Decarbonization – the reduction of carbon emissions from human systems
and activities – has quickly elevated as a priority for southwestern Pennsylvania.
Sustainable Pittsburgh’s Decarb Digest organizes, expands, and furthers the regional conversation
around a comprehensive, equity-driven, long-term, multi-sector decarbonization strategy.
The information below is organized not around sectors such as industry, buildings, transportation, etc.,
but around seven immediate next steps our region must take in every sector to ensure our region’s strategy
broadly engages stakeholders, inventories trusted information, enables stronger connections
and supports regional success. This digest is a snapshot; a feature of a number of projects and initiatives
that can highlight successes and help illustrate our progress as a region toward these goals.
At the same time, the digest is a resource for those looking to do more in terms of next steps.
About the Decarb Digest
What is Decarbonization?
While our region has yet to come to consensus on what a decarbonization target should be, the global scientific community is in agreement that we need to achieve net-zero emissions – releasing no net additional carbon dioxide pollution into the atmosphere – as quickly as possible and by 2050. Decarbonization for southwestern Pennsylvania can be considered an ambitious, aspirational goal, an environmental mandate, an unprecedented economic opportunity — or all three. Business, government, and community organizations are all increasingly working to meet the challenge and reap the benefits of action.
Secure Federal Investment, Centering Equity
The scope and scale of resources made available by recent legislation is unprecedented, and represents an opportunity to overcome barriers and sustainably decarbonize. Overlaying these federal investments is the Justice40 Initiative, a national effort that calls for at least 40% of the gains from certain federal investments to benefit disadvantaged communities. Our region can benefit in major ways by securing these dollars to help decarbonize and lift communities. View some of the upcoming opportunities and not-to-miss ways to keep track.
Rapidly Deploy Existing Technologies, Ensuring Accountability
Scaling up renewable energy, energy efficiency, and beneficial electrification with equal investment in up-skilling the workforce and retooling local supply networks is a necessity for our region’s decarbonization strategy. To take full advantage of these opportunities, decision-making requires data-driven solutions that verify impacts across equity and carbon measures. This section highlights some of the recent awards made to CEOs for Sustainability companies, as examples of leadership.
Develop New Technologies and Strategies
From battery storage to smart grids to carbon capture, some technologies and practices needed for a decarbonized economy are still under development. Support for future generations’ solutions to reduce lifecycle carbon emissions must balance feasibility across readiness and sustainable connections among business owners, local governments, technologists, business owners, and community leaders. Learn some of the things our region is doing to build the future.
Inform Creation of New Enabling Policies
New policies to decarbonize transportation, power, buildings, agriculture, and industry sectors will have transformational impacts across society. As new programs are operationalized and new norms established, policymakers at every level must remain ready to iterate and innovate to achieve sustainable, at-scale change.
Equitable Workforce Development
A diverse, appropriately trained, and growing workforce is a necessary driver of regional decarbonization and is key to the economic benefit for individuals, communities, and the region. Workforce development to support tomorrow’s economy must center on equity, recognizing the need to intentionally address employment outcomes and job quality, and to remove barriers and dismantle disparities. Equitably developing the region’s decarbonization workforce requires ecosystem connectivity that enables workers to have basic needs met, exercise self-determination, and realize their full potential. If you are looking for information about how workforce development is supporting decarbonization, learn more here, and contact Sustainable Pittsburgh to stay engaged and get involved.
Use Existing Measurements to Maximum Advantage
Our region requires robust and comprehensive systems that can consistently measure decarbonization performance across multiple sectors and be accountable to both carbon reduction and equity goals. The reliable and recognizable measures that we have across sectors should be used to keep track of the technologies being implemented, the community engagement measures deployed, and the region’s progress on decarbonization.
Develop New, More Comprehensive Systems to Track Progress Through Policy and Alliances
Embracing future challenges and opportunities requires new partnerships and true leadership to continue improving climate resilience, environmental justice, and energy security. Existing measures are valuable though insufficient for accomplishing our decarbonization goals. If “what gets measured, gets managed,” we need to continue on a path that allows for a thorough accounting of, and accountability for, carbon reduction. These systems may be enacted through policy or built by organizational alliances.