Cities Divided Over Fossil Fuel Investments

Divesting From Fossil Fuels, Investing In The Future

By James B. Stewart, New York Times

The trustees of Cooperstown, N.Y., hardly expected their village (population 1,834) to emerge as a flash point in a national debate over climate change and socially responsible investing.

But when they voted in October to divest the pension fund they oversee of all fossil fuel holdings, Cooperstown became the first community in the nation to do so — not just coal (like Stanford University), but also oil and gas.

climate change policy

Just as the divestiture movement has roiled college campuses across the country, pitting environmental activists against college endowment managers, the trustees’ decision caused a stir locally. The town treasurer and tax collector publicly opposed the move, and a village resident took to the local newspaper to suggest the trustees were indulging their personal causes at the expense of prudent portfolio management.

The issue has upset the usually tranquil village on the shores of scenic Otsego Lake, which bills itself as “America’s hometown” and is home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Talk of carbon neutrality and fiduciary duty has at least temporarily supplanted Donald J. Trump, who easily carried Otsego County.

Cooperstown “is abuzz,” said Jim Kevlin, the editor and publisher of the local newspaper, The Freeman’s Journal (founded in 1808 by James Fenimore Cooper’s father) and its companion website,

“I’ve gotten into arguments with a lot of my friends,” said Louis Allstadt, a retired Exxon Mobil executive and town trustee credited with spearheading the divestiture movement (or blamed for it, depending who you ask). “Even at my weekly lunch group.”

Mr. Allstadt is emerging as something of a small-town hero in the divestiture movement, in part because he has gone full circle on the issue, from managing all of Mobil Oil’s exploration efforts in the United States, Canada and Latin America and helping oversee Mobil’s merger with Exxon during a 31-year career in the industry, to an antifracking, anti-fossil-fuel activist.

air pollution and climate change

He has owned a house near Cooperstown since 1973, which served as both a vacation getaway and home base during the years he was based overseas. He moved to the village in 2008 and, after his post-retirement conversion, gave over 150 speeches in upstate New York as part of a successful campaign to ban fracking in the state.

“It’s so much worse than the conventional drilling I was familiar with,” he said. “I started talking about how to make it safer, and inevitably someone would ask, ‘Can you make it safe?’ And basically, the answer is no.”

Mr. Allstadt ran for town trustee as an independent, with support from both Democrats and Republicans. “I wasn’t running as a ‘green,’ or anything like that,” he said. “I mostly focus on efficiency and lowering costs.” (There are two independent trustees and four Democrats, which makes Cooperstown something of an anomaly in heavily Republican Otsego County.)

Mr. Allstadt is becoming more than a local celebrity. He will be featured next week at a news conference in New York City hosted by the fossil fuel divestment advocacy group Divest-Invest Philanthropy.

“Cooperstown showed immense leadership in its decision to divest,” said Lindsay Meiman, a spokeswoman for, the environmental activist group and a supporter of Divest-Invest.

But the move sparked immediate opposition outside the environmental movement, starting with the town treasurer and tax collector, Derek Bloomfield, who argued at the trustees meeting in October that energy stocks provided valuable diversification.

“Social investment should be done with one’s own money,” he maintained, according to a report in The Freeman’s Journal, adding that in his view, “fossil fuels have done more to raise mankind out of poverty than any other development through the ages.”

“They’ve created a great threat to humanity,” Mr. Allstadt shot back.

Mr. Allstadt argued that the industry faced insurmountable obstacles in the future and fossil fuel stocks would suffer as a result. “You don’t just keep driving your car when you see a cliff ahead,” he told The Freeman’s Journal.

The discussion “got a little contentious over the historic merit of fossil fuels,” the mayor, Jeff Katz, told me this week. He and his family were drawn to Cooperstown by its baseball legacy; he has written two books on the topic, including “Split Season,” about the strike-marred 1981 baseball season.

As a former options trader in Chicago, Mr. Katz is also financially sophisticated. He and the trustees oversee a pension fund, with total assets of about $900,000, that benefits the town’s volunteer firefighters and emergency squad. Of that amount, about $140,000 was invested in an S.&.P 500 fund that included fossil fuel stocks. But last year, State Street started an exchange-traded fund that excludes fossil fuels from the S.&P. 500 (the fund’s symbol is SPYX), offering a cost-efficient way to purge fossil fuels from any portfolio.

“It’s something people believe in, and we thought it’s a positive way for the name of Cooperstown to be out there,” the mayor said. “It’s meaningful in that way. It’s not so meaningful financially. We’re not a $100 million pension fund. No one will suffer if Exxon Mobil triples in the next year.”

He added that he and the trustees didn’t realize Cooperstown would be the first community in the nation to divest itself of all fossil fuels.

