Shelby County: paving the way to confront the climate crisis and build a sustainable community

September 20, 2022 12:51 pm
Mayor Lee Harris discussing efforts to convert Shelby County's vehicle fleet to electric vehicles. (Photo: Shelby County Government)

Mayor Lee Harris discussing efforts to convert Shelby County’s vehicle fleet to electric vehicles. (Photo: Shelby County Government)

The fight of our lives is here. If you don’t feel the heat yet, you will soon enough, unfortunately. According to a recent study, Memphis will be one of the hottest cities in the country in 30 years. We will regularly experience temperatures that exceed 125 degrees. This is a threshold that the National Weather Service considers an “Extreme Danger.” Another study by the Union of Concerned Scientists suggests that, with no action on climate change, Shelby County will face at least six times more days above 105 degrees by 2050, as well as increasingly severe weather and more damage to our shared environment.

Already, we know that the past seven years have been the hottest on record in human history. Climate change is here and is an imminent threat to us all. This persistent threat requires that we all lean in, starting right now. 

Over the last several years, our administration here in Shelby County, one of the largest local governments in our region, has taken historic steps to preserve our shared environment and combat climate change. In 2020, with the support of the Shelby County Board of Commissioners, we became the first administration in Shelby County history to make a dedicated investment of more than $1 million per year in public transit and building a green bus fleet. 

Our dedicated investment in public transit is only the beginning of our efforts at the local level to defeat climate change. 

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris with a hybrid vehicle. (Photo: Shelby County Government)
Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris with a hybrid vehicle. (Photo: Shelby County Government)

Already, we know that a significant part of the environmental problem is carbon emissions from transportation. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), on-road transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. In Shelby County, we have over 600,000 vehicles on our roads, creating a tremendous opportunity for us to make a significant impact. 

That’s why I recently signed Shelby County’s first Green Fleet Executive Order, which accelerates our plan to replace fossil fuel vehicles in our fleet with electric and hybrid vehicles. Our Green Fleet Executive Order also adopts a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fleet vehicles by 45% by 2035. 

To that end, we have already made historic purchases of hybrid and electric vehicles, which includes Shelby County’s first fully electric Ford F-150 Lightning, fully electric Chevrolet Bolt, and Hybrid Ford Focus. We are building an electric vehicle infrastructure, which includes charging stations at all Shelby County Government buildings across our community. 

Soon, our Green Fleet Executive Order may become local law when we present our Green Fleet Ordinance to the Shelby County Commission in the coming weeks.

We must get more gas-guzzling cars off the road. We must replace them with green vehicles that are environmentally safer. And, we must ensure that more residents have access to reliable and environmentally-friendly public transportation options as they travel to work and around our community. 

Through these new efforts, Shelby County Government can help lead the way to combat climate change.

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Lee Harris
Lee Harris

Lee Harris (@MayorLeeHarris) is the Mayor of Shelby County, the largest county in Tennessee. He previously served as the TN State Senate Minority Leader and as a Memphis City Councilman.