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Local Governments Must Take Charge of Building Resilient Communities

by Haris Alibašić, Office of Energy and Sustainability, Director, City of Grand Rapids, Michigan Jul 29, 2013

Photo credit: ifmuth via flickr

Community-wide resiliency preparedness takes into consideration emergency preparedness, energy planning, health, and safety issues. Weather patterns are no longer predicated upon existing patterns, and the impact on regions, cities, and especially urban areas will be significant.  There have been more frequent and severe heat waves, excessive rain events and flooding, and changes in temperature and precipitation pattern impending social systems, ecosystems, and the economy. The U.S. Department of Energy reported that “at least three major climate trends are relevant to the energy sector: Increasing air and water temperatures; Decreasing water availability in some regions and seasons; Increasing intensity and frequency of storm events, flooding, and sea level rise.” (p. i). Climate change presents a whole new set of challenges when it comes to emergency planning and preparedness for municipalities.

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Atlanta Expands Sustainability Efforts with Power to Change Ambassador Program

by City of Atlanta Apr 24, 2013

Call to action for ambassadors has committed 70 businesses and organizations to date

Mayor Kasim Reed announced the creation of the Power to Change Ambassador Program at today’s 2nd annual Atlanta Earth Day Cleanup Challenge. As part of the city’s Power to Change sustainability initiative, the Ambassador Program will define and unite the sustainability efforts of government, business, academia, nonprofits and individuals.

“To become a top-tier sustainable city, we must take a cohesive and collaborative approach,” said Mayor Reed. “The Power to Change Ambassador Program will help amplify our individual successes and showcase our full-circle commitment to sustainability”.

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What Can Chinese Cities Teach Us About Sustainability?

by Don Knapp Apr 24, 2013

A view of Shanghai

Blogger: Michael Schmitz, ICLEI USA Executive Director

This article originally appeared on Environmental Leader, following Michael's April 2013 trip to China with Gov. Brown's trade delegation. Chinese local government leaders expressed strong interest in ICLEI's tools and guidance, and the climate and energy policies of U.S. cities. ICLEI will work to help connect Chinese and U.S. cities to share best practices.

 

Take a tour of China’s fast-growing megacities and you’re likely to come away astonished. Those of us who joined Gov. Edmund G. Brown, Jr.’s historic trade and investment delegation last week were struck by the sheer size and rapid scale of development in dozens of cities, from Beijing and Shanghai to Huangzhou and Guangzhou. But a closer look, past the infamous veil of air pollution, reveals a lesser-known reality with incredible potential: China’s vast efforts to build sustainable, low-carbon cities from the ground up and to massively retrofit existing ones.

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ICLEI Gathers Leading Mayors to Discuss Sustainability Challenges

by Don Knapp Apr 23, 2013

Leading elected officials at the BCLC panel discussion, "Lessons from Leading Communities": Pegeen Hanrahan, former Mayor, Gainesville, FL; Jay Fisette, Vice Chair, Arlington County, VA Board; Michael Schmitz, ICLEI USA Executive Director; Vincent Gray, Mayor, District of Columbia; Dawn Zimmer, Mayor, Hoboken, NJ.

Last week ICLEI put a spotlight on the key challenges and solutions of leading cities: resilience to extreme weather, policy innovations to accelerate local energy efficiency and renewable energy; and sustainability planning to improve livability and economic prosperity. A panel of mayors and county leaders gathered to share their insights on these topics at the Bricks & Sticks Sustainability Symposium, organized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Business Civic Leadership Center and co-sponsored by ICLEI.

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STAR Communities: First National Rating System Released for Sustainable Communities

by Don Knapp Oct 07, 2012

Last week was huge for the sustainable cities movement. ICLEI released its national greenhouse gas standard, the Community Protocol, and STAR Communities released the STAR Community Rating System. Here's the press release from STAR Communities, which ICLEI supports as a founding partner:

STAR Communities announced the release of the STAR Community Rating System Version 1.0 (STAR) at the Urban Sustainability Directors Network annual meeting held at Portland State University on Monday. STAR is the nation’s first voluntary framework for evaluating and quantifying the sustainability of U.S. communities.

