World Mayors Summit To Discuss Financing Climate Change Solutions This Month

Mayors from 30 countries will convene in Nantes, France

Under the patronage of François Hollande, President of the Republic of France and with the support of the French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, over 100 mayors from 30 countries will convene in Nantes (France) on 27 – 28 September 2013 to take part in the World Mayors Summit on Climate Change.

the ECOCITY World summit
The ECOCITY World summit.

The high-level event will be held back to back with the ECOCITY World summit, and will capitalize on cities’ forward momentum in the fight against global warming. The first phase of the Local Government Climate Roadmap, an advocacy process aimed at voicing, engaging and empowering local governments worldwide, successfully facilitated international recognition for the role of local governments in tackling climate change. The World Mayors Summit will build on this recognition and aims to build a global consensus that will feed into the upcoming discussions at COP 19 in Warsaw (Poland) later this year and ultimately to COP 21 in Paris (France) in 2015.

Confirmed attendees include George Ferguson, Mayor of Bristol (United Kingdom), James Nxumalo, Mayor of Durban (South Africa),  Sukumbhad Paripatha, Governor of Bangkok (Thailand), Frank Cownie, Mayor of Des Moines Iowa (United States),  Yvo de Boer, Special Global Advisor, Climate Change and Sustainability, KPMG, former Executive Secretary, UNFCCC, Dr. Naoko Ishii, Chair and CEO of the Global Environment Facility,
Philippe de Fontaine Vive Curtaz, Vice-President, European Investment Bank (EIB) and many others.

“Cities’ successes in lowering emissions have proven time and again that local action is the most effective way to tackle our global climate problem. The World Mayors Summit, an invitation-only event, will call for a bottom-up approach to allow cities access to financing mechanisms so that bold, innovative and necessary climate actions can continue to grow.” said Gino Van Begin, ICLEI Secretary General.

To demonstrate their commitment to stemming global warming, all mayors in attendance will be invited to sign the Nantes Declaration of Mayors and sub-national Leaders on Climate Change, which will set the foundation for the new phase of the Local Government Climate Roadmap. The document calls on local governments to join together with national governments, business, civil society and others to create a strong community working towards a low-carbon future.

The two-day event is organized by ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, and officially supported by a broad coalition of international networks, including the World Mayors Council on Climate Change(WMCCC), UCLG, Nrg4sd, Climate Alliance, Energy Cities, and EUROCITIES.

For the latest information, visit the World Mayors Summit  website at

Renewable Energy Use in The United States

Florida and Texas might be leading America’s expansion of solar and wind power, but Washington, where hydroelectric dams provide over 60 percent of the state’s energy, was the country’s biggest user of renewable power in 2011, according to new statistics released last week by the federal Energy Information Administration.


Hydro continued to be the overwhelmingly dominant source of renewable power consumed nationwide, accounting for 67 percent of the total, followed by wind with 25 percent, geothermal with 4.5 percent, and solar with 3.5 percent. The new EIA data is the latest official snapshot of how states nationwide make use of renewable power, from industrial-scale generation to rooftop solar panels, and reveals an incredible gulf between leaders like Washington, California, and Oregon, and states like Rhode Island and Mississippi that use hardly any.

The gap is partly explained by the relative size of states’ energy markets, but not entirely: Washington uses less power overall than New York, for example, but far outstrips it on renewables (the exact proportions won’t be available until EIA releases total state consumption figures later this month). Still, the actual availability of resources—how much sun shines or wind blows—is far less important than the marching orders passed down from statehouses to electric utilities, says Rhone Resch, head of the Solar Energy Industries Association.

“Without some carrot or stick, there’s little reason to pick [renewables] up” in many states, he says; even given the quickly falling price of clean energy technology, natural gas made cheap by fracking is still an attractive option for many utilities.

More than half of the 29 states that require utilities to purchase renewable power are currently considering legislation to pare back those mandates, in many cases pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council. “We’re opposed to these mandates, and 2013 will be the most active year ever in terms of efforts to repeal them,” ALEC energy task force director Todd Wynn recently told Bloomberg.

But so far the tide seems to be turning against that campaign: This week the Minnesota legislature will consider two versions of a bill passed by the House and Senate that would require utilities to get 1-4 percent of their power from solar by 2025 (solar made up less than one percent of Minnesota’s renewable power in 2011); last month North Carolina, the same state that outlawed talking about sea level rise, surprised green energy advocates by voting down a proposal to ax the state’s renewable mandates, followed a few days later by a vote in Colorado to increase rural communities’ access to renewables. But challenges remain ahead in some of the very states that already rank relatively low for renewables consumption, including Connecticut, Missouri, and Ohio.

