Several international organizations have collaborated recently to combat climate change in the world’s largest cities. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former U.S. President Bill Clinton announced last month that they will be combining the resources of the Clinton Climate Initiative, a program of the William J. Clinton Foundation, and the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, which Bloomberg chairs, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in cities.
The Large Cities Climate Leadership Group was first launched in 2005 when 18 representatives from large cities throughout the world met to discuss ways to reduce their climate impact. In 2006, the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI) partnered with the group to expand the affiliates to 40 of the world’s largest cities, including Jakarta, Lima, and Stockholm—changing the group’s name to C40. CCI had been a partner to C40 in project design, assistance, and implementation, but the program had limited annual funds of $500,000.
On the heels of pledging $6 million annually for three years to the C40, Bloomberg was elected chair of the C40 last fall. In April, Bloomberg and Clinton announced that their two organizations “will effectively become one, under a unified central management structure” and that their respective staffs will collaborate. Bloomberg emphasized that the data-driven approach that is being used to improve air quality in the PlaNYC program will help make the C40/CCI collaboration the “pre-eminent climate action organization in the world.”
The partnerships continued this week at the C40 Cities Mayors Summit in Sâo Paulo, Brazil, where the World Bank signed an agreement with the C40 to streamline the financing of sustainable development mechanisms across the C40 cities. Monitoring and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions also will be standardized in partnership with the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), a leading technical consultant for sustainable governments.
This flurry of activity is for good reason, as the high energy consumption of buildings and urban transportation means that our cities consume around 70 percent of our energy and produce 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Worldwide, cities are home to half of the world’s population although they comprise only 2 percent of the world’s land mass, and the World Bank estimates that the C40 cities alone contain 393 million people and produce 2 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually, roughly 6 percent of world population and world emissions. Any pilot programs that prove successful in the world’s largest cities should be able to trickle down to secondary and tertiary cities. Even if mayors only have the jurisdiction to install ‘metro only’ policies, the policies may have significant leverage over regional development.
Clinton has stressed the importance of attaining economically feasible solutions, such as in Rio de Janeiro, where a program that will replace incandescent traffic lights with LED modules will reduce the city’s operational costs by over 50 percent. Similar programs in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Boston have led to paybacks of 13, 7, and 3 years, respectively. The CCI has also designed initiatives in Rio for hybrid and electric bus fleets, as well as diverting organic waste in urban marketplaces toward composting and energy generation facilities.
One of the objectives of C40 is to share best practices from leading cities, such as Tokyo, which is the first government to develop a carbon cap-and-trade program since the European Union in 2005. Tokyo also mandates resource conservation and green building requirements for new buildings, and incentivizes utilities to add renewable energy sources to their portfolios by requiring publication of their GHG emissions. Tokyo’s water leakage program alone amounts to annual savings of $112 million and 73,000 tons of carbon dioxide by reducing the energy needed for pumping water.
Not only will cities need to ‘avoid the unmanageable’ by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but they also must ‘manage the unavoidable’ by adapting to climate change. This may include updating building codes, reducing the Urban Heat Island effect, developing energy and water conservation plans, building sea walls, renovating infrastructure, and protecting their most vulnerable residents. The CCI/C40 collaboration aims to accomplish just that, by collectively tackling climate change issues using economically feasible approaches.