Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Mayors: Give Us the Green Investments and We'll Produce Results

Mayors from around the world are meeting to compare notes about their successes reducing the heat-trapping gases that cause global warming.

The LA Times reports:

(New York City's Mayor, Michael) Bloomberg, meanwhile, is moving ahead with immediate plans to reduce the city's greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent from 2006 levels by 2030.

The New York City Council last week approved legislation requiring owners of larger buildings to do energy audits and replace insulation and take other steps toward energy efficiency, including upgrading their lighting. The city has also planted 300,000 of 1 million new trees, has extended bike lanes over 200 miles of streets, and has encouraged conversion to hybrid vehicles of 22 percent of the taxi fleet, among other emissions-saving steps.

"It is a big deal," Bloomberg said at a panel session after the summit opening. He boasted that the city was making progress without financial support from New York State.

In fact, the mayor said, some of the $787 billion federal stimulus package, to create jobs in the midst of U.S. recession, became a "great waste of money" when it was funneled to the states for projects.

"If the federal government really wants to do something, you give the money directly to the cities. The dumbest way to distribute the money is to send it to the states, because they have to spread it around the states for political reasons," often to be spent on useless projects, he said.

"I've said this to the president and to every member of Congress I can buttonhole," Bloomberg added. "You really have to send the money where the problem is."

Cities and towns consume two-thirds of the world's total primary energy and produce more than 70 percent of its energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, the International Energy Agency reports. That will grow to 76 percent by 2030, the agency says. Most comes from electrifying and heating private, commercial and municipal buildings.

I've said before here on this blog that change is often easiest to implement locally, as demonstrated by some of the bold steps that have been implemented by mayors of cities from New York, as described above, to San Francisco.  The politics is just easier -- at least here in the U.S.  From there, you can see what works locally, and scale the best up to state and Federal levels.

In one example of a solution that is working -- and spreading -- Oakland has become the latest city to allow residents to finance solar panels, insulation, new refrigerators and other efficiency improvements through their property tax bills. Such policies help citizens get around one of, if not the main barrier to reducing their carbon footprints and achieving greater personal energy independence: the high up front costs.

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