Karin Wadsack, director of a Northern Arizona University-based project to monitor these legislative battles, says the time is now for states to start mixing in more clean energy.

“If you have all these utilities sticking with gas, coal, and nuclear, then you create a situation where 20 years from now they aren’t prepared to deal with the increased climate risk,” she says. “Electricity is a huge piece of the climate puzzle, so [utilities] need to be learning what to do with renewables.”

There’s always the option that Congress could set a renewables standard on the national level—a group of senators took a failed stab at one in 2010 only a few months after Republicans killed the infamous cap-and-trade bill. But don’t hold your breath, Wadsack says: “I don’t know that I would call it a pipe dream. But I wouldn’t see it happening in our current set of national priorities.”


South America Starts Think Tank On Climate Change and Decision-Making

South America has got its first think-tank aimed at providing climate change knowledge to decision-makers to help them design tools tailored to local needs.

The Regional Centre for Climate Change and Decision-Making was launched earlier this year (19 March) in Montevideo, Uruguay, where it will have its headquarters and where it is organising its first training event for policymakers.

The centre is a joint initiative by the Panama-based Avina Foundation, which promotes sustainable development in Latin America, and UNESCO (the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).

Programmes will be implemented through an inter-agency partnership of ten universities and academic foundations from five countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.

During the first two years of the four-year initiative, UNESCO will provide a total of US$150,000 and the Avina Foundation a further US$80,000 for the centre’s operation, Ramiro Fernández, energy and climate change director for Latin America at the foundation tells SciDev.Net.

The first training event to take place in Uruguay — chosen to run the initiative because of the interest shown by its government in tackling climate change and the progress in its climate-change adaptation plans — will consist of a symposium and workshop in October with senior representatives and decision-makers.


Six Strategies To Promote Sustainable Cities

More than half of the world’s population now lives in cities. The percentage will rise every passing day. So how can we make cities greener, leaner, and healthier for people and the planet? Following is a link to some of the big ideas that came out of the New York Times Energy for Tomorrow conference held April 25, 2013.

BeFunky_green citypeople.jpg

Fort Lauderdale To Host Rising Seas Summit For Coastal Cities

The inaugural Rising Seas Summit will bring professionals from national and local government, industry, academic institutions and environmental NGOs together to highlight the interrelationships between sea level rise, climate change and extreme events. Understanding, anticipating, adapting and surviving water-related threats is critical to national security and a stable economy.


Sea level rise will continue to damage coastal ecosystems and inland water systems, and the recent catastrophic impacts of Hurricane Sandy have demonstrated the risks faced by all coastal communities on the U.S. eastern seaboard. These new environmental challenges require that stakeholders share knowledge and work together to reduce and mitigate environmental and social degradation induced by climate change.

The Rising Seas Summit is co-presented by ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability USA.


  • A primer on sea level rise, including drivers, projections and implications;
  • Analyses of recent reports published by the GAO, Army Corps of Engineers, National Climate Assessment and National Academies;
  • Modeling and planning for sea level rise;
  • Assessing risks to transportation infrastructure and developing resilience plans;
  • Case studies from domestic and international communities already adapting to sea level rise;
  • Quantifying the short-term and long-term economic implications; and
  • Managing risks related to more frequent and significant extreme events.

For the latest program information, including speaker details and schedule, please visit

For More Information:

Company: Association of Climate Change Officers
Name: Melissa Lembke
Phone: 202-496-7390
Website: 2013 Rising Seas Summit

Energy Efficiency and Energy Conservation

Don’t Let Efficient Use Become Opportunity to Use More

Energy efficiency relates to a given amount of energy or effort it takes to accomplish a certain task relative to the least possible amount. It is true that a more efficient system/solution/product will use less energy than a less efficient counterpart, but in order to gauge its place within the topic of sustainability we have to ground the term and its use in realistic conditions. What we end up with is that “efficiency” is a much more incomplete thought than most people treat it.

A Call for Saving Energy

There are many environmental voices that champion opportunities for our culture to use increased efficiency as a way to reduce the amount of energy and resources that we sacrifice. Amory Lovins famously claimed that Americans have the opportunity to cut their energy use by 30% merely through efficiency measures alone. In 2009, the McKinsey & Company issued a report claiming that not only that “the US economy has the potential to reduce annual non-transportation energy consumption by roughly 23 percent by 2020,” but that it was financially in our best interest to do so by “eliminating more than $1.2 trillion in waste—well beyond the $520 billion upfront investment (not including program costs) that would be required.”

