Cities are driving climate solutions

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.

·      Local governments are leveraging technology to save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A partnership between the City of Charlotte and Envision Charlotte, a local nonprofit, was among the examples of this strategy featured at the recent Smart Cities week in Washington, D.C. Working with the city and Duke Energy, Envision Charlotte has installed shadow meters in uptown commercial buildings to gather real-time energy use data that informs customized training for building managers. Recent assessments document a 16 percent drop in energy use over a 2010 baseline.

Envision Charlotte plans to reach more buildings in the city and is developing an app to engage office tenants. It’s also partnering with the White House to launch the newly unveiled Envision America program, which aims to achieve similar energy savings in other cities.

In both of these cases, access to strong data is helping to identify candidates for educational programs and investment opportunities to improve building performance. Local leaders know that these activities can strengthen their communities and local economies, and cities have a growing track record of facilitating such projects and ensuring they are implemented and monitored successfully.

As programs like these show, cities can be valuable partners as states and companies seek to improve sustainability and save energy. They can also play a key role as states seek emissions-cutting strategies under the Clean Power Plan.

That’s why local governments are playing a key role in the new C2ES Solutions Forum initiative. By sharing their experiences with states and businesses, cities and counties will help inform decisions and promote climate solutions that work.