Cities and counties are increasingly emerging as climate leaders, becoming laboratories and incubators for climate solutions. These solutions take a fresh approach to emerging local challenges, and could drive progress at a larger scale.
Here are two key ways cities are stepping up:
· Local governments are creating an invaluable knowledge base for efficiency and sustainability efforts.
To reach your destination, you have to know where you are starting from. That’s why it’s so important that cities are taking advantage of ever-improving data collection and analytical capabilities to become the providers of rich databases of energy and water use in their jurisdictions.
Philadelphia's Energy Benchmarking program requires large commercial buildings to disclose their energy use. As a result, the city has a baseline of energy usage by nearly 2,000 buildings across multiple sectors. By sharing this data with building owners and energy managers, the city is focusing more attention on saving energy. And by sharing building data online with potential tenants, the city hopes to create a market for efficient buildings.
A similar program in New York City has had promising results. The disclosure policy corresponded with energy savings of nearly 6 percent - worth more than $260 million.
Photo by Amy Morsch
A volunteer from Escola University uses a model home to demonstrate energy-saving tactics at the first Brazilian Alcoa Green Fair in Poços de Caldas.
Seeing is believing, even if it’s a meticulously built model used to illustrate action in real life.
Take the model home Escola University volunteers displayed at a recent Alcoa Green Fair in Poços de Caldas, Brazil. From top to bottom, it demonstrated energy-saving actions in every nook to help visitors see how each small change can save kilowatts -- and money.
Communities can use the same concept to illustrate and communicate what actions will help save energy and reduce climate impacts.
The way we talk about climate and energy issues can either empower people to act or leave them overwhelmed. People won’t necessarily be moved to act just because they know about the challenges. More often, they will be moved because they feel a collective responsibility for a shared problem and understand how they can make a positive impact.
Through the Alcoa Green Fairs, C2ES and the Alcoa Foundation work to drive action on climate and energy issues in a positive and engaging way. Now, Alcoa and C2ES have pushed this successful U.S. program to the international stage. The first-ever fair in Brazil in August attracted 17 organizations and more than 750 people to Alcoa’s Poços de Caldas plant, about four hours north of the capital Sao Paulo, to see demonstrations, learn about resources, and discover new ways to be eco-friendly.
Events like the Alcoa Green Fairs highlight how organizations are stepping up to reduce their impacts, both collectively and one employee at a time. This leadership was evident when Alcoa plant managers, employee champions, the Alcoa Foundation, C2ES, and Sustainable Poços Association (APS) gathered at an early-morning roundtable discussion before the fair.
Weathering the Next Storm:
September 22, 2015
By Katy Maher and Janet Peace
Infographic with key takeaways
Increased extreme weather and climate-related impacts are imposing significant costs on society and on companies. While businesses are increasingly taking steps to assess risks and prepare for future climate changes, many companies face internal and external challenges that hinder efforts to move toward greater climate resilience. Building and expanding on an earlier review completed in 2013, C2ES examined how large companies are preparing for climate risk, who they are partnering with, and what is keeping them for doing more.
Download the infographic as a PDF
Increased extreme weather and climate-related impacts are imposing significant costs on communities and companies alike. While some businesses are taking steps to assess and address climate risks, many face internal and external challenges to building climate resilience.
In a new report, Weathering the Next Storm: A Closer Look at Business Resilience, released at Climate Week NYC, C2ES examined how major global companies are preparing for climate risks, and what is keeping them from doing more.
C2ES reviewed public disclosures of S&P Global 100 companies, conducted in-depth interviews, and held workshops with business leaders, government officials, academics and other stakeholders. Key findings include:
Major companies recognize and report climate risks.
We found 91 of the world’s largest 100 companies see extreme weather and other climate impacts as business risks. Business leaders see climate risks firsthand – in damaged facilities, interrupted power and water supplies, disrupted supply and distribution chains, and impacts on their employees’ lives.
Most (84 companies) discussed climate risk concerns in CDP questionnaires. Fewer companies did so in their sustainability reports (47) or financial filings (40).
More companies are assessing their vulnerabilities.
The vast majority of companies rely on existing risk management or business continuity planning to address climate risks.
Many see climate change as a “threat magnifier” that exacerbates risks they already know and understand. This lens puts climate change into a familiar business context, but companies could overlook or underestimate the threats they face.
