Climate Ready Columbia conference will educate on local solutions

March 24, 2022

Discussions about climate change solutions often revolve around national and state efforts, but an upcoming conference at the University of South Carolina will offer local approaches to the global problem.

Climate Ready Columbia will take place April 1 – 2 at the UofSC School of Law. Open to the public, the conference brings together Midlands-area sustainability experts, climate scientists, policy activists and concerned citizens to discuss what individuals, companies, nonprofits and local governments can do to respond to the climate crisis.

“Cities and counties are on the front lines of climate change, which we saw with the historic flooding of 2015,” said Matt Kisner, the conference director and a philosophy professor at the University of South Carolina. “But this matters to business too. Cities and counties are potential winners and losers as we transition to a green economy.”

The conference will open the afternoon of Friday, April 1, with remarks from Daniel Rickenmann, mayor of Columbia and founder of the green business Waste2Energy. Denise Fairchild, the founder of Emerald Cities Collaborative, will give the keynote address at 5:30 p.m. the same day.

The conference will include 14 expert panels on April 1 and 2 covering topics such as renewable energy, transitioning to electrical vehicles, flooding infrastructure and promoting local green business. All conference sessions will be held at the UofSC School of Law at 1525 Senate Street.

In addition to the conference, residents are invited to learn about environmentally sound landscaping and gardens in a tour organized by Sustainable Midlands on Sunday, April 3. The McKissick Museum at UofSC is hosting two exhibitions with sustainability themes.

Bob Petrulis, chair of the City’s Climate Protection Action Committee, said he hopes the conference can spur local action. In 2017 Columbia became the first city in South Carolina to commit to the Ready for 100 pledge, a goal to transition to 100 percent clean and renewable energy by 2036, but there remains no clear roadmap for meeting this commitment.

“This conference is an important opportunity to take stock of our progress, and to rededicate ourselves to responding to climate change,” Petrulis said.

Climate Ready Columbia is funded by the Ann Johnson Institute for Science, Technology and Society in the UofSC College of Arts and Sciences in partnership with local organizations including the City of Columbia’s Climate Protection Action Committee, Richland County, the Gills Creek Watershed Association, Let’s Meat Less, Conservation Voters South Carolina, the South Carolina State Energy Office, Sustainable Midlands, Columbia Green, The Climate Realities Project, Net Impact at UofSC, the UofSC Office of Sustainability, the Sierra Club, and more.