The STAR Community Rating System uniquely combines:

  • A framework for sustainability that covers the social, economic and environmental dimensions of community;
  • A rating system that drives continuous improvement and fosters competition; and
  • An online system that gathers, organizes, analyzes, and presents information required to meet sustainability goals.
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Grand Rapids Mayor Heartwell Outlines Needs for Local Leadership on Climate and Energy

by Don Knapp Sep 30, 2012

Mayor George Heartwell of Grand Rapids, MI, is a nationally recognized leader on sustainability and climate action. Today at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, Mayor Heartwell spoke before an audience of federal decision makers and sustainability leaders about his City's actions and leadership in the face of climate and energy challenges.

The National Leadership Speaker Series on Resiliency and Security in the 21st Century, organized by ICLEI and the U.S. Green Building Council, brought three nationally known leaders on sustainability and resilience: Mayor Heartwell, Mayor Ralph Becker of Salt Lake City, UT, and Vice Mayor Kristin Jacobs of Broward County, FL.

Mayor Heartwell spoke in great detail about the climate and energy challenges faced by all local governments, and outlined the key steps being taken in Grand Rapids to become more prepared for climate impacts and more energy independent and efficient. Below are his key points and messages.

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Fair Trade Towns a Growing International Movement

by Nancy Jones, Director of Chicago Fair Trade and Fair Trade Towns Steering Committee member Sep 29, 2012

Chicago is the largest Fair Trade Town in the United States.

While local sustainability initiatives bring about wonderful local benefits like healthier air or green jobs, they also represent an incredible opportunity to address global problems. In fact, a sustainable planet cannot be achieved without local communities acknowledging our global relationships. We are no longer small individual communities that can each work toward our own solution.  The Fair Trade Towns movement is a critical partner in helping to frame our global relationships and engage businesses and consumers in a new consciousness and new behaviors that will contribute to the success of local sustainability initiatives.

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Lessons on Outreach From Richmond’s Sustainability Plan

by Don Knapp Aug 26, 2012

Sustainability professionals understand that the key to developing a sustainability plan is getting strong buy-in and participation—both within a local government and among the greater community. But it’s easier said than done. Richmond, VA’s new RVAgreen plan, which was approved by City Council in July 2012, rests on a strong foundation of internal and external support, cultivated over many months under the leadership of Mayor Dwight C. Jones.

I spoke with Alicia Zatcoff, City of Richmond’s Sustainability Manager, who shared her strategies and lessons learned with engaging community members and municipal colleagues in the development of RVAgreen.

Right: Alicia Zatcoff, City of Richmond Sustainability Manager

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Success Story: The Greening of Grand Rapids

by Heidi Stukkie Aug 18, 2012

Photo credit: ADAM BIRD, reposted from the Rapid Growth website.

 

Reposted with permission from the Rapid Growth website:

Recent national awards have positioned Grand Rapids as an environmental leader known for its commitment to sustainability, energy efficiency and climate protection. The city’s focused efforts to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions began a few years ago and are already showing significant cost savings and numerous social and environmental benefits.   

Earlier this summer, the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) awarded Mayor George K. Heartwell first place in the large city category of the 2012 Mayors’ Climate Protection Awards. The award recognizes mayors for their innovative practices to increase energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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STAR Communities Seeks New Pilots, Sets Date for National Release of Sustainability Standard

by Don Knapp Jul 19, 2012

STAR Communities is pleased to announce the launch of the STAR Community Index 1.0 in fall 2012—the nation’s first standard for sustainable communities. STAR is a national, consensus-based rating system for community sustainability. When released in fall 2012, STAR will provide communities a standard and comprehensive set of goals, objectives and performance measures by which to improve interdependent environmental, economic, and social conditions. STAR will provide local governments and community leaders with the framework and tools they need to set baselines, adopt targets, then measure and validate their progress across a standard and comprehensive set of goals, objectives and evaluation measures.


Seeking 25-40 Pilot Communities

With the release of the standard, STAR Communities seeks between 25‐40 U.S. communities to pilot STAR’s rating system, online reporting tool, and associated products and services.

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