Weathering the Next Storm:
September 22, 2015
By Katy Maher and Janet Peace
Infographic with key takeaways
As we saw once again in 2014—the warmest year globally on record—increases in extreme weather and other climate-related impacts are imposing significant costs on society. Even as governments, companies and communities strengthen efforts to reduce emissions contributing to climate change, they are awakening to the urgent need to address growing climate impacts. Across the United States, governments at all levels are taking steps to strengthen climate resilience. Simultaneously, a growing number of companies are recognizing extreme weather and climate change as present or future business risks. For many companies, these rising risks extend well beyond the “fence line” to critical supply chains and infrastructure, and can be effectively managed only in partnership with the public sector.
September 22, 2015
(Doors open at 8:45 a.m. for light breakfast. Program begins at 9:15.)
Bank of America Tower
One Bryant Park
New York, NY
Read the report and executive summary, watch video of the report launch and find additional resources on resilience.
How are companies are assessing and addressing climate vulnerabilities?
What is keeping them from doing more?
Which tools, data and partnerships can drive action to the next level?
Global Environmental Executive, Bank of America
Amy Luers, Ph.D.
Assistant Director, Climate Resilience and Information
Office of Science and Technology Policy
Executive Office of the President
Global Environmental Director, Diageo
Vice President of Public Policy
Corporate Sustainability Officer, PG&E
For most Americans, getting to work means getting in a car – alone. Using public transportation instead can help the planet because it is more fuel efficient to move people together than separately. At a recent Green Fair in Springdale, Arkansas, we also learned just how much public transportation can help employees, especially those without a driver’s license or a car who struggle to get to work each day.
The Green Fair C2ES hosted with Alcoa brought people together to share information and opportunities about energy conservation and sustainability-focused groups in the community.
The connection made at the fair between Alcoa and Ozark Regional Transit (ORT) brought to light a critical problem – and a potential solution. Some of Alcoa’s workers rely on friends, co-workers, and family members for a ride to work. That means if their ride is sick or has another obligation, they may be late for work, or may not make it at all. For Alcoa, that can mean reduced productivity and high employee turnover.
To address this problem, Ozark Regional Transit has decided to launch a new bus route and a pilot program offering free passes to Alcoa employees for the next several months. The distinctive blue buses will wind through nearby neighborhoods and go past Alcoa and a number of other manufacturing companies, who will also participate in the pilot project.
If the program, initiated by Tyson Foods, is successful, companies may decide to extend the service or offer reduced fares as an employee benefit.
PREPARED REMARKS BY BOB PERCIASEPE
PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR CLIMATE AND ENERGY SOLUTIONS
INNOVATIVE FINANCE & CLEAN POWER, A SOLUTIONS FORUM
JUNE 25, 2015
Welcome everybody and thank you for being here. I especially want to thank our co-host for today’s event: The George Washington University Law School’s Environment and Energy Program.
My name is Bob Perciasepe and I’m president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, or C2ES.
I think many of you know us, but for those of you who don’t, we’re an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit group dedicated to bringing diverse interests together to solve our climate and energy challenges.
Today is a perfect example of how we go about doing that. We’re going to be talking a lot about energy efficiency and renewable energy – and how innovative financing can help us increase investment in those areas. I’m pleased to be bringing together top financial experts from Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and the Coalition for Green Capital; state leaders from Tennessee and Pennsylvania; and energy leaders from Schneider Electric and Duke Energy. I think this group in itself shows you the mix of people who have to start working harder together to make sure we can make progress on clean energy and energy efficiency.
Finance may or may not have been your favorite class in college, but much of the progress we need to address our climate challenge – more efficiency and more low-carbon energy -- comes down to one question: How do we pay for it? Financing and using markets are ways to accelerate the rate of change.
On the other side of the coin, we’re already paying mounting costs worldwide for climate impacts like increasingly frequent storms and intense heat waves. We’re seeing rising sea levels creating higher risk in coastal areas. We face the prospect of more damage to our infrastructure and more disruptions to our supply and distribution chains, as well as our power and water supplies.
The primary cause of these problems, and you can take this all the way to the Vatican, is us. We’ve been pumping heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere for generations. Last year was the hottest since we started keeping records over 100 years ago.
