17 May 2007

Global Climate Change: Clinton Unveils US$5 bn City Retrofit Plan

For years when I lived in New York City, I often marvelled at the fact that my apartment and office windows had to be opened all winter long. It was just too damned hot in the buildings and the heat couldn't be regulated (at least not by tenants) to maintain a comfortable level. It's been over a decade since I lived in the city, but when I was there for a climate change meeting in February, I found that not much had changed.

The heat was oppressive in the conference room where we sat in a Midtown office building. First one participant opened a window, then another, and another. I don't think any of us thought about the irony of what we were doing. But after the meeting, I kept thinking, how much energy was being wasted all over the city? It must be staggering if you calculate offices and housing stock in Manhattan alone. What would it take to retrofit a city like New York?

Now former president Bill Clinton is proposing to answer that question. Yesterday, Clinton announced the creation of a global energy efficiency building retrofit program, bringing together four of the world’s largest energy service companies, five of the world’s largest banks, and fifteen of the world’s largest cities in a landmark program designed to reduce energy consumption in existing buildings.

"Climate change is a global problem that requires local action," said President Clinton in a press release. "The businesses, banks and cities partnering with my foundation are addressing the issue of global warming because it's the right thing to do, but also because it's good for their bottom line. They're going to save money, make money, create jobs and have a tremendous collective impact on climate change all at once."

According to the press release generated by the Clinton Foundation, "Urban areas are responsible for approximately 75 percent of all energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in the world. Buildings account for nearly 40 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and in cities such as New York and London this figure is close to 70 percent."

Under the Clinton program cities and their private building owners access to the necessary funds to retrofit existing buildings with more energy efficient products, typically leading to energy savings between 20 to 50 percent.

According to the Clinton Foundation, companies Honeywell, Johnson Controls, Inc, Siemens and Trane will conduct energy audits, perform building retrofits, and guarantee the energy savings of the retrofit projects.

ABN AMRO, Citi, Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase, and UBS have committed to arrange $1 billion each to finance cities and private building owners to undertake these retrofits at no net cost, doubling the global market for energy retrofit in buildings.

These banks will work alongside energy efficiency finance specialist Hannon Armstrong and the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI) to develop effective mechanisms to deploy this capital globally, reports the release. Cities and building owners will pay back the loans plus interest with the energy savings generated by the reduced energy costs generated by the building retrofits.

An initial group of fifteen of the world’s largest cities has agreed to participate in the retrofit program, and offer their municipal buildings for the first round of energy retrofits: Bangkok, Berlin, Chicago, Houston, Johannesburg, Karachi, London, Melbourne, Mexico City, New York, Rome, Sao Paulo, Seoul, Tokyo, and Toronto.

As part of the Energy Efficiency Building Retrofit Program, the cities have agreed to make their municipal buildings more energy efficient and provide incentives for private building owners to retrofit their buildings with energy saving technologies.

"Mayors are responsible for coming up with pragmatic solutions and implementing them effectively – and this program will allow us to do that," said New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. "We've laid out an ambitious agenda to reduce our carbon emissions, 80 percent of which come from buildings, while being economically competitive and continuing to grow."

Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, Chair of the C40, said, "Fifteen cities have already signed up to take advantage of this initiative and I am confident many more will follow."

CCI and its partners will also assist participating cities with their initiation and development of programs to train local workers on the installation and maintenance of energy saving and clean energy products. The U.S. Green Building Council and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers have agreed to help coordinate these programs.

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