Megan O’Neil, IMT Manager of City Solutions, shares why local governments have the power to lead the way on effective, pragmatic climate action.
What do you value most about building energy efficiency and high-performance buildings?
Investing in building energy efficiency is often the single most impactful action that a city, company, or individual can take to advance the fight against climate change. Buildings account for 40 percent of carbon emissions on average and represent a unique opportunity for climate leadership at the local level. Local governments typically have the authority to enact policies that require buildings to seek out energy savings and become more energy efficient. So, while national climate policy can move slowly, local governments are uniquely equipped to take meaningful climate action and to do so at a comparatively fast pace. And, since cities account for more than 70 percent of global carbon emissions, climate action from cities alone will reap tremendous benefits for the planet.
What unique perspective do you bring to IMT, and how does that help you work with local governments across the country?
We live in exciting times, with more and more cities taking action to set aggressive climate goals and adopt increasingly rigorous policies. Nearly every major city in the United States has pledged to achieve the targets set in the Paris climate agreement. These commitments are impressive and truly represent a transformation in the way that cities think about their responsibility to address climate change. However, these commitments are meaningless if nothing is done after a policy is passed and a press release is issued. Working in local government made me acutely aware of the importance of policy implementation. It can be easy to pass a policy; implementation, however, takes significant time and resources, and a policy is worthless without it.
I’m excited to come to IMT and work with local governments across the U.S. to draft aggressive policies that incorporate successful implementation processes. As a former city staffer, I understand the challenges associated with policymaking and implementation, and I’m uniquely suited to work with local governments to strategize how they can best achieve their climate goals.
How do you define market transformation?
Market transformation will have occurred when high-performance buildings shift from being a novelty to being the norm. As our success in advancing building efficiency continues, making our buildings increasingly efficient will become the standard means of operation.
What was one of your proudest moments while working in city government?
I am so proud to have overseen the development and adoption of the City of Atlanta’s 100% Clean Energy Plan. The development of that plan represented two years of extensive engagement with thousands of Atlantans and successful partnerships with incredible local and national organizations. Together, we established a roadmap for a clean energy future that will benefit Atlanta residents for decades to come.
What are you hoping to learn in 2019?
I’m hoping to learn how best to work with local governments to take increasingly aggressive climate action and support them as they pursue a cleaner, more efficient energy future.