But the trustees’ decision, and especially Mr. Allstadt’s comments about driving off a cliff, struck a nerve with a village resident, David Russell, who moved with his family to Cooperstown from Westchester County soon after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Mr. Russell is an asset manager who commutes to Manhattan, but he is also steeped in pension fund management as a former counsel to the New York state comptroller H. Carl McCall, who oversaw the state’s vast public retirement plan.

“It’s a very pristine place up here,” Mr. Russell told me this week. “Feelings run very high about the environment. A lot of people went crazy over fracking.”

“Lou Allstadt went from being a retired oil executive to a pied piper against fossil fuels, which is fine for him personally,” he added. “But as a trustee, you have to look at this through the lens of fiduciary duty, which means acting in the best interest of the beneficiaries. Village trustees shouldn’t be stock pickers, and they shouldn’t be injecting social issues into the decision.”

“I’d never written anything in the paper before,” Mr. Russell said, “but I felt strongly that someone had to speak up.”

So he drafted a lengthy op-ed for The Freeman’s Journal, arguing that the trustees had a duty to seek the “best risk-adjusted returns” for the fund and should be “free from any conflicts of interest or political beliefs/statements.”

Mr. Russell noted that so far this year, the SPYX fund, minus fossil fuels, had lagged the SPY fund by 16 percent.

He added that stock in the two leading firearms manufacturers — Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger — which were sold off by many pension funds after the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school tragedy, have risen 400 percent and 100 percent since then, easily outpacing broad market indexes.

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Major US Banks Urge Global Leaders To Tackle Climate Change

Global Warming Threatens Business As Usual

Six major U.S. banks are urging world leaders to adopt a strong agreement to slash carbon emissions and tackle climate change. The coalition warned in a letter Monday that warming global temperatures and related effects, including sea level rise and severe drought, threaten to upend the global economy and jeopardize future prosperity.

trees a climate change solution

Their message targeted the heads of state and diplomats gathered in New York Monday for the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Climate change is one of the top subjects on the agenda, along with Syria’s civil war, the refugee crisis and the Iran nuclear accord. The U.N. is spearheading negotiations to forge a 195-country climate accord in Paris this December.

Bank of America, Citi, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo called on negotiators to adopt policies that “recognize the cost of carbon” and help “provide greater market certainty, accelerate investment, drive innovation in low carbon energy, and create jobs,” according to the letter published by Ceres, a sustainability advocacy organization.

The banks noted that investments in global energy, water, transportation and urban infrastructure systems are projected to total $90 trillion over the next 15 years — a sum that could include funding for low-carbon alternatives given the right policy signals, according to a 2014 report by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, an initiative chaired by former Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

“Businesses across the spectrum are evaluating the risks and opportunities associated with a changing climate,” Mary Wenzel, head of environmental affairs at Wells Fargo, said in a statement. “Strong, long-term policy frameworks can provide the business certainty needed to accelerate innovation and investment.”

climate change negotiations in Lima, Peru

The banks’ statement did not explicitly call for a price on carbon dioxide emissions, which proponents say would make it more expensive to burn coal, oil and natural gas and encourage greater investment solar and wind power, electric vehicles, biofuels and other clean energy alternatives. But some financial leaders, including the World Bank, a U.N. financial institution, have repeatedly urged policymakers to put an outright tax on carbon emissions or adopt a cap-and-trade system. China last week announced it would launch the world’s largest cap-and-trade system to reduce emissions from its steel, cement, paper and electric power sectors.

A carbon price is “the most powerful move that a government can make in the fight against climate change and the reengineering of the economy,” Rachel Kyte, a special envoy for climate change at the World Bank, said a year ago at the 2014 Climate Week NYC, an annual forum to promote the business case for a low-carbon economy.

Climate Change Solutions via

Glasgow Becomes First University In Europe To Divest From Fossil Fuels

Smart Money Says Fossil Fuels For Dinosaurs

Glasgow University has become the first academic institution in Europe to divest from the fossil fuel industry, in a turning point for the British arm of the student-led global divestment movement.

After 12 months of campaigning, led by the Glasgow University Climate Action Society and involving over 1,300 students, the university court on Wednesday voted to begin divesting £18m from the fossil fuel industry and freeze new investments across its entire endowment of £128m.

fossil fuels and climate change
Glasgow University dumps fossil fuel investments to help fight climate change.

Describing the result as “a dramatic beachhead for the divestment movement,” American environmentalist and climate activist Bill McKibben said that it sent a powerful signal that Europe would be “just as powerful in this fight as Australia and North America.”

“That it comes from Glasgow, which has as much claim to birthing the industrial revolution as any city on Earth, makes it that much more special,” said McKibben. “Everyone from the Rockefellers on down is realizing it’s time to move on.”

As of last month, more than 800 global investors – including foundations such as the Rockefeller Brothers, religious groups, healthcare organizations, universities and local governments – have pledged to withdraw a total of $50bn (£31bn) from fossil fuel investments over the next five years as a result of the campaign which began on college campuses in the United States three years ago.

