Global Warming skeptics often focus on the messenger, Al Gore, rather than listening to the message. We should hope the same thing will not occur with the Clinton Global Initiative‘s (CGI) Energy Efficiency Building Retrofit Program.
This is related to the CCI’s C40 Cities: Climate Leadership Group, which brings together 40 of the world’s largest cities for collaboration and lesson sharing for tackling climate change.
This program will focus on improving the energy efficiency of urban areas.
Urban areas are responsible for approximately 75 percent of all energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in the world. Buildings account for nearly 40 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and in cities such as New York and London this figure is close to 70 percent.
The CGI brings together an important set of public-private partnerships. Major financial institutions have pledged at least $1 billion each in financing for energy efficiency retrofits (at not net cost), which means “a doubling the global market for energy retrofit in buildings.” How can this be done at no net cost?
[The] retrofit [of] existing buildings with more energy efficient products, typically leading to energy savings between 20 to 50 percent.
Four major energy services companies have committed to conducting energy auditings, performing the retrofits, and guaranteeing the energy savings of the retrofit projects. What do those savings mean?
Cities and building owners will pay back the loans plus interest with the energy savings generated by the reduced energy costs thanks to the building retrofits.
Fifteen of the world’s largest cities (Bangkok, Berlin, Chicago, Houston, Johannesburg, Karachi, London, Melbourne, Mexico City, Mumbai, New York, Rome, Sao Paulo, Seoul, Tokyo, and Toronto) have offered their municipal buildings for the first round of energy retrofits.
A version of this has been pursued by a number of US cities, such as the $100 million San Francisco Vote Solar bond, which combined energy efficiency with renewable energy projects. This is very much like the Energize America concept for Energy Smart Community bonds.
In the fight to turn the corner on Global Warming, people too often look to Silver Bullets, asserting that X or Y technology will save the day. There are those who assert that we need more R&D, that some magical solution will be coming down the pike. In fact, we shouldn’t be seeking Silver Bullets, but pursuing Silver BBs — as many of them as possible, both those in the hand and research for new, shiny BBs. Sadly, when it comes to Shiny, all too often in regards to Peak Oil and Global Warming, people speak to new energy sources, new fuels as somehow the solution (that Silver BB) ignoring the holistic view of energy: (a) what we want to do/have (the use), (b) energy source, and (c) how efficiently we use the energy. While not necessary that oh-so-Shiny iPod COOL Energy item like cheap solar power or a cool new transportation option, Energy Efficiency is an in-the-hand, quite tangible Silver BB to help change the nation’s and globe’s path forward toward a sustainable energy future.
Most buildings around the world have leaks (losing heat in the winter and cooling in the summer); windows that merit upgrading to reduce solar gain; insufficient insulation; and, well, the list can go on and on. From the simple screwing in compact fluorescents to replace incandescents to flush-less urinals (or even pee-cycling) to putting in cool / white reflective (or, even better, green roofs) to considering active energy (such as solar hot water), the path forward toward more energy efficient urban structures is straightforward.
Sadly, it has not been easy. There have been too many reasons not to make the investment. Stovepipes make capital investment hard to find to offset operating costs. Who controls what money is often a problem. There is a dearth of understanding as to the cost/benefit relationship. Let’s be honest, most people are energy illiterate and simply don’t know how much money they are, literally in many ways, seeing washed down the drain. People can generate more enthusiasm for building a park or adding new capabilities than ‘behind the scenes’ repairs to improve a building’s energy efficiency. Faced with spending $5 million to have a new park or to install water saving devices, how many voters choose that water efficiency?
The Clinton Climate Initiative’s Energy Efficiency Building Retrofit Program should help break through these road-blocks, providing a cost-effective path for cities around the globe to invest in an energy-efficient future.
And, one of the true benefits of this path is that energy efficiency is the clear area where, without a doubt, acting far more aggressively will have serious economic and environmental benefits.
If you don’t live in one of these 15 cities, the question you should ask: how can I get my city on that list as quickly as possible?