Game on for Bold Climate Action

Last month, 37 local elected leaders from across Washington State sent a clear statement of support for bold state action on climate change and clean energy. Calling climate change “the great generational challenge of our time,” the officials expressed strong support for: limits and a price on carbon pollution; a commitment to address impacts to vulnerable communities; and investments in solutions that reduce carbon. New Energy Cities is helping local officials advance clean energy in the 2015 legislative session.

King County Cities Commit to Carbon Reduction

On January 8, 2015, the nine founding members of the King County-Cities Climate Collaboration publicly announced their formal adoption of Joint County-City Climate Commitments, including:

  • Support for strong federal, regional, state, countywide, and local climate policy
  • A 20% reduction of vehicle miles traveled by 2030, and 15% reduction of transportation fuel carbon intensity by 2030
  • An increase of countywide renewable electricity 20 percentage points by 2030, and advocacy for phase-out of coal-fired electricity by 2025, with a limit on construction of new natural gas-fired electricity plants
  • A 25% reduction of energy use in existing buildings by 2030, and net zero carbon emissions in new buildings by 2030

The commitments include a practical work plan for 2015 and 2016, including state advocacy, partnership with local energy utilities, code adoption, and local efforts to increase community energy efficiency, renewable energy, and electrified transportation.

Low-Carbon City Living, High Quality of Life

As any city manager knows, smart transportation and land use are critical for community satisfaction, public health, economic development, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. This winter brought several interesting updates along these lines:

  • California Governor Jerry Brown called to source half of the state’s electricity from renewable energy, and to cut transportation petroleum use in half by 2030. Natural Resources Defense Council’s Simon Mui wrote about how the Golden State can and will get there, through increased vehicle efficiency, transit access, and strengthening of California’s low carbon fuel standard. 
  • It looks increasingly likely that the San Diego Association of Governments will have to go back to the drawing board on their transportation plan, because their car-centric proposals run counter to California’s climate goals. 
  • Solar-powered electric vehicles (EVs) could make suburban living “awesome again,” wrote The Washington Post, and would avoid the air quality problems that coal-fired EVs create.
  • Meanwhile, homes in a net-zero community in a suburb of Orlando, FL – with solar power and EV charging stations for each resident – are selling out. The developer has partnered with SolarCity to roll the solar panel cost into the homebuyer’s mortgage to avoid upfront costs.
Elizabeth Willmott's picture

former New Energy Cities Program Manager

, Climate Solutions

Elizabeth served Climate Solutions as program manager for the New Energy Cities program, working with cities to help them meet their carbon reduction goals through innovative programs and policies. She most recently authored The Urban Clean Energy Revolution, a detailed compendium of urban climate solutions worldwide (also published in segments as the Low-Carbon Cities blog series), and Breaking Down Barriers to Deep Energy Efficiency in King County, a briefing paper on how to overcome obstacles to deep home energy efficiency. She also co-authored Powering the New Energy Future from the Ground Up, a July 2012 report on small and medium-sized cities around the U.S. that are demonstrating leadership in local clean energy innovation.

Elizabeth knows and loves local government. As lead author of the World Bank’s 2011 climate change adaptation guide for cities in developing countries, co-author of King County’s 2007 adaptation guidebook with ICLEI and the University of Washington, climate change aide to former King County Executive Ron Sims, and project manager of the first King County Climate Plan in 2007, Elizabeth brings a deep and wide background in community climate planning to the New Energy Cities team.

The program’s focus on "carbon math" also bears Elizabeth’s signature. She first found religion in Excel spreadsheets as the Recovery Act performance and accountability lead for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, overseeing the results of $13.6 billion in grants to cities and communities around the U.S.  Today her data-driven approach is most obvious in New Energy Cities’ energy maps and carbon wedge graphics.

Outside of work Elizabeth leaves ample time for gardening, biking, and movie-watching with her husband Andy. She holds a double degree in biology and Chinese language from Williams College and a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard Kennedy School.