During the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Philadelphia continues to take aggressive steps to tackle climate change. Mayor Kenney announced today the City’s commitment to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. The City today also released a draft of the Philadelphia Climate Action Playbook, announced the hiring of its first Chief Resilience Officer, and provided further information about the City’s first Environmental Justice Commission.

Carbon Neutrality

The commitment to carbon neutrality goes beyond the City’s previous commitment to reduce emissions 80 percent by 2050 (80×50). A carbon neutral city generates net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in the buildings, energy, transportation, and waste sectors. Science indicates that committing to carbon neutrality is necessary to stave off the most dangerous effects of climate change and meet the goals set in the Paris Climate Agreement of limiting global warming to well below two degrees Celsius (2°C) and pursuing efforts to limit to 1.5 degrees Celsius (1.5°C), which we now know is the necessary target.

Climate change impacts will not be felt the same by every Philadelphia neighborhood, and areas that experience hotter temperatures and other climate impacts are more likely to be low-income communities and communities of color. The City prioritizes supporting communities most impacted by climate stressors in building climate resilience, in service to the goals of achieving both racial and environmental justice in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia joins many other U.S. cities and states that have made carbon neutrality commitments, and the incoming Biden-Harris Administration has committed to putting the United States on an irreversible path to achieve net-zero emissions economy-wide by no later than 2050. With this forthcoming increased climate ambition at the national level, it is more important than ever that cities demonstrate climate leadership and show what can and must be done to address climate change.

Climate Action Playbook

To outline existing City actions to combat climate change and identify where additional action is needed to advance the city toward carbon neutrality, Philadelphia’s Office of Sustainability has released a draft of the Philadelphia Climate Action Playbook, a one-stop resource detailing how Philadelphia is responding to the climate crisis. The Playbook – which outlines the steps Philadelphia is taking to reduce emissions and adapt to a hotter, wetter future – brings together actions from existing plans and programs across various City departments and agencies to provide a comprehensive view of City climate action.

Chief Resilience Officer

To improve Philadelphia’s resilience to climate stressors and increase collaboration in building climate resilience, Mayor Kenney named Saleem Chapman as Philadelphia’s first Chief Resilience Officer (CRO). In this role, Chapman will oversee the City’s preparedness for the unprecedented challenge of the climate crisis and ensure progress toward the Administration’s goal of a more resilient, equitable city for the Philadelphians of today and generations to come.

Chapman, whose appointment to CRO became effective in September 2020,  joined the City of Philadelphia in 2018 as the Deputy Director for the Office of Sustainability. Over the last two years, he has helped lead the implementation of the City’s sustainability plan. He also helped drive the application of a racial equity lens to sustainability efforts, including overseeing the formation of Philadelphia’s first Environmental Justice Commission.

Environmental Justice Commission

The Environmental Justice Commission will assemble individuals with lived experience of and personal interest in Philadelphia’s environmental issues. These issues include, but are not limited to, housing and occupational exposure to environmental toxins, water quality, food security, and localized impacts of climate change such as flooding and extreme heat. The commission will work to identify where cumulative impacts occur, as well as City policies or procedures that result in barriers to achieving environmental justice. The group will strive to amplify the concerns of frontline communities and work with the City to co-develop systemic plans to redress racial and class disparities in exposure to environmental harm. Those interested in receiving updates on the commission, including when recruitment opens, should fill out the Environmental Justice Commission interest form.

Other Actions

Mayor Kenney is committing to other actions to build the capacity and partnerships needed to tackle climate-related challenges, including a Resilience Cabinet to maximize collaborations across departments and agencies. The City will also seek to establish a Panel on Climate Science and Research to provide authoritative, actionable information to drive urban resilience.

We Want to Hear from You — Take the Climate Action Playbook Public Survey

To understand how Philadelphians are responding to climate change and how they feel about steps the City is taking to combat climate change, we are seeking feedback from residents through the Climate Action Playbook Public Survey. Click here to take the survey in English, and click here to take the survey in Spanish, to provide your feedback and help inform future climate action in Philadelphia.