Forty years since the first Earth Day in 1970. Have we saved the planet, yet?
More importantly, do we still have time to save the planet? Will we still be battling to save the planet on Earth Day 2050? Will it be too late by then?
When Senator Gaylord Nelson, Democrat of Wisconsin, conceived the idea for Earth Day in 1970, he immediately stretched across the aisle and Capitol to enlist the aid of U.S. Rep. Pete McCloskey, Republican of California. Together – and with a team of talented, bright students – they put environmentalism and conservation square on the table of public opinion and action.
Hard to imagine such bi-partisan activism today. When Earth Day begin 40 years ago, only a very few scientists understood the dangers we faced because of pollution warming the globe’s atmosphere. Most of us simply thought pollution was nasty and ugly and harmful to our lungs and drinking water.
While some today continue to deny the inconvenient truth that our planet is warming and the environmental consequences that will follow, many others are working to slow or halt it.
The United States has pledged to cut carbon emissions by 17 percent by 2020.
The Florida Legislature will soon adopt what might be the best way – so far – to actually accomplish that goal.
Improving on a concept originated in California, Florida lawmakers appears on track to adopt a revised and better funded version of the Property Assessed Clean Energy – or PACE – initiative.
PACE will offer job creation through retrofits to existing homes and buildings that will, when completed, reduce energy use, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and reduce our production of greenhouse gases.
In short, Florida will soon have the opportunity – at no additional cost – to implement local, community-wide programs to create jobs, reduce our energy use and do its part to help the United States meet its obligation to the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Here’s how it will work:
Local governments – counties, cities perhaps even entire regions – will create Energy Conservation Districts which will then be allowed under new state law to develop a pool of money from which property owners can borrow to make energy improvements on homes and buildings.
The cost of these retrofits – the home improvement loans – will then be repaid as small additional payments on annual property tax bills. The loans will run with the property, be transferred to successive owners and be spread over 20 years.
The bottom line: PACE loans will not cost property owners any additional money and won’t put the local government further into debt.
Savings from reduced energy use will more than offset the cost of the home improvement loan while at the same time increasing the value of the property which, then, accrues to the benefit of the local government in the form of increased tax base.
PACE is modeled on traditional land-secured financing of improvements such as storm water utilities, road and sewer construction projects and other public improvement projects.
One of the differences, however, in the PACE initiative is that participation by property owners is completely volunteers. Property owners will sign up & enter into an agreement with the county before accepting the home improvement loan. They will pay only for improvements on the homes and buildings they own and the improvements must be permanently attached to the home (solar systems, for example, window/door treatments, wind turbines).
Local governments, providing property owners with the upfront costs, makes it all happen.
Maybe on Earth Day 2050, we’ll look back and realized this was the turning point that staved off the tipping point.