Writer and activist Naomi Klein said that Glasgow University had joined “a fast-growing global movement providing much-needed hope to the prospect of climate action.”

“Students around the world are making it clear that the institutions entrusted to prepare them for the future cannot simultaneously bet against their future by profiting from corporations that plan to burn many times more carbon than our atmosphere can safely absorb,” said Klein.

“They are sending an unequivocal message that fossil fuel profits are illegitimate – on par with tobacco and arms profits – and that brings us a significant step closer to demanding that our politicians sever ties with this rogue industry and implement bold climate policies based on a clear, progressive ‘polluter pays’ principle.’”

Glasgow University joins thirteen US universities, including Stanford, which have already committed to divest from the fossil fuel industry. In the UK, student unions at Imperial College and University College, London, are demanding that their institutions take similar action. The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), at the University of London, has agreed to a temporary freeze on investment in advance of a decision on full divestment to be taken later this year.

Decisions are also imminent from the University of Edinburgh, which conducted a staff and student consultation that was overwhelmingly in support of divestment. Oxford University and its colleges, which have an endowment wealth of £3.8bn, the largest of any higher education institution in the UK, is currently conducting a staff-only consultation, after almost 2,000 students and academics joined a campaign calling for divestment.

Andrew Taylor of the People and Planet Network, which has launched over fifty ‘Fossil Free’ campaigns across the UK involving over 15,000 students in the past year, said: “Divestment now has a firm foothold in the UK. Student and academic pressure to get out of fossil fuels is building across the sector. It’s time to stop profiting from wrecking the climate, whether you’re an institution with lots of money like Oxford or Edinburgh, or a world leader in climate research such as the University of East Anglia. Glasgow has helped make the moral case crystal clear and we expect more universities to very soon put their money where their research is.”

Founded in 2011 across just half a dozen US college campuses, the fossil fuel divestment movement has gained remarkable traction over a relatively short period of time. A study by Oxford University last autumn found that it had grown faster than any previous divestment campaign, including those relating to apartheid, armaments and tobacco.

The campaign has recently enjoyed a succession of symbolic boosts. Last month, the heirs to the Rockefeller oil fortune announced that they were withdrawing funds from fossil fuel investments and in July the World Council of Churches, which represents over half a billion Christians worldwide, decided to pull its investments out of fossil fuel companies.

Writing in the Guardian in April, Archbishop Desmond Tutu urged that “people of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change.”


India Schedules Sustainability Summit

Sustainabilty stakeholders in India will convene in New Dehli next month to discuss green buildings and cities. Green Habitat Summit India 2013 is scheduled for August 20-21.

The Summit will focus on technologies, strategies, and financial mechanisms that can help the ULBs and states achieve sustainability goals – from building infrastructure and reducing greenhouse gas emissions to promoting a thriving green economy.

India's booming economy and population must address sustainability issues fast.
India’s booming economy and population must address sustainability issues fast.

The summit will bring in government agencies, entrepreneurs, private enterprises and the civil society to share their experience and deliberate on areas like sustainable buildings, energy efficiency, renewable energy, building materials, wastewater management, solid waste management, and waste-to-wealth initiatives and to chalk out a sustainable and green roadmap for habitats, including buildings, housing projects, townships and cities.

Green Habitat Summit India 2013 aims to identify green technologies and direct the ULBs and states towards sustainable and eco-friendly development.

Dr. Sukumar Devotta, Former Director, National environmental Engineering Research institute (NEERI) and convener of the event, said, “It is a compelling case for sustainable infrastructure projects to have a clear and well-structured road map. I hope that The Green Habitat Summit 2013 will bring together all stakeholders including leading think-tanks and practitioners and provide valuable insights, which can be put into action.”

Mr. Nesar Ahmed, Former President, Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI), founder of Universal Knowledge Foundation (UKF) and Adviser with HexaGreen, said, “Measuring impacts on environmental, social, and economic aspects of our buildings and cities is only a first, albeit essential, step towards a sustainable future. We need to create financial framework to help sustain the urban future of India.”

Thought provoking issues that the summit will deliberate on:

  • Energy Efficient Buildings: What are all stakeholders up to?
  • Solid Waste Management: Enough or require more innovative ideas?
  • LEDs: Green vs. Price
  • Urban Design in 21st Century: Where have we been mistaken and what is the way forward?
  • Beyond BRTS & CNG: What do we need in Urban Transportation?
  • Green Building Materials: Breaking the barrier
  • Sustainable Water Management: Where are the gaps and how do we bridge them
  • LEED & GRIHA: Do they need to change?
  • Green Investing in India: Has it gone well over the years?
  • Getting environment clearance: Perception Vs. Reality

HexaGreen is an initiative by DevCom Media Pvt. Ltd. with a vision of bridging the information and communication gap in the environment sector through websites, events, and research. It provides a digest form of all important happenings, policy matters, and actions taken in the sector, trend reading of the future of the business and representation of the same in pithy to-the-point anecdotes culled out from worldwide sources with high degree of India-centricity, opinion and analysis from corporate executives and thought leaders offering insight and inspiration on trends and best practices and valuable resources to help increase the effectiveness of online browsing.

