Urban Solutions helps connect the dots between “environmental issues” and what matters most to people: quality of life for themselves and future generations. We do this by taking a holistic approach to the issues we tackle and by keeping people top of mind. We work to address everyday needs, like improving health, lowering energy bills, improving access to wholesome and affordable food, and creating better transportation systems. We work in metropolitan areas—which today are home to more than 80 percent of Americans—and we partner with community groups, mayors, city planners, activists, entrepreneurs, and innovative financiers and investors in New York, Chicago, Denver, and Los Angeles (with other locations to follow) to re-envision the cities of today.
It turns out that many of the things we can do to make our communities safe, healthy, and economically resilient are the same things that can help us adapt to—and curb the effects of—climate change. This is important because urban centers collectively account for more than 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
It is estimated that by 2050, regions that prioritize growth and reinvestment in areas with high-quality transportation options can reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent while boosting job numbers and economic opportunities. Today, cities where building owners are required to monitor energy use—with almost no new investment—are seeing a savings of at least 10 percent, and far more energy savings as additional policies and programs are implemented. Neighborhoods with safe, walkable streets, public transportation, good schools, and access to healthy food not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 30 percent, but also help residents lead healthier lives.
Cities have to succeed for everyone, especially the most vulnerable. According to the Urban Institute, more than 25 percent of the nation’s population lives in neighborhoods with high concentrations of poverty. Low-income urban dwellers face the greatest exposure to aging and poorly constructed housing, traffic pollution, and coal-burning power plants, all of which can lead to health issues. They’re more apt to live on flood-prone land, to be displaced by redevelopment, and to lack access to healthy, affordable food. We need to find solutions that address these concerns for everyone, but particularly for the communities that need it most.
We believe that fixing cities can fix the planet, and we provide the building blocks to help. Our work focuses on four pillars: energy efficiency and clean energy alternatives, transportation and land use, stormwater and urban resilience, and food access and usage.
We work to ensure that what is pioneering today becomes business-as-usual tomorrow. Our model uses urban successes to advance broader policies and transform markets that can build strong, just, and resilient communities nationwide and across the globe.
- Identifying key barriers and key partners
- Focusing on the solutions to those barriers with the biggest equitable impact
- Packaging policy and programmatic solutions and support materials in a “tool kit,” making them easier to adopt in a coordinated fashion
- Providing centrally based expertise, a peer-learning network with advocacy capability and staff capacity, often on site
- Supporting efforts to engage local stakeholders, including pass-through grants
- Measuring impacts
- Promoting and building on success
We must make take steps forward to help low-income communities and people of color who bear disproportionate health risks from climate change.
Multifamily affordable housing is full of untapped energy-efficiency potential, and we can create effective programs to capture these savings.
What is your city doing about climate change? Ask your local leaders these five questions.
Green skylines aren't just about shiny new skyscrapers. NRDC's City Energy Project aims to fix our old energy-suckers.