En route to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, Bethlehem challenges residents to join the ride
- Bethlehem officials on Wednesday announced the start of its Climate Challenge
- The city is looking for the public's help in cutting greenhouse gas emissions
- It comes as part of efforts outlined in the city's Climate Action Plan, introduced in 2021
BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Bethlehem on Wednesday kicked off its Climate Challenge, which targets a broader reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and carbon impacts in the years to come.
Officials aim to cut greenhouse gas emissions community wide by 33% come 2025, by 60% come 2030 and grab a net-zero status come 2040, all with the help of community challenge participants.
As for municipal operations, the city aims to reduce those emissions by 67% come 2025 and achieve a net-zero status by 2030.
Those involved can pledge to conduct household energy audits, use alternative transportation, clean up their communities, make use of renewable energy and more.
Greenhouse gases, or GHGs, from human activity trap heat in the planet’s atmosphere and ultimately warm climates internationally, impacting both land and sea life, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“So if you’re in third grade at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School or you’re running a health network, you both have this series of actions that you’re going to able to commit to, to create a more sustainable Bethlehem."Bethlehem Mayor J. William Reynolds
The Climate Challenge is rooted in the city’s Climate Action Plan, which was launched in 2021 and saw further implementation in 2022.
Mayor J. William Reynolds, who initially proposed the CAP during his days on city council, said the challenge can be tailored to fit all lifestyles of people in the city.
“So if you’re in third grade at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School or you’re running a health network, you both have this series of actions that you’re going to able to commit to, to create a more sustainable Bethlehem,” Reynolds said.
By visiting webuildbethlehem-pa.gov and taking the Climate Challenge survey, you’ll also be able to pick up from City Hall a challenge sign featuring a QR code that'll link others to the efforts.
Climate Action Plan
Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan references climate change effects over the past century, including raises in average temperatures by 3.8 degrees and annual rainfall nearly 6 inches.
The plan also references climate models that show GHG emissions through year 2100.
They have Bethlehem’s average temperature lifting as much as 9 degrees and, as a result, a tripling of days with temperatures higher than 90 degrees, depending on various factors.
It cites that the city emitted upwards of 171 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2017, with energy use in residential, commercial and institutional buildings as the highest source of that gas, at 50%.
Other energy uses included 22% of the total, contributed to industrial and manufacturing buildings.
Road transportation accounted for 19% of the city's emissions, while the remaining 9% came from treating and disposing waste.
"These climate impacts could negatively affect Bethlehem's economy, natural resources, and community inequities."Bethlehem's Climate Action Plan
"These climate impacts could negatively affect Bethlehem's economy, natural resources, and community inequities," the plan reads.
The CAP shows that broader community risks from climate change could include increased mortality, negative health impacts, higher medical costs, higher infrastructure maintenance costs, poor water quality, higher electricity prices and increased flood damages and repair costs.
Plan spurs groups, goals
Several implementation committees have come about as a result of the Climate Action Plan efforts, including the following groups and respective goals:
- Large Organizations and Institutions (Seeing that CAP is implemented)
- Public Engagement (Leading efforts on city’s Climate Challenge, public education)
- Local Food and Waste (Achieving zero waste by 2040)
- Land Use and Green Space (Focusing on the use of city green space and trees)
- Transportation and Mobility (At least a 30% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030)
- Electricity Sourcing (Community-wide 100% renewable electricity by 2030)
- Buildings (GHG emission reduction 30% come 2030)
- Municipal Operations (Reducing GHG emissions 67% come 2025, net-zero by 2030)
- Environmental Justice and Equity (Making sure CAP spending goes to help frontline communities)