The details related to the summit can be obtained at


Lakshmishree Sinha, +91-98110-06805,

Sustainable San Francisco Goes Green With Pension Fund

San Francisco Investing In Greener Futures

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors took a big step in April when it recommended by unanimous vote that the city divest nearly $600 million in fossil-fuel holdings from its $16-billion pension fund. As the biggest municipality in North America to take such action, San Francisco is nudging other major cities on the continent to reconsider their own fossil-fuel investments.

Greener Cities network

It’s the kind of leadership many have come to expect from the “City by the Bay,” and according to Corporate Knights’ inaugural North American Sustainable Cities Scorecard, is indicative of San Francisco’s sustainability performance.

Of the 20 largest cities in the United States and Canada, San Francisco came out tops when measured against 27 key performance indicators across five categories: environmental quality, economic security, governance and empowerment, infrastructure and energy, and social well-being.

Corporate Knights has been ranking large cities in Canada for several years, but this is our first effort to also assess major U.S. cities. Roughly half of the indicators used in our last Canadian cities ranking have been carried over to our new scorecard. These represent a core of traditional measures that include air pollution, household spending on shelter, population density and education.

But several new and unique indicators were added this time around, and our sources of data were broadened. We also slightly shifted our focus away from goal- or vision-oriented indicators toward measuring recent infrastructure and socio-technological change.

For example, new metrics that assess urban vehicle congestion, “walkability” and cycling infrastructure – including the availability of bike-sharing services – were incorporated as a measure of quality of life as well as economic and environmental performance.

Taken together, San Francisco led the pack, followed by Washington, Ottawa, Vancouver and Toronto. The bottom five included Houston, Atlanta, Phoenix, Los Angeles and – ranked lowest – Detroit. (Cities in Mexico were excluded because of poor data availability.)

Ranking cities is a notoriously difficult task, as there are many limitations to contend with. Not all cities collect the same data, and where data does exist it is often out of date or not publicly available. Attempting to fill gaps, Corporate Knights sent surveys to all 20 cities and the response rate was only 50 per cent. To encourage disclosure, we awarded bonus points in our ranking to cities that made a best effort to complete our survey.

Another big problem is the different ways data are collected and represented. For example, there is not yet a standard way for cities to collect data on greenhouse gas emissions, which initiatives such as the Hestia Project at Arizona State University are trying to address using new technologies and methodologies. It’s an issue the World Bank has run into when trying to collect consistent, reliable data on the world’s largest urban areas.

“That lack of standardized and consistent data on city performance is one of the biggest barriers to creating sustainable cities,” said Daniel Hoornweg, a municipal engineer who has advised the World Bank on urban issues for two decades. Hoornweg said getting the data right is crucial. “Just like how doctors are quickly and reliably able to monitor a patient’s health through blood pressure, temperature, cholesterol and EKG, and then compare results over time and across peers, city managers need reliable and consistent urban metrics,” he said.

The World Bank and others are putting their hopes in the Global City Indicators Facility (GCIF) at the University of Toronto. GCIF is finalizing an ISO-standard methodology for collection of city data, but progress has been slow.

Many large cities and urban areas have yet to become contributing members of GCIF, and many existing members are still not prepared to have their indicators publicly released. Cities generally don’t like being scrutinized and ranked. “Several years may elapse before information is regularly published,” according to a World Bank city data report released in 2012.

But even when data is publicly available and standardized, direct comparability among cities can still be a challenge. Is it fair, for example, to compare the per-capita energy use of cities in northern climates with use in southern climates? New research out of the University of Michigan, published in March in the journal Environmental Research Letters, found that energy demand in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is 3.5 times higher than energy demand in Miami, but not necessarily because citizens and businesses in Minneapolis are wasteful of energy. The explanation is simple: “To the surprise of many, air conditioners are more energy efficient than furnaces or boilers,” according to the study. To fairly compare cities on certain metrics, methods will need to be developed that take these geographic and climatic differences into account.

It should also be emphasized again that this ranking is not based on vision or established goals. Like legendary sports broadcaster Howard Cosell, we’re just telling it like it is. Los Angeles may have committed to being a coal-free jurisdiction by 2025, but that laudable goal – and others that have come out recently from the City of Angels – doesn’t reflect the reality on the ground. What matters in our cities scorecard is when city aspiration translates into measurable sustainability performance.

We recognize sustainability is a term most people have difficulty defining, much less measuring, but we expect most would agree that it demands a minimum standard of living; a safe, diverse social network; societal institutions that support what could be termed “the good life,” for both existing and future generations; and an environment that promotes good physical and mental health.

Our scorecard does not and cannot capture every aspect of sustainability. But combining the results of the 27 indicators we have selected offers a strong sense of how our big cities perform relative to one another.

