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Cape climate change conference will look at lessons from abroad and innovation at home

Cape leaders, environmental advocates and residents will venture virtually across the Atlantic Ocean Friday for lessons from Denmark on how to address climate change on the local level. They’ll also learn more about the new climate economy.

CAI's Kathryn Eident talked with Dorothy Savarese, executive chairperson of Cape Cod Five and board president of the Cape Cod Climate Change Collaborative, about what attendees can expect at the region’s fifth annual Net Zero conference.

Eident Dorothy, the keynote speaker for this year's conference is from Denmark. Why did you ask someone from so far away to come talk to this community about climate change?

Savarese That's such a great question. And it's because he's all about community action for clean energy and climate planning. He believes that the only way that true climate action can happen is at the community level. Soren Hermansen is internationally known for his efforts in first collaborating with others to transform the island of Samso in Denmark to being a net exporter of clean energy. They won a contest, they worked with the community, turned it around and did an exceptional job, so much so, that they were recognized by the U.N.

And he then formed the Energy Academy, and they work with it. There's folks about 6,000 a year that come there to learn about community action for climate mitigation and adaptation.

Eident How is the discussion on the Cape and Islands evolved over the last five years regarding climate change?

Savarese I think as the impact of climate change has been so much more visible to people. We know that our community vitality depends on addressing and adapting to climate change. You know, the majority of people know that recognize it's a thing. It's something that we have to work on.

The other thing that's very exciting is simultaneously, you had two different climate bills passed. The Biden administration, which is why we have Dr. Cash, the Region One Administrator speaking, has been very focused on supporting community action in climate change and the passage of the IRA Act. The Inflation Reduction Act has $369 million in supporting adaptation to and mitigation of climate change. So, so many things are happening and converging at the same time. I think that it's actually very exciting in terms of the opportunities.

Eident There's a focus on the climate economy in this year's conference, so not just the problems that climate change poses, but how businesses are responding with solutions.

Savarese That is such a new way that people are beginning to look at it, right? One of the things that was built into the act, driving clean energy and offshore wind, for example, that the Massachusetts legislature passed, was actually funding for training people for all of the new jobs in the clean economy. And, we are going to take a look at what kind of opportunities arise economically. So, there's so much happening. There's jobs, there's offshoots from the business community, and there is the towns themselves, and the counties that we're in will benefit.

Eident I think sometimes people can feel a little overwhelmed by the climate crisis. What do you say to those people?

Savarese I know it can feel overwhelming, you're right. And that's why we're saying, "Bringing It Home." What can we do as individuals, as businesses, residents, taxpayers on the Cape and Islands? And so, the last session is going to focus on community action, and we'll actually share what the Climate Collaborative is providing in terms of tools and resources for local energy committees, local climate action networks. All those are ways that individuals can get involved. You can start small. Every bit of energy you save is a dollar earned. And in this time of rising energy prices, this is going to be, I think, a segment many people will be interested in.

Eident Well, Dorothy Savarese of the Cape Cod Climate Change Collaborative. Thanks so much for talking with us about this year's Net Zero 2022 Conference.

Savarese Kathryn, thank you so much for your interest in that.

This conversation was lightly edited for grammar and clarity.

Kathryn Eident was the Morning Edition Host and Senior Producer of News until November 2022.