This is why the idea of efficiency is so attractive. It is presented as a solution that is not only currently good for the environment, but also is cash flow positive for us in the long run. Even better yet, if efficiency can be baked into things like products, infrastructure or the built environment then perhaps we don’t really have to change much at all. What’s not to like? Onward with efficiency!

But there’s a danger to these kinds of mindsets and the misconceptions that they promote for sustainability. As I have lectured about in the past, the most important aspect of sustainability that I try to impart on others is that sustainability is not a technological fix to supplement a wasteful lifestyle. This is incredibly important. This doesn’t mean that using compact fluorescents, plug-in hybrids, rechargeable battees or EnergyStar appliances is unsustainable, but it means that these things do not embody sustainability. Sustainability is the lifestyle. It is the mindset of using what we need–which for most of us is less than what we use now–in order to help maintain a level of resource balance.

This reality ends up presenting itself in how our culture has responded to cases of increased efficiency in the past. Take some of the large energy-consuming items in the American home for example. The Department of Energy has regulated the efficiency requirements for certain household items since oil embargo in 1973 (perhaps one of the first times that American energy use was called into question on the national level). Since then, things like furnaces, hot water heaters, air conditioning units and heat pumps need to achieve certain levels of energy efficiency in order to be code compliant. The thought would be that it would help make homes more efficient over time, helping us to use less energy as a country… but such is not the case. Despite these efficiency increases, the energy consumption of Americans has remained flat ever since.

Butter’s in the Fridge

Another great example is a look at refrigerators in America. If we start with a fridge from 1947, the data suggests that the size of refrigerators has increased over 250% over half a century. However, after peaking around 1974, the energy used by the appliance has decreased to the point of nearly reaching parity with its ancestry of the late 40′s. Despite an increase in size, the energy load of our fridges can be nearly the same 50 years later due to an 25-fold increase in efficiency. Good stuff, no? Proponents like Lovins would call this a win-win, saying we can use efficiency to lower our energy footprint even as we increase capacity.

But according to New Yorker writer David Owens, not so fast. In his book, The Conundrum (I highly recommend it), Owens outlines some of the indirect repercussions of increased efficiency in refrigeration. I’ve taken some of his assertions into an Intercon diagram below.

The first caveat to this efficiency story is it’s important to remember that while fridges have gotten more efficient it is not uncommon for houses to have increased their cooling load beyond a single fridge. A separate chest freezer, back-up fridge or even wine coolers are all increasingly normal. Also, just because a household replaces their kitchen fridge with a newer model doesn’t mean the old fridge is retired. These older counterparts often find homes as back-up cold storage in basements or garages to keep spare beverages ready for things like football games or beer pong. While perhaps a net increase in enjoyment, it also constitutes a net increase in energy.

As refrigeration has gotten cheaper and easier, it has spread across our commercial landscape as well. Owens asserts that gas stations of today have the same amount of cold storage that grocery stores had in the 50′s and 60′s.

Let’s not forget the contents of these evolving appliances as well. The potential kicker in this equation is that as food capacity and reliability has grown, so has our assumption that food will last longer inside the fridge. As a result, our culture ends up throwing away more food that ultimately goes bad despite staying cold. Since 1975 our food waste has increased by 50% to the point that we now throw away 40-50% of the food that we grow. How does that factor into energy? Our food is incredibly energy intensive. Wasted food represents resources required for fertilizer and pesticides (both petroleum based), harvesting, packaging, transportation and the cooling in both the stores and in our homes. Not to mention that rotting food is the primary source of methane in landfills, a potent greenhouse gas. So in the end, has our increased efficiency actually saved us energy in the long run? It’s certainly debatable.

Just Using Less

The simple change to the equation that makes it much more environmentally viable is pairing efficiency with a sustainable use of resources of materials–or rather a lack of use. If we each had only one efficient fridge that only stored food that we were actually going to eat then the gains would be more measurable. Efficiency only gives us the gains we choose to preserve and build from, but it also gives us an opportunity to consume more. The same can be said for most of our “green” options today (low-flow fixtures, CFLs, geothermal heating and cooling, hybrid cars). Replacing a product with one that uses half as much energy that one in turn uses three times as much is a step back, not a step forward.

As disappointing as it may be, the solution to our environmental problems will most likely not be a technological fix. It will not be a product that makes it cheaper to consume. The prospect of efficiency should be taken as a supplement, a beginning to a more sustainable lifestyle, not a replacement for sustainability. At this stage in our cultural and technological evolution, lifestyle changes will gain us far more ground than trading one consumption path for another.

Source:Tyler Caine, Cook + Fox Architects