It goes without saying that, as city disclosure improves, standards emerge and data gathering becomes more frequent, the picture painted by the Sustainable Cities Scorecard will become clearer and the number of cities we track will grow.


Cities Share Advice On Disaster Preparation & Response

This week’s news that Moore, Oklahoma had been devastated by another EF5 tornado – the second of that magnitude in 14 years – brought to mind a session at the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference in Kansas City this past February. In that session, titled “Howling Winds and Ominous Skies: Disaster Resilience in the Age of Climate Change,” speakers recounted two extreme weather events and how local officials worked with state and federal agencies to deal with the aftermath and rebuild their communities.

The center of Greensburg, Kan., 12 days after it was hit by an EF5 tornado in 2007. The twister generated 210 mph winds and killed 11 people. Although the city lost nearly half its population, it recovered and today is a model for other cities racked by disaster.
Greensburg, Kan., 12 days after being hit by an EF5 tornado in 2007. The twister generated 210 mph winds and killed 11 people. Although the city lost nearly half its population, it recovered and today is a model for other cities racked by disaster.

A 2007 EF5 tornado that nearly wiped out the village of Greensburg, Kansas and a 2008 flood that spilled over the 500-year floodplain in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, provided valuable lessons to any community that finds itself in crisis.

Bob Dixon was elected mayor of Greensburg, population 777, in 2008 about a year after the 1.7-mile-wide tornado destroyed nearly every building in the community, including his own house. The city’s population was more than 1,500 prior to the storm.

“The concept of resiliency meant nothing to me until May 4, 2007 at 9:40 at night,” Dixon recalled. “Ninety-five percent of our community was leveled to the ground and turned to rubble, and the other five percent was severely damaged.”

The city took a direct hit from the tornado, which generated winds of 210 mph, killing 11 people.

Dixon joined Christine Butterfield, the community development director for the city of Cedar Rapids, in sharing insights at the conference. The panel also included Steve Castaner, branch chief of community recovery with Region VII of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and Doug Kluck, central region climate services director for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Butterfield became community development director in 2007, just seven months before the Cedar River overflowed its banks on June 13, 2008. The flood inundated a two-mile wide swath through the heart of the city, covering 1,400 city blocks with nearly 32 feet of muddy water. It was by far the worst flood in the city’s history, exceeding the previous record by 12 feet.

Butterfield said the flood engulfed the city’s downtown where many of its primary employers are located, and 5,900 homes had to be evacuated. “We had about 22,000 residents that were displaced and 900 businesses that were impacted,” she said. “The value of the damage was estimated at $7 billion.”

Making matters worse, 310 city facilities were caught in the deluge, including city hall and the public works building. The county courthouse was also damaged.

With 14 percent of its land mass under water, the city of 126,000 people was rocked to its core.

A common theme expressed by Dixon, Butterfield and Castaner was that a community destroyed by disaster can turn tragedy into an opportunity to build a better, more resilient city rather than just restoring the community to the way it was before the event.

“There is never a better opportunity to change systems, perspectives or mindsets than when a disaster hits,” Castaner said. “Once you get past the trauma, the hurting, the loss of either possessions or family and friends, there are real opportunities to change the mindsets and perspectives community-wide for a better, more resilient future.”

Contrary to what a lot of people think, Castaner said, FEMA does not tell communities what to do.

“We may advise them on what the impacts of their decisions might be on funding, insurance or other things, but we never tell a community what to do,” he said. “We don’t know all the answers, but we have the role of bringing partners to the table who can help communities look at alternatives and opportunities after a disaster.”

Some of those resources include services provided by the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, other state and federal agencies and numerous nonprofit organizations, he said.

Dixon said it was public/private partnerships and the determination of the people of Greensburg that allowed his town to rebuild and recover.

“Too many times, post disaster, communities think they’re entitled; that the state and federal government is going to come and make them whole. Ladies and gentlemen, that doesn’t happen,” Dixon said. “In America, we’re entitled to the opportunity to achieve. You pull all the resources to the table at the time you need them, and that’s what happened in Greensburg.”

Dixon cautioned against making major decisions too rapidly after a disaster. “You’re in an emotional state of mind. You’re going to doom yourself to what got you in this situation. Systematic problems will continue,” he said.

“Is your community resilient prior to disaster,” Dixon asked. “Are you sustainable? Do you have the ability to endure? Are you doing things for future generations? Are you smart, prudent and responsible in everything you do in your community? Do you have those public/private partnerships and work together?

“If you have that prior to disaster, you’re going to come out on the back side of that disaster in great shape,” he said.

“You have to be adaptive and willing to change; and willing to listen to every idea that’s out there.”

Castaner, who was part of the FEMA team that helped Cedar Rapids and Greensburg through their recoveries, said Cedar Rapids broke new ground by aggressively planning during the restoration and recovery process. He said the state of Iowa helped that process by giving the city time to develop those plans, while some other states often give their local communities restrictive funding windows that force reconstruction to begin before solid planning has had a chance to take place.

