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New York City Leads on Benchmarking Building Energy Efficiency

by Don Knapp Dec 20, 2011

New York Chrysler building

While the U.S. remains a reluctant player in the global fight against climate change, New York City has emerged as a leader.  At last week’s international climate talks in Durban, South Africa, the city received the inaugural World Green Building Council’s Government Leadership Award in “Industry Transformation” for its “Greener, Greater Buildings Plan” (GGBP) – a suite of energy efficiency measures designed to deliver a large scale impact.  By concentrating on the largest existing buildings that are responsible for 45% of all citywide carbon emissions, the GGBP is expected to reduce citywide greenhouse gas emissions by 5% while saving hundreds of millions of dollars and creating thousands of new jobs.

In a related development, New York City released its first report on the baseline energy efficiency of its own buildings. Since 2009, the City has energy benchmarked 2,730 buildings, including libraries, police stations, firehouses, schools, courthouses, health, community and family centers, and government offices. As it turns out, NYC government’s municipal buildings fall on both ends of the energy-efficiency spectrum and everywhere in between. Now with the benchmarking information, the City can identify which buildings to target for the greatest energy savings.

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Santa Cruz Approves Climate Adaptation Plan

by Don Knapp Dec 19, 2011

Santa Cruz shoreline (credit: city of santa cruz)Credit: City of Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz adaptation plan thumb

The City of Santa Cruz, CA, has joined the handful of leading local governments to approve a standalone climate adaptation plan. The plan, approved on Dec. 13, 2011, identifies the City's most significant potential climate change risks and vulnerabilities, and defines actions to guide "current and future decision makers in protecting our natural and built environment, our residents and visitors, our economic base, and our quality of life," according to the Plan summary.

Blue yellow arrow icon small View the Adaptation Plan

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Houston Independent School District Launches ‘Green School’ Challenge

by Houston Independent School District Dec 15, 2011

Houston Green Schools 1Credit: Houston Independent School District

In an effort to continue decreasing energy and water consumption, the Houston Independent School District is kicking off a new initiative, The Green School Challenge, on Wednesday, December 14 at 10 a.m. at Berry Elementary School, 2310 Berry.

“We are very excited to launch this initiative,” said HISD Superintendent Dr. Terry Grier.  “Just recently President Obama recognized our efforts for conserving energy and this is just one of many ways we are committed to continue leading by example in our conservatory efforts.”

The Green School Challenge is a friendly school competition designed to promote long-term behavioral changes, create awareness, reduce energy consumption and water usage, and to increase single-stream recycling of waste. 

“We believe that taking simple steps in the way we operate our schools will result in significant savings for the district,” said Dr. Gavin Dillingham, HISD’s energy manager.  “These are savings that can be used to further improve our schools.”

This challenge encourages every school to build their own ‘Green Team’ comprised of students, staff and administrators and develop a program that is specific to the characteristics of each school.


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Solar America Cities Podcast: Solar in Tucson

by ICMA Dec 15, 2011

Solar Tucson (credit: city of tucson)

Listen to a new podcast from ICLEI's partner, the International City/County Management Association (ICMA):

Bruce Plenk, the City of Tucson’s Solar Energy Coordinator, discusses Tucson's work as one of the Department of Energy's 25 Solar America Cities. Tucson was named as a Solar America City in 2007 and the city has worked to increase installations on municipal buildings, revise zoning ordinances, and make solar more accessible to residents through a solar ready homes ordinance.  This podcast explores the city’s successes, challenges, and lessons learned. Learn more about Tucson's work as a Solar America City here.

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Urban Forests Create Vibrant Cities

by Vibrant Cities & Urban Forests Task Force Dec 12, 2011

Vibrant Cities banner (credit: city of chicago)Photo credit: City of Chicago

If you could create a new pathway that would guide cities to a more vibrant and healthy existence – with programs, policies, partnerships and resources to support thriving urban forest systems – what would it look like? A new report, Vibrant Cities & Urban Forests: A National Call to Action, establishes a vision, highlights emerging trends, and culminates with a series of recommendations that can be applied to urban areas across the U.S.

