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St. Petersburg signs on to ‘Race to Zero’ campaign to advance carbon neutrality

Margie Manning

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Officials from Tampa, Dunedin, Clearwater and Sarasota joined St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried at an Earth Day panel discussion at the Manhattan Casino.

St. Petersburg is among the first 25 cities to join the ICLEI150 Race to Zero, an effort to significantly advance local carbon neutrality efforts in the United States and demonstrate U.S. leadership in the global Cities Race to Zero initiative.

Mayor Rick Kriseman made the announcement during an Earth Day panel discussion at the Manhattan Casino, featuring Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and city officials from around the state, including Tampa, Clearwater, Dunedin and Sarasota.

ICLEI is the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives – Local Governments for Sustainability. The ICLEI150 represents a movement of 150 local governments across the organization’s U.S. network that are stepping up to join the Cities Race to Zero campaign to cut global emissions in half by 2030 and to zero by 2050, said Sharon Wright, director of St. Petersburg’s Office of Sustainability & Resiliency.  The cities taking part also pledge to protect their communities from the devastating effects of climate-driven extreme weather, promote climate justice, and create new economic opportunities in their communities, a news release said.

“We already had the commitment of becoming 100 percent renewable so for us it was easy to join. We were already doing it. It’s just formally putting it out that that we were already committed to it and we’re going to make sure we stick with it,” Kriseman told the St. Pete Catalyst.

Cities and counties that take part in the pledge have to meet specific benchmarks and metrics. That’s why St. Petersburg’s Integrated Sustainability Action Plan, a blueprint for current and future sustainability and resiliency initiatives, is so important, Kriseman said.

“It’s allowed us to get that baseline of where our greenhouse gasses were. We knew where we started. Now we can start measuring the impacts we’re having with our green fleet and so many other things that we are working on, that are helping us move toward our goal of becoming 100 percent renewable,” Kriseman said.

Wright said the city already has made progress in several areas:

  • St. Petersburg is currently updating its greenhouse gas inventory and will provide results and an ISAP progress report this year 
  • The city is actively participating in the transition to create “high road” jobs, including MBE/WBE and small business goals, apprenticeship, and living wage as part of city procurement procedures. The city is expanding that to be more focused on these energy efficiency and renewable jobs as well as resilience work.
  • The city is finishing up what it hopes are the first phases of the Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge where it has met some ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The city also has fallen short on some of those goals and is learning from those efforts, Wright said. She cited work to reduce emissions from city buildings as well as a private-sector building energy benchmarking pilot. Some of the city’s largest employers have volunteered to participate and she hopes to expand that post-Covid

In addition, St. Petersburg has joined Tampa, Orlando and Miami in a statewide effort, a Florida Race to Zero, that Wright described as a friendly competition to reduce carbon emissions.

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