When the water receded, the Cedar Rapids City Council organized around the concept that restoring the damaged properties would not be enough. The disaster recovery plan had to provide protections from future flood events. Rather than sit back and wait for direction from state and federal agencies, Butterfield said the city government took ownership of the challenge.

“There is a real lack of clarity on the role of government in response and recovery,” she said. “Understanding where one agency’s role ends and another agency’s role begins is a critical part of resiliency.”

Communicating with other cities that had recovered from similar disasters provided a laundry list of best practices and things to avoid, Butterfield said.

An immediate concern was reining in the massive influx of building contractors and homeowners eager to repair their damaged properties. Butterfield said the city shut down any non-essential services and repurposed all available staff to help conduct background checks and issue special permits to contractors, taking great care to prevent citizens from being swindled.

The city engaged more than 3,000 residents in a four-month community dialog to develop a plan for recovery and protection from future floods.

“They said, ‘We want to retain our neighborhoods, but we also want to provide more room for the river to flow,’” Butterfield said.

After receiving input from the public, the Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA, and about 11 different consulting groups, city staff developed a flood protection plan that was approved by the council in November of 2008. The plan was a combination of structural and non-structural measures to safeguard the city. Developing the plan was a lot of work, but implementing it would prove exhausting.

In order to complete 10 neighborhood redevelopment plans in four months, the community development team surveyed other cities, developed a set of best practices, and held eight more public meetings.

“We asked the community and business owners how they wanted to see housing recover, how they wanted to see businesses recover, where did they want to see them located, how would it be integrated with flood protection, including flood walls and levees, and how did they want to ensure the community was stronger once it was implemented?”

In May of 2009, 11 months after the flood, the council approved the development plans and the recovery of Cedar Rapids began to take shape.

In tiny Greensburg, getting input from community stakeholders was easy.

“We were all homeless – the whole community. So it was very easy when FEMA came and put us up a big tent on the east side of town. We’d have 4 or 5 hundred people show up at community meetings and planning sessions facilitating a long-term recovery plan. Everybody was listened to and provided an opportunity to be heard. … It’s about conversation and collaboration; listening to everybody, even people in those CAVE organizations (citizens against virtually everything) that every community has. There are some good nuggets and ideas in what they have to say. Listen to them.”

In hindsight, the disasters in Cedar Rapids and Greensburg, combined with Hurricane Katrina and other storms of the past decade, seem to have marked the beginning of a gradually escalating problem: The increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events as a consequence of climate change. While climate and weather data clearly validate that presumption, they can’t predict exactly where and when the next major event will occur, said NOAA’s Kluck. He said governing bodies need to make sure their policies stay up to date with changing realities.

“It’s very hard to build resiliency with laws and policies that were written in the 40s and 50s that may not even be realistic,” Kluck said. He used the example of the Colorado River, where water allotments were decided as far back as the 1920s, a time when precipitation and snow melt far exceeded that of recent years.

Kluck said local governments can get a wealth of information about local climate and weather conditions on three federal web sites:, and

For Dixon, the role of government is to prepare communities in advance to be resilient in the face of disaster.

“Are you operating in your community as crisis managers, or visionary managers? We’re all good at putting out fires. But those fires will keep coming if you don’t have a vision and a commitment to a brighter tomorrow; to address those systematic problems that keep coming up.”


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Largest Real Estate Company Attracts Tenants With Sustainability Systems

As e-commerce siphons an ever-larger portion of retail sales, what keeps businesses and consumers congregating at shopping malls?

For Simon Property Group, the largest real estate company in the world with approximately 326 retail properties in North America and Asia, at least part of the answer is tied its innovative sustainability agenda.

Eco amenities can help attract tenants and shoppers.
Eco amenities can help attract tenants and shoppers.

By testing groundbreaking new energy-efficiency and waste-management processes, for example, the mall operator hopes to encourage successful retailers to take up residence because their operating costs might be lower in a Simon Property than elsewhere.

“These systems range from very simple to very complicated, but the common theme is how can we make it easier for our tenants,” said George Caraghiaur, Simon Property Group’s senior vice president of sustainability.

Energy management systems have been installed across a large portion of its facilities, which cover a massive 245 million square feet. Daylight harvesting technology helps handle tasks such as turning lights on and off when appropriate, while telematics applications are being deployed to help malls automate their cooling and heating settings according to ever-changing variables, such as outside air humidity. The team also is evaluating its demand-response options, in order to earn price breaks when utilities face peak load situations.

Managers can access all of the data that Simon Property collects so they can compare consumption to other sites.

Aside from what it can do for tenants, Simon Property seeks to attract the sort of shopper who cares about his or her individual environmental footprint. One demonstration is its substantial investment in electric-vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure, meant to help assuage lingering range anxiety associated with EVs.

