As mayor of the nation’s fourth-largest city and a strong advocate for climate action, Mayor Sylvester Turner ends his term as Chair of Climate Mayors with several significant accomplishments that helped to elevate the discussion on climate.
Since he was first elected mayor of Houston, Texas, in December 2015, Mayor Turner has focused on key initiatives to advance climate priorities in his city and to support the work of the Biden – Harris Administration.
As Chair of Climate Mayors, Mayor Turner has led the organization through a year of remarkable progress at the federal level that built on the years of leadership at the local level to develop a clean energy economy. As the job of implementing federal climate policy turns to mayors and governors, Climate Mayors is grateful to have Mayor Turner continue to help lead the organization as he transitions to Chairman Emeritus. In addition to being Chair of Climate Mayors, Mayor Turner is a member of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Local Government Advisory Committee, Board Chairman of the Resilient Cities Network, and a member of C40 Cities.
“It’s been an honor to serve as Chair of Climate Mayors. Communities in Houston have been hit hard by extreme weather, and it has been mission critical to do our part in stopping and adapting to the climate crisis,” said Mayor Turner. “We’ve been able to drive progress by making strategic investments in climate resilience, electrification of the transportation sector and renewable energy. I know Climate Mayors will continue to be a leading force in facing the climate crisis and championing the health and prosperity of U.S. cities.”
As Mayor of Houston, Mayor Turner made the city more resilient, sustainable, and equitable over his two terms. Launched in 2020, the Resilient Houston strategy and Houston’s Climate Action Plan identify specific actions to rise above challenges, emphasizing the most vulnerable populations. Since then, Turner’s efforts have created new programs, projects, and policies that help Houston prepare, adapt, and recover from shocks and stresses like the COVID-19 pandemic, extreme weather, and systemic inequities. Mayor Turner undoubtedly positioned Houston as a leader in resilience and demonstrated the city’s commitment to build forward and build better, even in the face of economic and climate challenges.
Highlights of his climate leadership:
Launched Resilient Houston in February 2020 to provide a framework to protect Houston against future disasters – from hurricanes to extreme heat waves – and chronic stresses such as aging infrastructure, poor air quality, and flooding. Resilient Houston set 18 high-level targets, corresponding with the strategy’s 18 goals that will be used to measure the progress and impact of the city’s resilience work from now to 2050. Turner’s leadership helped the city deliver 3 of the 18 targets over the last 2 years and set the city up to continue making progress toward the goals.
Released Houston’s first Climate Action Plan in April of 2020 to meet the Paris Agreement goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, improve air quality, build climate resilience, and leverage Houston’s role as a leader of the global energy transition. In just two years, Turner led the city to complete 3 of the Climate Action Plan’s 12 targets and created a path to achieve all the targets in the years to come.
Negotiated a new retail electricity contract. As of July 2020, all of Houston’s municipal buildings are 100% powered by renewables, and the City purchases more renewables than any other city in the country.
Led the establishment and passage of a Historic Decarbonization Policy for Houston’s buildings, recognizing that buildings in Houston are responsible for 40% of both municipal and city-wide emissions. By implementing the decarbonization policy, Houston is estimated to prevent over 40% of the City’s direct and indirect emissions by 2030 and produce unprecedented energy savings for building owners and occupants.
Released the “Living with Water” strategy in 2020, invested over 780 million in drainage infrastructure – with a focus on Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) – to adapt Houston to a changing climate, and created the GSI Tax Abatement program to encourage the implementation of green stormwater infrastructure in private development.
Created the Complete Communities initiative to revitalize and improve Houston’s most under-served neighborhoods by partnering with local stakeholders to leverage resources to create a more equitable and prosperous city for all Houstonians.
Worked with the City Council to purchase nearly 100 battery electric vehicles to replace the City of Houston’s current aging fleet of internal-combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, furthering progress towards a goal of the Houston Climate Action Plan to convert all non-emergency, light-duty municipal vehicles to electric by 2030.
Developed the Sunnyside Landfill Solar Project as a shining example of collaboration with the energy industry and community residents. The project will transform a 240-acre former landfill that has sat dormant for more than 50 years into the largest urban solar farm in the U.S. The project addresses long-standing environmental justice challenges and revitalizes a historically underserved and under-resourced community as part of the energy transition, generating clean energy, and creating jobs and training opportunities in one of the fastest growing job markets today.
Founded the nonprofit Evolve Houston and partnered with it to establish an all-new equity program. As part of this program, the eMobility Microgrant Initiative awards microgrants to local electromobility projects that address community mobility needs and e-mobility access in the Greater Houston area.
Led by example and inspired Houston’s business community to join in the ambition to lead the global energy transition, fostering public-private partnerships, promoting energy innovation and attracting CleanTech incubators such as GreenTown Labs, and working with the private sector to scale up clean hydrogen and carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) developments.
In 2021, Mayor Turner traveled to Scotland, United Kingdom for the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference, or COP 26. He joined world leaders and mayors from across the world, met with National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy, and attended the Climate Breakfast with Mayors featuring Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry.