Writer: Kim Kisner

A Summit to Help Enhance Sustainability in the City

Published On September 9, 2022

During Oct. 4-6, 2030 District directors and building owners, and members will convene for the 2030 Districts Network International Summit, which is being held for the first time in Detroit.

The event focuses on sharing best practices in sustainability and the greening of buildings across the country and will also shine a bright spotlight on Detroit buildings and the many efforts in place to enhance sustainability in the city.

“I’m really excited not only to meet with other District directors in person and get fresh perspectives and ideas but also to show off and share the work we’ve been doing to the world,” says Connie Lilley, director of the Detroit 2030 District. “I think there will be a level of pleasant surprise among our cohorts from around the country.”

In addition to roundtables, presentations, and meetings to be held at Huntington Place, the largest LEED-certified venue in Michigan. The group will attend events and tours encompassing several key buildings, including the Renaissance Center, which is heavily involved in reducing carbon emissions; the Guardian Building, which is taking steps to reduce energy; the Central Mobility District and more.

 A welcome reception – which is open to the public – is being held at the Zero Net Energy Center to kick off the summit. The reception is expected to draw up to 250 people. The reception’s keynote speaker is Liesl Eichler Clark, director of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE).

We spoke to Liesl to get her insights on the summit, the 2030 Districts, and the work that’s being done in Detroit.

Q: From your perspective, what is the importance of the 2030 Districts Network International Summit and the impact on the city of Detroit?

A: The 2030 Districts network is a powerful catalyst across the globe in bringing local community and business leaders together to achieve ambitious climate and sustainability goals. Michigan is lucky to have three 2030 Districts in our state—Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, and, of course, Detroit.

Hosting the 2030 Districts Network International Summit in our state’s biggest city will increase awareness of the network and engage more Michiganders in this vital movement. It is also an opportunity to showcase the leadership and creative problem solving that has blossomed in Detroit and other Michigan cities and learn from peers from across the country and the world so we can put best practices into action here.

The solutions being pioneered in Detroit and in other 2030 Districts, can serve as roadmaps for other communities to reduce their carbon pollution while providing good jobs and more vibrant, resilient neighborhoods.

Q: What is the relevance of having it held in Detroit for the first time?

A: Detroit has a proud and unique history. As home to the global auto industry, it boasts a strong manufacturing heritage. It is located in the heart of both the industrial Midwest and the Great Lakes Basin, which is home to roughly 20% of the Earth’s fresh surface water.

Among U.S. cities with populations over 100,000, Detroit has one of the highest percentages of Black residents. It also has a large geographic footprint relative to its total population.

For all these reasons, Detroit’s success as 2030 District can provide a powerful demonstration and proving ground for transitioning to carbon-free economy in a way that creates good jobs, advances justice and equity, improve air quality and public health, protects our water and other environmental assets, and builds vibrant places to live.

Q: What are you looking forward getting out of the conference?

A: I am looking forward to connecting with businesses and community leaders who are ready to double down on helping Michigan reach ambitious climate goals, namely, to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

In addition, we are always looking to beg, borrow, and steal good ideas from other states and places—particularly innovative solutions that others have already tested, refined, and perfected.

So, in my networking at the summit, I will look for new partners and fresh approaches to our climate and sustainability work.

Q: Overall how does the work of the 2030 Districts tie into your work?

A: The work of 2030 Districts intersects with EGLE’s mission to protect Michigan’s environment and public health in too many ways to mention here. The most direct and obvious connection point is our climate and energy work. Shortly after taking office in 2019, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer created the State of Michigan’s first Office of Climate and Energy. The following fall she directed our department to develop the MI Healthy Climate Plan—our state’s plan to fulfill her commitment to transition the entire Michigan economy to carbon neutrality by 2050.

As with 2030 Districts, the MI Healthy Climate Plan shines a spotlight on the ambitious interim targets we must hit this decade to reach our mid-century goals. And it, too, focuses on our built environment with “Repair and Decarbonize Homes and Businesses” serving as one of its six core pillars. More specifically, it calls for a 17% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the built environment by 2030 (as well as an increase in clean electricity generation to 60% in that timeframe).

As director of EGLE and the chair of the Council on Climate Solutions, which helped us draft the plan, I know that action at the community level and in the private sector will drive decarbonization, alongside policy change and funding from the state and federal governments. That’s why EGLE has worked closely to support 2030 Districts through our State Energy Office grant programs and event sponsorships.

Additionally, through EGLE’s Catalyst Communities program, we’ve engaged directly with Michigan’s 2030 Districts and seen firsthand the innovative solutions they have developed and the unique challenges they face.

Q: What excites you the most regarding the work the 2030 Districts-Detroit is doing?

A: To reach our climate goals we need to prioritize near-term progress and we need to leverage the resources of the private sector to create real action at the local level.

The 2030 Districts-Detroit is doing all of those things by organizing businesses and building owners around a vision for 2030 and securing firm commitments to increase sustainability in over 52 million square feet of buildings in the city.

I’m very excited about this initiative because it is a big win for the Detroit homeowners, renters, property owners, and businesses who are implementing solutions that save money and improve the health and comfort—and the air quality—of the places where Detroiters live, work, and play.

More broadly, of course, it is also making an impressive contribution to the global community working together to reduce climate pollution. While we must work in every sector of the economy and every corner of our state to achieve our climate goals, the 2030 Districts in Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Grand Rapids are an important part of that overall, comprehensive solution.

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