A Plan to Make Nashville Carbon Neutral by 2050

As we work together to develop a clear vision for Nashville’s future, protecting our environment and addressing the effects of climate change are paramount. Over the next 40 years, we can expect hotter temperatures, increased flooding, and a greater chance for natural disasters. If we fail to work toward becoming a carbon-neutral city, we will leave our grandchildren to clean up the mess. Instead, we can address this challenge by taking several key steps: 

Make Nashville Carbon Neutral by 2050
Our overarching goal needs to be to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80-100% by 2050 or sooner, in line with the aggressive standards set by The Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance. To achieve this, I will work with local residents and international experts alike to develop a long-term plan that will save lives, sustain the economy, and protect our environment. This will require a dramatic transformation of how Nashville functions as a city, aimed at supporting the needs of working families and vulnerable residents. This includes reaffirming our support for the Paris Climate Accords and aligning ourselves with cities across the globe who are determined to move forward with this landmark agreement to build a more sustainable society. Metro government must also lead by example in the fight for a more sustainable and carbon-neutral Nashville. This includes reducing energy consumed in Metro facilities, replacing our fleet with electric vehicles, and installing charging stations at all Metro buildings.

Overhaul Trash and Recycling 
Currently, Metro’s recycling collection service is provided to single-family homes only once a month. We must ensure that we fulfill our promises and increase service to biweekly in 2020, and continue to expand our focus on recycling. This includes creating a more sustainable way of managing glass bottle waste created by lower-Broadway’s Honky Tonk row. We can also work together with businesses to reduce food waste and increase the landfill-diversion rate, with the goal of having zero waste by 2050. 

Grow Our Tree Canopy
To achieve carbon neutrality, we need to prioritize the planting of trees and the addition of green spaces. This is much more than an aesthetic choice - growing our tree canopy is essential for improving the quality of life residents and creating a healthier Nashville. Trees clean our air and our water and help combat the heat island effect that is often felt in the urban core. Right now, there is a false choice between urban density or urban trees. We can have growth and increased prosperity and integrate trees and nature into city-building. As mayor, I will support the work of groups like the Nashville Tree Conservation Corps to plant and preserve Nashville’s trees. 

The tree density bill introduced last year, BL1416, is an important first step in making sure that we keep our downtown green. Trees are an important aspect of the character of our city, and we cannot let big companies come in and take that away. However, this bill is the first tree-focused bill in over a decade, and that is unacceptable given how much Nashville has changed in the past 10 years. I am committed to stopping net tree loss and planting 50,000 trees during my first term. 

To make progress toward this goal, we can start by hiring more people who work specifically on maintaining and growing Nashville’s tree canopy. Nashville has one urban forester, whereas cities like Austin and Indianapolis have 22 and 20, respectively. The lack of current code enforcement is directly tied to this staffing deficit. I will also ensure that other Metro codes enforcement personnel are trained in tree laws so that Metro government has the flexibility and capacity to work developers on landscape designs at earlier stages of a project to ensure the prioritization of trees. Developers who cut down healthy trees should either replace them with another healthy tree or pay into a Metro tree fund to help offset this loss. We should increase fees for cutting down a healthy tree and adjust fines to multiply based on the number of violations.

Develop a Long-Term, Regional Transit System
Short-term fixes to alleviate traffic congestions are essential. But to truly solve our transportation challenges, we need to finally develop a long-term transportation infrastructure plan that will improve the quality of life of all residents. Within my first 100 days as mayor, I will create the Office of Mobility, and task them with developing a plan that will assert our position as a progressive, global city. This includes listening to residents to better understand the unique needs of every neighborhood, as well as working with surrounding counties to build a system that will connect every community in Middle Tennessee. To get buy-in from county leaders, the state, and the federal government, Nashville needs to lead from the local level. This will require an equitable and data-driven transit plan, a dedicated source of funding secured through a voter referendum, and a mayor who will always fight to do what’s right for working families. 

Build Greener, Safer Neighborhoods
As Nashville continues to grow, it should be the job of Metro government to enhance the resource-efficiency of new and existing buildings in order to improve occupant health and productivity.  My administration will encourage the construction of net-zero energy buildings and the reduction of energy consumption of commercial buildings. The electrification of heating and cooling systems should be more widespread, and we need to work with the state and federal governments to increase residential and commercial solar usage by increasing tax incentives and rebate programs.  

If we’re serious about building a greener Nashville, then we need to prioritize pedestrian safety so that it’s actually possible for people to walk and bike to their destinations. As mayor, I will work to ensure that every neighborhood has useable sidewalks and protected bike lanes. Sidewalks should be funded with at least $30 million annually, and we need to complete the majority of the 91 miles of the priority bikeway network by 2023. It’s also essential that we implement the Vision Zero plan, complete the Impossible Crossings projects to eliminate fatalities and injuries, and convert street and traffic lights to LED technology to increase brightness and energy efficiency. 

This is a working document based on feedback from thousands of residents across Nashville. Have an idea? Contact us at info@johnrayclemmons.com.