James McGuire, Director of Sustainability for the City of Dallas
James McGuire: My name is James McGuire, I'm the director of environmental quality and sustainability at the city of Dallas, and we're standing here today at the Trinity River Audubon Center.
Just 20 years ago, this was a private landfill. It had negative impacts on the environment, negative impacts on the Trinity River, and negative impacts on nearby residential areas. The city came in and helped redevelop it as the Trinity River Audubon Center, and today it serves as a jumping off point to explore the Trinity River and the Great Trinity Forest. This is just one example of how we came together as a city to form a more sustainable environment for all of our residents.
Through proactive efforts, the city was able to experience a 68% reduction in emissions from 1990 to 2017, in large part due to the city's commitment to use 100% renewable energy. That means that none of the energy we use is sourced from coal fired power plants or other sources that would impact our air quality. In addition, we were one of the first major metropolitan areas to mandate a green building code, and every new city structure that's built is LEED certified.
However, we still face significant challenges with respect to air quality, and we still haven't reached attainment with ground level ozone levels. We're going to be struggling with that for some time, that's why we're hastily setting goals for emissions reductions community wide in Dallas that will not only help us clean our air, but will also help us reduce greenhouse gas emissions levels.
Some of the most significant risks associated with climate change include extreme weather events that could exacerbate flooding, extreme heat that pose public health risks, and also availability of water that can derail economic development. The city has plans that touch on some or all of those, and we're in the process of building up our infrastructure to ensure that the flood risk is mitigated. On top of that, we're setting realistic targets for emissions reductions so that we can ensure that we're mitigating the climate risk so that we don't experience the most extreme harm in those worst case scenarios.
There are 1.3 million people that live in Dallas, but 8 million that live in our metroplex. That's why we rely on partnerships with other communities to ensure that our environmental efforts reverberate across the metroplex. One such effort was a workshop where we did climate resilience capacity building. We had over 20 local governments come to discuss how we can all, as communities, start to combat the impacts associated with climate change and improve our environment.
Look at the beauty all around us. We did this, we turned an open dump into a beautiful oasis where kids come to learn, people come to experience wildlife, and locals can take a peaceful walk on the Trinity River. Don't let anyone tell you that we can't change our environment. Take some time to figure out how the city of Dallas is building a more sustainable city for you, and also help us build a better future for everybody.