Chester County Climate Leaders hold panel discussion10/13/2022 12:18AM ● By Steven Hoffman
The West Chester Green Team hosted a panel discussion earlier this week at the new Sciences and Engineering Center on the West Chester University Campus to hear from local discuss current initiatives and plans to advance climate policies and community sustainability.
The panel featured representatives from Chester County, West Chester Borough, and West Chester University. Moderated by Courtney Finneran, Water Resource Project Manager, panelists Josh Maxwell, Vice Chair Chester County Board of Commissioners, Rachael Griffith, Chester County Planning Commission Sustainability Director, Gillian Alicea, Chair West Chester Borough Sustainability Advisory Committee, Dr. Dorothy Ives-Dewey, Associate Dean of the College of Business and Public Management and Professor of Planning at West Chester University, Bradley Flamm, Director West Chester University Office of Sustainability discussed impactful actions their respective organizations are taking in order to advance climate policies.
After brief introductions, Jess Cadorette, Field Director for Conservation Voters of PA, presented the Common Environment Agenda as proposed by Chester County Environment Alliance to Commissioner Maxwell.
Moderator Courtney Finneran offered questions to the panel who in turn shared details about their work, how they measured success, continued areas of need or progress, and where each organization saw the climate issue in the future. While official topic was climate, the discussion included broader topics of sustainability, from energy sourcing, infrastructure, municipal planning, training for public officials, to land use and environmental justice.
Rachel Griffith, the Chester County Planning Commission’s sustainability director, provided background on the county’s Climate Action Plan that was adopted by the county in October of last year.
“Chester County’s Climate Action Plan is a powerful tool in our response to climate change. It acknowledges that county government can play a big role- both through improving our own facilities and operations, and through the leadership and resources we provide to communities. But the Plan also emphasizes that the scale of the challenge is much bigger than county government can solve alone, and that if we are to be successful in our bold goal of an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, it’s going to take the buy-in and action from every sector.”
Bradley Flamm, the director West Chester University Office of Sustainability, noted the progress West Chester University has made on climate issues.
“On a per-person basis, our emissions have dropped over a third from 2010. Much of the credit from that goes to the fact the university invested in geothermal exchange heating and cooling technology,” he said.
Organizer Margaret Hudgings, from the West Chester Green Team, spoke to the importance of including elected officials on the panel.
"Josh Maxwell has been so strong on the environment that the Green Team wanted to hear an update from him directly on the county's progress on climate issues. We were especially eager to hear about the county's action as we realize how vulnerable we are, even here in Chester County, when Ida hit us. We assembled a panel, in cooperation with West Chester University's Office of Sustainability, to showcase climate action countywide."
The evening concluded with questions and comments from the audience. In his comment, audience member Tom Walsh noted the importance of learning from the environmental errors of our history and how Chester County, once a center of industrial activity, is now a leader in open space preservation and sustainable measures.