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Northeast Ohio spotlighted for collaborative approach to clean energy transition

Panelist sitting in a row, while Mayor Justin Bibb speaks into a mic
Zaria Johnson
Ideastream Public Media
Mayor Justin Bibb discussing local sustainability and clean energy investments at an America Is All In panel discussion on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. America Is All In Co-Chair Gina McCarthy, Growth Opportunity Partners CEO Michael Jeans, Cuyahoga County Executive Chris Ronayne and Akron Mayor Shammas Malik were also in attendance to talk about local initiatives underway and regional collaboration.

Local and national leaders gathered in Cleveland Wednesday to highlight how Northeast Ohio is embracing clean energy, along with the environmental and economic benefits that are coming from it.

During a panel discussion hosted by America Is All In, a national climate action coalition, Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb pointed to programs like Cleveland Builds that work to ensure communities of color have the resources to benefit from the energy transition.

"From giving them funding to access transportation, to get to training programs or childcare to make sure that their children have good education while they're off at work getting trained for the green jobs of the future," Bibb said, "we're meeting residents where they are to make sure they could be a part of this transformation in our city."

The city of Akron has "a little bit of catching up to do," Mayor Shammas Malik said, but its partnership with climate solutions nonprofit Power A Clean Future Ohio will allow the city to catch up with Cleveland’s sustainability efforts.

"In the city of Akron, for a long time, we viewed sustainability as something we can't afford," Malik said. "We've done some good work around our water and other things, but we really have not brought a ton of focus to it."

Since taking office, Malik appointed Casey Shevlin as the city's first director of sustainability. Other climate-friendly initiatives have focused on public outreach and trust building, Malik said.

"We have to show people that they can trust us in making these decisions and making these investments, so we're not putting the burden on them that they really can't bear," he said. "I'm so excited to share with people some of these programs and to say, 'Hey, look! In communities across Ohio, we are doing this, and we're doing it in a way that is actually going to bring you resilience, that is going to bring you a better bottom line."

She says collaborative efforts between Cleveland, Cuyahoga County and other Northeast Ohio communities have set a standard, Co-chair of America Is All In Gina McCarthy said.

"They're not just interested in what Cleveland does for Cleveland or what Akron does for Akron," she said. "They recognize that this is an opportunity to think much more regionally and get everybody excited about it."

In April, Black-led green bank Growth Opportunity Partners received $156 million in federal funding to lead an equity-based Solar for All programfor for low-income, disadvantaged communities in Ohio, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

"I can't tell you how thrilled we are that the EPA saw the value in our application," Growth Opportunity Partners CEO Michael Jeans said. "Now it's time to implement, and it's going to take the work of all the folks in this room and broader to get this work done in a meaningful way."

Last month, Cuyahoga County Executive Chris Ronayne announced a county-wide Solar for Schools programthat will install solar panels at high schools in Maple Heights, Euclid, Cuyahoga Heights and East Cleveland.

America Is All In will be supporting future regional collaboration, McCarthy said, and to help facilitate the implementation of these projects.

"They're going to be bringing in technical expertise to the table. They're going to bring policy analysis to the table, so that they can work with these community leaders and hopefully accelerate and expedite that transition," McCarthy said. "People need to see change. They need to see those benefits to make them real."

Equitable access to clean energy projects in 25 cities across the country, including Cleveland and Akron, will also be supported by a $200 million-dollar investment through Bloomberg American Sustainable Cities initiative.

Corrected: June 6, 2024 at 12:56 PM EDT
This article was updated to clarify the role of the $200 million investment by the Bloomberg American Sustainable Cities initiative.
Zaria Johnson is a reporter/producer at Ideastream Public Media covering the environment.