On October 30th, Pittsburgh’s Mayor Bill Peduto attended a local conference on climate change, where he made a speech that took a shot directly at the region’s economic development community. The Mayor raised some important questions:
When a community supports and recruits polluting industries, what impact does that have on its ability to attract knowledge- and tech-based industries?
How do we balance the immediate financial needs of workers and families with environmental consequences of supporting and recruiting polluting industries?
Is it enough for companies to mitigate their own climate impacts, or do they have a bigger role to play in adopting a holistic, regional approach to addressing climate change?
While the Mayor argued that a unified approach to transition our region’s economy would be the “single greatest thing we could do to improve our economy,'' the region’s economic development organization, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, argued that the Mayor’s comments would discourage investment by all industries. CEO Stefani Pashman suggested that the Mayor’s either/or proposition was factually incorrect.
It’s easy for Mayor Peduto to oppose new petrochemical plants in Western PA, because they won’t be coming to Pittsburgh when they come.
Without a viable alternative to offer, how can we expect community leaders to turn away jobs, even if they come at a high cost in terms of health and environmental impacts?
This is an age-old battle, sadly, and one that will be hard to settle until we have a strategy to
retain, grow, and attract the companies that are producing the alternative energy we need to power the future. It’s not enough that oil companies are investing in renewable energy elsewhere - while laudable, it provides no economic, health, or environmental benefits to our region. And it’s not enough that we are attracting other knowledge- and technology-based industries - while critical to our economy’s future, the jobs they provide are rarely accessible to our working class families. And it’s not enough to talk - while our words represent our values and vision for the future, we must have actionable plans and strategies to transition our economy in a way that addresses the real threat of climate change and addresses the real needs of workers. The Allegheny Conference’s preview of their 2030 plan promises the development of a public-private “regional strategy to a low-carbon future.'' Hopefully that presents the platform for our Mayor, his colleagues across the region, and our private sector to come together around a shared agenda for our future.
Is your community finding a way to create jobs and mitigate its climate impacts? Tell us about it! We are constantly learning about new approaches, and eager to help communities develop strategies that support sustainable, economic growth.