city is currently employing the principles in the plan and preparing for future technology changes as it considers new development, such as the Tropicana Field redevelopment.

The city set a benchmark using a rating system developed by STAR Communities. STAR stands for Sustainability Tools for Assessing and Rating, and is a national framework to measure a community’s environmental, economic and social health. St. Petersburg was a 3 STAR community when the project began and has set a goal to become a 5 STAR city, the highest rating available, by 2020.

The council committee advanced the plan on the same day Kriseman helped lead a panel on climate change at the U.S. House Democratic Caucus Retreat in Leesburg, Virginia.

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