New Orleans and the Importance of the Paris Agreement

New Orleans and the Importance of the Paris Agreement

By Daniel Bamber, Staff Contributor

 

Amidst heated controversy, the New Orleans City Council approved construction of a gas-powered Entergy utility plant.[1]

Advocates of the energy plant cite the city’s history of power outages during peak energy consumption times as the cause of construction.[2]  They also rely on promises of increased energy security, reliability, and the new jobs the plant will bring to the community.[3]

The residents are not easily convinced against a backdrop of environmental racism and climate concerns in New Orleans.[4] The plant will be built in New Orleans East. New Orleans East, a federally designated flood zone is home to predominantly African American and Vietnamese communities.[5]  These communities dealt with the worst of Hurricane Katrina and were among the last to recover.  The city’s decision to place a hurricane debris landfill near the region aggravated the burden of the communities.[6]

Entergy’s seemingly short or nonexistent search for alternative means to solve the city’s energy problems provoked further outrage.  As several members of the Alliance for Affordable Energy argued, a natural gas plant wouldn’t solve New Orleans’ energy problems.  A study revealed that the 2,000 outages in New Orleans reported last year were attributable to the standing Entergy plant’s deteriorating transmission and distribution systems. Entergy did not entertain the possibility of using alternative energy sources.[7]

The City Council’s approval of the power plant seems to be contrary to the city’s own climate change plan.[8]  The listed goals include pledges to reduce New Orleans’ annual greenhouse and gas pollution by 50% by 2030 through the use of 100% low-carbon electricity.[9]

It is worth noting that the city’s climate change plan cites the Paris Agreement as both inspiration and a model to deal with the climate change. The Paris Agreement is an international agreement meant to foster global awareness of, responsibility for, and a commitment to improving and reducing the effects of climate change around the world. Even though the Trump administration withdrew from the agreement[10], it acknowledges that the threat of climate changes is urgent and potentially irreversible and can only be addressed through the widest possible cooperation by all countries and deep reduction in global emission.[11]  With that goal in mind, each signatory is expected to meet a pledge for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.[12]

As suggested by the inclusion of the Paris Agreement’s language in its own climate change plan, the city of New Orleans has a sense of accountability with regards to climate change and its effect on the world.  Perhaps, the city should apply that level of accountability toward its local issues.  The rise of and placement of natural gas facilities has negatively affected its citizens, particularly those in the low-income neighborhoods where the facilities are built.

The US once had a commitment to fight climate change and global warming.  The city of New Orleans once actively supported this commitment.  It is time to acknowledge and take steps toward fulfilling a seemingly forgotten goal of protecting the environment and the people in it. The first step for New Orleans may be a re-analysis of the environmental costs of the new Entergy plant.

 

[1] City Council Approves Construction of Controversial Entergy Plant in New Orleans East,Wgno, (Mar. 8, 2018), http://wgno.com/2018/03/08/city-council-approves-construction-of-controversial-entergy-plant-in-new-orleans-east/.

[2] Julie Dermansky, New Orleans Approves Natural Gas Power Plant Despite Environmental Racism and Climate Concerns, Desmog (Mar. 13, 2018), https://www.desmogblog.com/2018/03/13/new-orleans-approves-entergy-natural-gas-plant-environmental-racism-climate-change.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Forest Bradley-Wright, Guest column: Entergy misleads council, public on power plant, The Advocate (Feb. 18, 2018), http://www.theadvocate.com/new_orleans/opinion/article_6966b1ae-11d9-11e8-b415-f738dc30c7b5.html

[8] Dermansky supra note 2

[9] Jeffrey P. Herbert, Climate Action for a Resilient New Orleans (Mar. 2018), https://nola.gov/nola/media/Climate-Action/Climate-Action-for-a-Resilient-New-Orleans.pdf

[10] Robinson Meyer,  Syria Is Joining the Paris Agreement. Now What? The Atlantic (Nov. 8, 2017), https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/11/syria-is-joining-the-paris-agreement-now-what/545261/

[11] Camila Domonoske, So What Exactly Is In the Paris Accord?, Npr (Jun. 1, 2017), https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/06/01/531048986/so-what-exactly-is-in-the-paris-climate-accord.

[12] Id.

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