Vibrant Cities report thumbTo craft the report, the Vibrant Cities & Urban Forests Task Force collaborated with New York Restoration Project (NYRP) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). Bringing together the observations and recommendations of 25 experts across multiple disciplines, the Report presents a new framework for understanding the benefits of urban and community forestry.  The ideas contained in the Report will be familiar to urban forestry practitioners; the innovation is in the approach.

How Urban Forestry Can Solve City Problems

The vision of the Report is to “explore the implications of integrated natural and built urban environments and their possibilities for the future.”  Put another way, the aim of the Vibrant Cities Report is to show how urban and community forestry can be used to solve problems that face our cities, particularly in areas that are not immediately obvious.

Blue yellow arrow icon small Read the Report

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Durban Outcomes: Nations Invest in Time, World Must Invest in Cities

by ICLEI Global Dec 11, 2011

COP17 delegates

As nations finally reached a deal at the UN Climate Summit, cities fear that the Durban Outcomes are insufficient to slow down the pace of global warming, nor foresee adequate resources for adaptation actions at the local level.

“The Durban Outcomes are a significant step forward to bring the deniers of the Kyoto Protocol back around the table and free countries of their hostage held by oil and coal lobbies. This is important to save our today, but too little and possibly too late to save our tomorrow. There is indeed a dangerous gap between now and 2020 which is the most critical period to ensure a global transition to low-emission, climate-resilient development.” says Gino van Begin, Deputy Secretary General of ICLEI- Local Governments for Sustainability.

“It is now urgent and more than ever necessary to mobilize and support the ambitious climate actions of local governments who have been zooming past nations.” 

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After the COP17 Climate Talks: Time to Empower Cities

by Michael Schmitz, Interim Executive Director, ICLEI–Local Governments for Sustainability USA Dec 11, 2011

City Bicycle Road

Two things are clear in the wake of the COP17 international climate negotiations in Durban, South Africa. First, time is not on our side in the fight against climate change. And second, the world needs to look beyond national governments for meaningful ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today. The leadership of local governments—on display in Durban—takes on a new level of importance. 

Michael Schmitz 99x128 thumbCOP17 brought some welcome progress, but also grave concerns about whether national governments are moving fast enough to prevent catastrophic climate change. At the 11th hour of the final day in Durban, negotiators agreed to a wide-ranging deal that renews the Kyoto Protocol and sets in place a process for all countries, including major emitters like India, China, and the United States, to move toward a legally binding climate agreement by 2015, which would take effect in 2020.

Climate Action Can’t Wait

While many herald this as a significant step forward, the flipside is that again, nations punted the difficult work of setting greenhouse gas reduction targets and working to meet them. With each passing year that greenhouse gases spew into the atmosphere at alarming rates, it becomes more difficult to rein in climate change and keep the world from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius, the threshold beyond which scientists say climate change could be “catastrophic” for our way of life.  We can’t wait until 2020 to meaningfully reduce emissions.

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Local Climate Progress Worldwide Captured in New ICLEI Report

by Don Knapp Dec 04, 2011

New York skyline banner image

Right now, in the absence of any international climate agreement (or national, for that matter), local climate action is what the world can count on. That's the takeaway from a new report release over the weekend by ICLEI's World Secretariat.

cCCR report thumb 2011The carbonn Cities Climate Registry (cCCR) Annual Report was released at COP17 in Durban, South Africa on the world stage, to show the global community what goals local governments have set to mitigate climate change, what they've achieved so far, and what they can accomplish down the road, especially if their efforts are empowered by national and international agreements.

Blue yellow arrow icon small View the Report

This groundbreaking report, the first global snapshot of local climate action, quantified the performance of 51 cities in 19 countries, representing 83 million inhabitants and 447 million tons of C02e emissions per year.

The report underscores the importance of not only measuring GHG emissions to track performance, but to report those emissions to a platform like cCCR. ICLEI has long promoted the maxim, "you cannot manage what you cannot measure," and now we can to that, "we cannot count what we do not report."

What Have Cities Accomplished?

Here are the main takeaways from the report, pulled from the report summary, as well as recommendations for future action:

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