Sino US Mayors and the carbon challenge…

“I’m sitting in a conference room with city officials from China and the US
in a new hotel in Beijing.  The sunlight is pouring through the windows and
we have a view to a beautiful courtyard garden. This is not the experience I
would have had when I first visited Beijing almost ten years ago??the
construction quality is now on par with anything in the US, you can actually
see the sun (an incredibly rare occurrence here ten years ago), and we are
in the middle of very honest exchange of ideas about how to reduce the
carbon output of cities. The Sino-US Mayors Leadership Development on Low
Carbon City Workshop was organized by a number organizations to provide a
route for cities to collaborate on climate strategies.

One of the officials is the vice mayor from a city whose entire economy is
based on coal mining, at first blush you have ask why would he be here. But
even they are looking at the future and saying how do we reduce the impact
of what we do, and what a post coal economy could be.  The rate of expansion
of coal use in China peaked at 15.4% in 2004 and in 2008 the rate of
expansion dropped to 5.8%.  At first blush this is great news, but when you
step back you realize that 6% per year means that you double use every
12 years. This cannot be sustained.  There are a growing number of green
building efforts here, and there are attempts to figure out how deal with
energy use in a place where for many it was a free good.

One of values of this event is for city officials to realize that, even
though there has not been a coherent strategy on carbon on a national scale
in either country, there are real efforts in the cities. This understanding
that efforts can proceed without a national agreement is maybe one of the
biggest values of this event. The challenges are huge, and it is interesting
to see the cities compete on this issue.  It may ultimately be the most
important competition in the world, and one in which we either all win
together, or we all lose together.  “

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  1. Sabina says:

    Bill raises an excellent point in that cities can take the lead on carbon control in the U.S., especially in the absence of federal policy.

    Since most people live in cities, there is vast potential to mitigate carbon emissions through a variety of sources. The operation of buildings requires a tremendous amount of energy, power plants are needed to generate electricity and heat, people sit in traffic commuting to work and delivery trucks idle while loading and unloading goods for consumption, just to name a few!

    While cities face incredible economic and social challenges, they also have many different ways to address carbon emissions through both short-term improvements in the building stock and long-term changes in planning and zoning. Green space and green infrastructure can not only serve as carbon sinks but can also reduce the tremendous costs associated with stormwater management, flooding, erosion and replacement of aging man-made infrastructure. Further, green spaces provide recreation value and aesthetic improvements, which lead to increased property values. Green spaces can also be used to grow food for local consumption and provide social benefits from community gardening.

    Cities have led the nation in innovative and progressive action on housing, education, transportation and business development and can take the lead in climate change action. Over 1000 U.S. Mayors have signed the Climate Protection Agreement and many cities have their own climate action plans. But plans are not enough. Residents of cities can ensure their leaders take actions to include carbon mitigation in efforts to iimprove quality of life and foster sustainable growth.

  2. dan says:

    super thoughts!

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