Matt Gray, the Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) of the City of Cleveland, discusses the integrated framework for sustainable and equitable development at the municipal scale. From the city’s Tree Plan – with its focus on tree canopy concentration by neighborhoods, correlated to the distribution of asthma rates, property values, and rain-water catchment capacity, to name a few – to its energy, recycling, mobility, transportation, water, and land stewardship plans, Cleveland is a leading example of what’s possible. Mr. Gray is hosting a special Sustainable Cleveland 2019 Summit on October 16th, 2019 (sustainablecleveland.org), at which a variety of experts will convene to share strategies and best practices across disciplines. Gray, referencing the massive clean-up efforts since the terrible “burning water” toxic waste fires on the Cuyahoga River in the 1960’s, describes Cleveland’s situation and stewardship priorities on the shores of the Great Lakes, which contain 20% of our planet’s fresh water!
In the United States, urban municipalities representing over 50% of the country’s population have taken the lead in the absence of federal government leadership around the Climate Crisis, and have committed to the Global Community’s targets as set forth and agreed at the COP21 Paris Climate Accord in 2015. Matt Gray and other municipalities’ CSOs (as well as CSOs from corporations, universities, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs)), are transforming urban infrastructure, economic development opportunities, community resilience, food security, energy security, disaster preparedness, community health, and access to education through frameworks grounded in business leadership, racial equity, job creation, and co-creative processes.
Mr. Gray received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh, and his Master’s Degree from Columbia University. He previously served four years with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Federal Energy Management Program, before receiving a Fulbright Fellowship to research climate change impacts and governance in Mauritius. His areas of expertise include green building and climate change, and Mr. Gray has served as Chair of the Interagency Sustainability Working Group to improve green building practices and standards throughout the Federal government. He describes the importance of “appreciative inquiry” in the community mobilization process, and emphasizes the critical importance of neighborhood scale and cross-sector collaboration to achieve more vibrant, healthy, and thriving communities.