“Malls are somewhere between work and home, so it’s a natural place to put them,” he said. “If people come to the mall, they will spend time here.”

Caraghiaur is the first to acknowledge that some programs Simon Property is trying are challenging and unproven, which is one reason the company lets individual property managers take the lead when tackling new initiatives. But two ongoing pilot programs make it clear the company is willing to take risks.

In North Carolina, for example, the Concord Mills outlet mall has created a dedicated “Plastic Room” where a hydraulic baler is used to compress clear packaging materials such as shrink wrap, garment bags and other shipping materials generated by the local retailers and notoriously difficult to sort out. Local partners pick up the 160-pound bales at regular intervals for recycling.

Over the past six months, 140 retailers at the Concord Mills site have helped the mall staff collect about 20,000 pounds of materials, diverting it from landfills, according to Caraghiaur.

One big challenge was figuring out where to install the baler and store the bales.

“Most malls are designed to house tenants and make the shoppers’ lives comfortable, but they are not necessarily configured to make it easy to do recycling,” he said.

The plan is to collect a year’s worth of data to document costs versus benefits. That information will be used to identify other locations where similar projects might be feasible.

“Our goal is to learn what issues we will face,” Caraghiaur said. “In the end, we will take the lessons learned and apply them elsewhere.”

Simon Property has been aggressive in installing charging stations as a perk for EV drivers, placing about 100 systems at more than 40 properties so far, mirroring EV adoption trends.


It hasn’t stopped there: Its location in Carmel, Ind., agreed in early 2013 to test a first-of-its-kind system developed by several technology companies, including Toshiba, Duke Energy, ITOCHU Corp., Tom Wood Automotive Group and Indiana’s clean tech program, called Energy Systems Network.

The fast-charging system relies on 10 kilowatts (10 kW) of solar generating capacity and it comes with an integrated, 75-kW battery from Toshiba to store that power, so the chargers still work when it’s cloudy or after dark.

Simon Property doesn’t charge for usage. Instead, Caraghiaur said, it views the chargers as an amenity for shoppers who happen to be parked at the mall.


China & UK Swap Sustainability Capabilities

Solving the energy and natural resource demands of a growing global population will take international cooperation at the highest levels. China and the United Kingdom are advancing that agenda now.

BeFunky_green cityA delegation of 10 UK companies was welcomed this week on the opening leg of the 2013 Sustainable Cities Mission to Chongqing and Changsha.

The mission program put together by the UK Trade and Investment team gave the 10 companies a platform to showcase their products and expertise in low carbon, sustainable construction and water sectors to a VIP audience of local government and industry.

The mission was opened by Consul General Simon Lever and the Leader of the Chongqing Urban-Rural Development Commission Zhang Qin, with a reflection on the recent development of Chongqing and its prospects for the future. Presentations on the Yuelai Eco Town and Jiangbeizui Central Business District of the Liangjiang State Level Development Zone warmed the UK participants to the extent of opportunities available in fast-growing Chongqing; after which the UK missioners, from recently established small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to Fortune-500 global giants, introduced their companies, their products and their expertise to the Urban-Rural Development Commission, Chongqing Real Estate Association, local design institutes and over 30 local companies in the audience. An afternoon Round Table event provided an opportunity for more detailed discussions and mutual expressions of interest in future business cooperation.

The mission received warm welcome from Ba’nan District government leaders on 19 March, who led the mission to the site of the Yangchun Wet-land Park project site along the Yangtze River. Ba’nan occupies 1825 km2, the largest and one of Chongqing’s most active districts in urban development, and leaders expressed their hope that an experienced company can take on the job of planning and design for the Wetland Park, a place they are sure will be Chongqing’s next top destination. Consul-General Simon Lever and Party Secretary of Ba’nan Li Jianchun agreed that there are many opportunities for UK and Chongqing do business together in the foreseeable future.

On their Beibei District visit the same day, the delegation met with the Deputy Governor and local key players in low-carbon development. They exchanged views on helping Beibei develop into a modern, liveable and green city.

Following the mission, Head of Trade and Investment Simon Mellon said:

Chongqing is a city with an impressive history and a bright future, still experiencing double digit GDP growth and projected to grow by over 400% by 2025. This growth, and the demographic changes taking place across China, provides a wealth of opportunity for British companies to be a part of the next stage of Chongqing’s ongoing development.

In the coming month, the British Consulate-General Chongqing will lead well-known British companies in architecture to participate in the 6th City Expo in Chongqing. A zero-carbon pavilion will be built for the Expo by British architects ALL Design. In June, members of the Royal Institute of British Architecture (RIBA) will visit Chongqing. All those events will bring more creativity and impetus to Chongqing’s sustainable future.

Boston Building A Smarter City

IBM Ecosystem Infographic: Building a Smarter City and State

IBM announced multiple Smarter Planet projects with the City of Boston, Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Boston University aimed at exploring new solutions to long-standing urban challenges.

