These are challenging times for New Orleans. COVID-19 has many of our neighbors out of work, struggling to pay rent, utilities, and other bills. As a people who traditionally combat the hard times by congregating, with a live band and a cold beverage, we now maintain our sense of community through Zoom calls, supporting first responders and donating to local relief efforts when we can. We respond to adversity through creativity and innovation, as the city of New Orleans has for over 300 years.
Another opportunity is before us. A momentous step forward by the New Orleans City Council was understandably lost in the flurry of vital coronavirus response work. The Council unanimously approved a resolution committing to a Renewable and Clean Portfolio Standard, mandating net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, and a zero-carbon energy portfolio by 2050. This means that the city will take measures not only to reduce carbon emissions overall but also to negate the amount of carbon released. This standard will require Entergy New Orleans to move away from fossil fuels to cleaner and renewable sources.
Council members are commended for these historic benchmarks. As residents of New Orleans and Louisianans, we have the opportunity to envision a more sustainable future and to set our sights on the challenges brought into clearer focus by COVID-19 and disasters like the BP oil spill a decade ago.
The council’s plan to mitigate climate change is also an opportunity to assist our neighbors in lower-income communities, disproportionately impacted by the extreme weather events we experience as a coastal city in the Gulf South, and the burden of high energy rates. Elements of a standard that seek to achieve community ownership of resources and incentivizing energy efficiency measures could offer relief to neighbors already dealing with economic challenges brought on by COVID-19.
The council must adopt a plan that creates economic opportunity through the promotion and incentivizing of renewable sources of energy. Renewable energy construction and jobs are an economic boon nationwide, and allow Louisiana to continue as a worldwide leader in energy innovation. In economically challenging times, let’s look at ways to have the greatest benefits to our residents and the city.
deputy director, Audubon Louisiana, and member, Energy Future New Orleans coalition