Cincinnati adopts new 2023 Green Plan

By Ethan Nichols, Newsletter Editor

Cincinnati officially unveiled the 2023 Green Cincinnati Plan on April 3, which was formally approved by the Cincinnati City Council Climate, Environment and Infrastructure Committee on April 11. 

The 2023 Green Cincinnati Plan is the first iteration of the comprehensive sustainability plan to commit the city to carbon neutrality. Each Green Cincinnati Plan is updated every five years, with the first plan introduced in 2008.

The adopted plan encompasses 30 goals, 40 strategies and 130 priority actions that aim to create more sustainable and equitable policies for local residents. 

The plan is structured around eight main focuses: buildings and energy, city operations, community activation, food, mobility, resilience, climate adaptation, natural resources and zero waste.

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The 2023 Cincinnati Green Plan includes electrifying 20,000 households by 2030; obtaining 40% of the electricity load from clean energy sources by 2030; ensuring 100% of public schools have safe and accessible outdoor learning spaces by 2028; training 4,000 individuals for green economy jobs by 2028; increasing local food consumption, production and distribution by 100%; and decreasing food going to the landfill 50% by 2030.

The Climate, Environment and Infrastructure Committee, the city’s first-ever council committee focused on the implementation of this plan, is chaired by Councilmember Meeka Owens.

“The continuing, growing threats of climate change require all of us to do something differently and demand more of ourselves. Failure to address this threat of climate change will mean that we will leave a more dangerous world for our children and future generations,” Owens said.

The current plan aims to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2030 and allow the city to achieve  100% carbon neutrality by 2050. Owens emphasized that decreasing the number of gas-burning vehicles is key to reducing fossil fuel emissions. 

“The more cars are burning fossil fuels, the more the earth is heating up. That’s why we need the opportunity to develop a city that’s going to support electric vehicles, meaning that infrastructure is there,” Owens said.

The city has set a goal of adding 400 electric vehicles to the city’s fleet by 2028, with all city employees having access to sustainable methods of transportation.

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The plan is also focused on equity and includes an equity committee in its implementation led by Ashlee Young, the vice president of policy and engagement at Interact for Health.

“Like other issues in our community, climate impacts are not created equal or distributed equally — many of them disproportionately impact our Black and brown communities and the communities with low wealth. Every step of the way, it will be important to assess who will benefit and who will be burdened by the decisions we make,” Young noted.

The plan also highlights infrastructure investments as an important part of its effectiveness. Ollie Kroner, the city’s Director of Environment and Sustainability, noted the importance of federal dollars.

“Certainly never before have we had more than a trillion dollars of federal funding flowing into clean climate, technology and infrastructure,” Kroner said.

Cincinnati received its largest federal grant for infrastructure, which totaled $1.6 billion, in the Brent Spence Bridge corridor for highway expansion.

“While the 2018 Plan has guided Cincinnati on a route to meet our previous goals for carbon reduction, the continuing, growing threats of climate change require us to demand more from ourselves and from each other,” Owens remarked.