A key component of a sustainable planet is the significant reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprints to address global climate change. Efficient transportation systems, with less dependence on the conventional fuel-powered automobile, are central to stemming global climate change trends. Innovative urban planning that encourages smart growth and development, should also address the transportation infrastructure. Many cities around the world are leading the way with distinctive new programs that complement existing transportation systems.
The Large Cities Climate Leadership Group was established in London in 1985 by eighteen leading world cities. Renamed C40 (www.c40cities.org), the organization has evolved into a group of forty large cities, including Paris, London, and Los Angeles, who are committed to addressing climate change. In 2006, C40 announced a partnership with the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI) (www.clintonfoundation.org/what-we-do/clinton-climate-initiative/) to reduce carbon emissions and increase energy efficiency in large cities across the world. CCI was founded in 2005, and works with governments and businesses around the world to develop economically and environmentally sustainable programs. The CCI helps cities save money, create jobs and provides examples for other cities to follow through building codes, standards and other incentives. CCI recognizes that:
“Cities can play a leadership role in catalyzing global action to address climate changes. Cities are often nimble and have a direct relationship with their citizens, local businesses, schools, and institutions. The effects of new policies, therefore, are immediate and meaningful.”
The fourth C40 Mayors Summit just convened May 31 through June 2, 2011. Attendees represented four percent of the world’s population, ten percent of global greenhouse pollution, and eighteen percent of global economic output. The summit focused on cities’ ability to drive national and global progress on climate change. A partnership between C40 and the World Bank Group was announced at the summit. Key provisions of the partnership will provide technical and financial tools to help cities finance climate action plans and standardize reporting of greenhouse gas emissions.
And in remarks on June 28, 2011, Mr. Sha Zukang, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, stated:
“Let’s turn to cities. They are concentrations of human energy and creativity, both the source of sustainable development problems and the laboratories for solving them. Most of the developing world’s population will live in cities and towns by 2020. Three-quarters of the developed world’s population already does. This means that urban planners and managers, transport planners, real estate developers, architects and engineers all have a crucial role in shaping a sustainable planet.”
In Paris, this city of two million residents, the Paris Climate Plan has been implemented through a series of public meetings involving citizens. The plans include a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by seventy-five percent below 2004 levels by 2050. The plan also addresses energy consumption of municipal buildings, public lighting and renewable energy. On transportation issues, the city boasts less automobile traffic and more access for transit, taxis, bicycles and pedestrians. Planned improvements in the rail system will reduce the air traffic associated with visitors, the city’s greatest source of greenhouse gas emissions. Our friend traveled into the city from the suburbs two days in a row to entertain us, and she left her automobile at home. And Paris is working to further green the many parks, gardens, and public spaces, and to encourage affordable housing with community gardening programs closer to the city center. Accessible green space is proven to attract pedestrians and get people out of their cars.
Musee du quai Branly – Paris, France
In London, where C40 began, the city is busy preparing for the 2012 Olympic Games with green infrastructure efforts well advanced. The city’s seven million residents are enjoying cleaner air due to the introduction of hybrid buses and electric vehicles, and vastly limiting conventional vehicle use within the city center. In 2003, London introduced the Congestion Charge Zone (CCZ) for private vehicles in use in the highest traffic areas in the city. The program has been successful in reducing traffic congestion, and penalty fees are used to fund London’s transport system. And in 2007, London introduced the Mayor’s Climate Action Plan which includes green homes and organizations, green energy and green transport programs. The Green Transport Program aims to reduce CO2 emissions by thirty percent, or 4.3 million tons. With the robust “tube” system, and pedestrian-friendly streets in this urban center, most spurn automobile use. Another friend, a twenty year resident of London, recently sold his car as the hassle and expense were no longer worth ownership. He uses the tube for local access, Zipcar for regional needs, and the Eurostar for travel to Paris, Brussels and beyond.
St. Pancras International Train Station – London, England
At home in Atlanta, the tenth largest metropolitan area in the U.S., city leaders recognize that dependence on cars and urban sprawl must be transformed into more dense, transit-oriented development to attract business to the ten counties making up the metropolitan area. The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) system of buses and thirty-two rail stations is only part of a plan to solve the region’s traffic problems. Atlanta’s mayor has proposed a 1% Regional Transportation Sales Tax Referendum for the next ballot, projected to raise $800 million every year for the next ten years. Transportation improvements include the Atlanta Beltline and Connect Atlanta Plan which will improve transit, bicycle and pedestrian systems in the city center. Atlanta also reduced the city’s municipal carbon footprint by twelve and one-half percent in 2010, besting a 2006 goal of five and one-half percent by 2012. The Mayor’s Office of Sustainability recently announced Atlanta as one of three cities selected to be an early partner in President Obama’sBetter Buildings Challenge (www4.eere.energy.gov/challenge/). Atlanta officials plan to reduce energy consumption in the city’s downtown district by twenty percent over the next decade, and also achieve targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase green space and increase local food accessibility.
And in Los Angeles, which has also been selected as an early partner in the Better Buildings Challenge (Seattle is the third city), the city is greening their infrastructure on numerous fronts. In 2007, the city adopted GREEN LA, a plan to combat climate change. Goals include reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by thirty-five percent below 1990 levels by 2030, and increases in renewable energy use to forty percent by 2020. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) is celebrating its twentieth anniversary. Voters approved Measure R in November, 2008 to expand rail service and bus connections beyond the seventy station system. Rail expansion has led to development of housing, retail and business clusters around transit stations. And through the $37 million Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Los Angeles has promoted, implemented and managed energy efficiency programs to reduce fossil fuel emissions and improve total energy efficiency.
Metro Rail Map– Los Angeles, California
In many urban centers around the world, governments, businesses and citizens are working together to address climate change without reducing their quality of life. In the United States, urban cities such as Los Angeles and Atlanta, serve as models of reinvention for the twenty-first century. New and improved infrastructure changes are the building blocks to their success, and these programs can be imitated on a regional, national, and international scale.
Annette Gorelick is Founder and President of G4 Green Connections, an education consulting company specializing in the sustainable operations and maintenance of commercial buildings. The company mission is to build an enduring culture of sustainability through education and networking. Annette has worked in facility and property management since 2001, primarily as a service provider for landscape installation and maintenance. Annette sits on the Board of the Atlanta chapter of the International Facility Management Association (IFMA), and also serves on the IFMA Sustainability committee. She is also a member of the Atlanta branch of the Georgia chapter of the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), serving on the Education committee. G4 Green Connections is based in metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia. Please visit their website at www.g4greenconnections.com