Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 gave a talk on Monday as part of Cornell’s Climate Change Seminar series, where he discussed climate change, socioeconomic inequality and the Ithaca Green New Deal.
At the event, Myrick advocated for active participation on the part of the Ithaca residents and Cornell to resolve these global issues. Adopted on June 5, 2019, Ithaca’s Green New Deal strives to attain carbon-neutrality by 2030 and to reduce social and economic inequalities within the Ithaca community.
“[Cornell is] the largest employers,” the mayor said in an interview with The Sun. “They have the most money and they create the most emissions. Solving this problem can’t happen without Cornell as a firm committed partner.”
One way the University can commit to a greener future is for it to pay more taxes, Myrick said. If Cornell adds to the $5.6 million it currently pays in property taxes, the city would see lower income inequality, lower taxes and a better quality of life, according to the mayor.
In addressing the impact of climate change on people with lower socioeconomic status, Myrick asked, “The Jeff Bezoses of the world will put stilts under their houses, but what will the rest of us do?”
While Myrick suggested a range of ambitious policies like universal family leave, universal basic income and renewable energy to address socio-economic inequality, one of his more immediate goals is a green building code for new construction in Ithaca.
One aspect of Ithaca’s Green New Deal, the Energy Code draft, aims “to provide a rapid but orderly transition to buildings that do not use fossil fuels for major building energy needs such as space heating and hot water heating, by 2030.”
The code consists of a point system, requiring buildings to make certain accommodations to earn points: Using heat pumps to heat water would get a building one point while using renewable energy biomass, can earn 5 points. A newly constructed building must gain a total of 6 points.
Myrick was excited about Cornell’s Earth Source Heating initiatives which involve building a tunnel to tap the heat in the Earth’s crust to warm Cornell campus instead of using fossil fuels. Cornell’s Earth Source Heating program has been a part of the the University’s Climate Action Plan since 2009.
While Myrick believes that many may have concerns about the costs of these ambitious initiatives, the mayor dismissed such concerns.
“There are a lot of people who know the cost of everything but the value of nothing. The opportunity cost of doing nothing is never tallied,” said Myrick.
Myrick believes that the Ithaca Green New Deal could serve as an example for other local governments, state governments and the federal government, adding “they say cities are the laboratory of democracy for a reason.”
Tamara Kamis ’22 contributed reporting to this article.
Clarification, March 3, 1:10 p.m: A previous version of this story implied that the University does not pay local taxes; in fact, it paid $5.6 million in property taxes last year, along with $3.9 million in municipal fees. It has since been updated.