But we know that there are things we can do. We know what some of the solutions are. We know how to make progress within a generation to change that trajectory. We need cleaner energy, cleaner cars, and more efficient ways to use energy.
Here in the United States, the No. 1 source of carbon emissions is the generation of electricity. EPA is in the process of finalizing a plan that will put a lot of responsibility on states to look at how they can innovate to develop clean power plans to reduce emissions from electric generation. We already have a process underway with light duty vehicles and heavy duty trucks, making them more energy efficient. And we have a lot of opportunity to think about how to do this at the state level for power.
The beauty here is while we continue to think about how to deal with this at the national level, cities and states and businesses are already innovating. They’re already making progress not only in reducing emissions but also in finding ways to accelerate the rate of change and stimulate innovation.
Of course, we want not just clean energy, but also affordable energy. This is a balance we have to have. We’re seeing solar and other renewables drop in price, something that can continue with increased deployment. Efficiency reduces how much energy we use, so that even if there’s a slight uptick in rates, a homeowner’s bill can stay the same.
The objective of having cleaner power and also using less of it provides a real opportunity to find that sweet spot of maintaining that affordability. It’s like what we’re looking at with automobiles. If you use less fuel, the actual cost to own the car is cheaper. The same can be said of energy efficiency in the home, business, and industry.
C2ES found something interesting on affordability when we recently looked at six economic modeling studies of the Clean Power Plan. All of the models project energy efficiency will be the most-used option to implement the plan. The majority of the studies project either cost savings to consumers or total costs of less than $10 billion a year, Per household, that’s about 25 cents a day.
So, how do we get to this future of affordable clean energy and energy efficiency? It takes investment, and that’s what we’re here to explore. How do we catalyze that investment? How do we leverage public funds to get more private dollars? What innovative business models are already working, and how do we scale those up?
It’s not simple. We face some barriers to investment like high upfront costs. If you invest in new windows and solar panels for a high rise, it will take a while to recover those costs in lower energy bills. Another barrier is lack of familiarity. People aren’t sure about new technologies and new financial products, which can make them harder to buy and sell.
Fortunately, there are ways to overcome these barriers. We have a brief overview of some of these options. I’ll mention two: Clean Energy Banks, sometimes called Green Banks; and Energy Savings Performance Contracts.
Clean Energy Banks are generally government-created institutions that can leverage a small amount of public money to increase private investment in clean technologies. Several states have them or something like them – Connecticut, New York, Kentucky, and Hawaii. And others, like Maryland, California, and D.C are thinking about them.
They can provide direct loans, but they also have other tools, such as credit enhancements, letters of credit, and loan loss reserves, that can help lower the risk for private lenders and investors.
So far, Connecticut’s green bank, the nation’s first, has attracted about $9 of private investment for every $1 of public money invested in clean energy projects. The bank oversees more than $100 million in assets.
The second example is an Energy Service Company, or ESCO, whose business model is based on establishing Energy Savings Performance Contracts with customers like cities, hospitals and universities. These contracts let a customer get energy-saving or clean-energy technology at little to no upfront cost. They pay the investment back over time from the money saved through reduced energy bills.
The City of Knoxville, Tennessee, has a 13-year energy performance savings contract that will fund energy efficiency measures at all city buildings, parks and sports facilities. Each year, Knoxville will pay the ESCO a fee based on expected savings from things like better lighting, water conservation, weatherization, and heating and cooling upgrades.
Innovative financial tools are not a panacea, but they are an essential tool to overcoming many of the barriers facing a new technology. They can also engage a broader group of investors, bring more capital to the table, and reduce costs. Those are the conditions that allow new technologies to spread.
The Earth is undoubtedly warming. What’s the cause, what are the impacts, and what can we do about it?
Below is a list of resources to learn more about the impacts of climate change, what individuals can do to help, and which policies can make a big difference
What are the Impacts of Climate Change?
The Earth is warming and will continue to do so if we keep releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This warming brings an increased risk of more frequent and intense heat waves, higher sea levels, and more severe droughts, wildfires, and downpours. To learn more:
What can you do to help?
C2ES works to help individuals learn how they can save energy at work, school, and home. Learn some of the steps you can take to make an impact:
What would make a huge difference?
Sensible policies can spur demand for clean energy and technologies and reduce carbon emissions cost-effectively. Learn about some of the options: