Ban Ki-moon Visits Chicago: Tackling One of the World's Biggest Problems, Building by Building


I was pleased to join Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel this morning as he toured UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon through one of Chicago’s greatest buildings: the Rookery. It’s gorgeous and historic (designed by Chicago’s patron saint of architecture, Daniel Burnham). But they were there for much more contemporary reasons: climate change and energy efficiency.

The Secretary General is on his way to climate talks in Lima, Peru. And while looking at Chicago’s gorgeous buildings might seem off topic, its not.

The Rookery is a founding member of the Retrofit Chicago Commercial Building Initiative—a partnership with the City, NRDC, ComEd to help some of Chicago’s biggest and most iconic buildings to reduce energy consumption by 20% over 5 years (in fact, the Rookery’s chief engineer Shawn Freeman just won an award for his work on the project). Less energy consumed = less global-warming carbon pollution being created.

The project is a model for how cities can lead the way in fighting climate change. Yes, it’s a massive global issue, but many of the solutions get down to a very human scale; boiling down to how we use energy in our work places and homes.

The Mayor and Mr. Ban made clear that this program is not just part of the solution to climate change, it’s a huge opportunity for creating jobs, economic growth and cleaner skies in our communities.

We agree.

That is why we worked with the City of Chicago to produce a report this year outlining key learnings from the Commercial Building Initiative that can help other cities copy this town’s success. Chicago is justifiably proud of its stunning skyline—I like the look of it; but value its growing contribution in the battle against climate change even more. And, as the Mayor and Secretary General noted, there’s no reason other cities cannot follow this town’s model.

Photo: The Rookery, by Wikipedia user Beyond My Ken via Wikimedia Commons.