These ambitious projects, discussed at an event hosted by the partners titled “Smarter Cities: A Roadmap for the Future,” focus on using new technology to increase energy efficiency, enhance coordination of major events, reduce traffic congestion and improve the maintenance of the streetscape. Across all of these initiatives, the partners plan to collaborate on the implementation and evaluation of this work.

“Boston has always been a smart city,” said Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino. “These partnerships and projects, however, are the newest step in our exploration to better address long-standing interests of our residents, such as improving traffic and greening our city.”

These pilots leverage the latest IBM technology and will combine high volumes of data from sensors and databases with a layer of analytics software. This infrastructure will allow officials to better visualize and mange operations. The city and state projects include:

Well run events – from a block party to the Boston marathon – bring life to the City streets.  To improve the coordination and management of events, Boston’s Mayor’s Office of Arts, Tourism and Special Events will pilot an intelligent dashboard from IBM.  This dashboard will help provide City officials, across all departments, with a common view of events across the City, which could allow everything from improved traffic management to better public safety support.  The dashboard helps officials spot potential conflicts in the booking of events before they happen.

Boston maintains over 60,000 street lights, keeping residential streets and main thoroughfares appropriately lit.  At any given time, roughly three percent of these lights are out, with their bulbs needing to be replaced or wiring needing to be fixed.  Leveraging the IBM Maximo solution, Boston’s Public Works Department is piloting a new asset management platform to support street light operations. With its predictive analytics capabilities, this platform will help better coordinate the repair and routine maintenance of this important infrastructure. Based on the success of this pilot, the City of Boston may extend the asset management system to support additional operations in the City.

Supported by an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grant in 2012, the City of Boston, Boston University and IBM drafted a detailed set of recommendations about unlocking and analyzing transportation data in Boston. Those recommendations can be found here.  This work is expected to continue in 2013 with a series of data-oriented projects. To hear Bill Oates, CIO of the City of Boston discuss the importance of public private partnerships like the Smarter Cities Challenge visit:

IBM has been working with Boston University’s Sustainable Neighborhood Laboratory on a smarter neighborhoods project. With this project, preliminary data collection and analysis about energy consumption in residential buildings has identified opportunities for improved efficiency with targeted investment in the energy infrastructure.  Other key community partners with the smarter neighborhood project include the City of Boston, the energy and utility company NSTAR, and community development organizations.  Future goals for this work include engaging building residents and youth to create awareness, gain new insight about energy usage and behavior and to understand potential incentives for energy conservation that can benefit the whole community.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts will work with IBM to improve the maintenance, energy consumption and space management across public sector buildings among the state’s 72 million square feet of property.  Buildings account for almost 40 percent of the nation’s energy consumption in the U.S. By creating smarter buildings, the Commonwealth will be better positioned to meet federal mandates for efficiency (1).  

The use of integrated workplace management software from IBM will help improve building maintenance while extending the life of buildings and reduce the more than 120,000 work orders the state receives each year. This effort will help the state improve funding and space management by providing a complete view of building use and the ability to quickly identify redundant or under-used properties.

“The Patrick-Murray Administration continues to think more innovatively to deliver cost-savings for the Commonwealth,” said Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance Commissioner Carole Cornelison. “We will work with the private sector as well as our public sector partners to improve maintenance, energy and space management in order to make smarter infrastructure improvements that will lead to greater sustainability of state facilities.”

The Massachusetts Port Authority (MassPort) has started a new project to provide predictive service and maintenance for Logan International Airport. IBM software is currently used for Terminal A of the airport, managing maintenance operations for all assets such as air conditioning systems, doors, escalators and other terminal equipment and machinery. MassPort plans to expand the use of software to all Terminals at Logan, and to other asset classes such as buses and other vehicles, and the new Consolidated Rental Car Facility set to open in the Fall.

In addition, there is an ongoing project with the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA), which provides wholesale water and sewer services to 2.5 million people in 61 communities. IBM software provides the MWRA with predictive maintenance of its complex water and sewer system. Needing to reduce maintenance labor costs spent doing reactive work, the MWRA was able to decrease corrective maintenance and project work orders by 38 percent and significantly reduce work backlog. The software also helped them comply with environmental regulations by documenting maintenance processes.

Cities everywhere face shrinking budgets, aging infrastructure and pressure to improve the delivery of services to citizens. As cities respond to these challenges, the influence of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) is expanding to help governments make more informed decisions that will help the city emerge stronger, better positioned to create jobs and spur economic competitiveness. These communities are using technology to improve their existing infrastructures and building more sustainable cities. As part of its Smarter Cities initiative, IBM is working with thousands of cities around the world to solve some of their toughest challenges to improve the daily lives of residents.

For more information on the software being used by MassPort and the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority visit:

To learn about how a Smarter City works:

For more information on IBM Smarter Cities, visit