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A Climate Action Plan for Detroit

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SNRE student team meets with representatives of the City of Detroit and the DCAC

Many cities and towns throughout the United States and world have created Climate Action Plans to reduce current greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change and also take actions that will help the city adapt to the climate changes that are already in the pipeline. This includes the Climate Action Plans that Regional Energy Office members Ypsilanti, Southgate, and Hazel Park have completed and are in the process of implementing them.

However, despite its size and stature as a large American city, the city of Detroit has never completed a Climate Action Plan. But now that is changing. Kimberly Hill Knott, Senior Policy Manager at Detroiter’s Working for Environmental Justice, has taken the initiative to begin this process for the city. She sought guidance from many community environmental leaders to form the Detroit Climate Action Collaborative (DCAC). The Steering Committee is made up of representatives from:

  • Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice
  • WARM Training Center
  • Michigan Dept. of Public Health
  • University of Michigan School of Public Health
  • Data Driven Detroit
  • WSU Great Lake Environmental Law Center
  • GLISA
  • Community Benefits Coalition
  • Buildings, Safety, Engineering, & Environmental Dept, City of Detroit

The goals of the DCAC are two- fold. They plan to develop both mitigation strategies (to reduce greenhouse gas emissions), and adaptation strategies (to prepare Detroit for the consequences of an already changing climate) for both city government and the broader Detroit community. In order to facilitate this, the Collaborative has formed a number of work groups to offer expert advice on the specific subtopics of a Climate Action Plan. These groups are meeting independently to come up with recommendations for the following areas:

  • Energy
  • Transportation
  • Solid waste
  • Water infrastructure
  • Parks
  • Public space
  • Homes and neighborhoods
  • Public health

An essential part to any Climate Action Plan is to set a greenhouse gas baseline for the geographic scope of the plan. Fortunately, the DCAC pitched this project to Masters students at the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan and co-advisors, Dr. Gregory Keolian and Dr. Rosina Bierbaum.  This group of students will be collecting information and creating a greenhouse gas baseline for both community and the City of Detroit’s operations. In addition, U of M’s Taubman College of Architecture & Urban Planning Masters Students conducted a climate change vulnerability analysis and did extensive background research on this issue, to assist the work groups as they develop recommendations.

The Detroit Climate Action Collaborative has been operating mainly with volunteer labor and organizations up till now, with the exception of a small grant from the University Research Corridor and the Erb Foundation. The full actualization of Detroit’s Climate Action plan will require extensive community engagement as well additional research and analysis. DCAC is currently exploring additional funding avenues to make this plan a reality. One next step in the short term is to hold several small focus groups to understand the concerns and perceptions of climate change in the city of Detroit. The Regional Energy Office is excited to play a small part in this process through the participation of WARM Training Center.