It's not too often that Robert Redford is your front man, though, in this particular case, he's not acting. Far from it.
Redford, a world-renowned environmentalist as well as an Oscar-winning actor and director, announced today in Paris a significant expansion of NRDC's City Energy Project (CEP), a national effort to make major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in cities by increasing energy efficiency in the very buildings that make cities distinct.
The announcement came as part of the Climate Summit for Local Leaders -- an offshoot to the UN Conference on Climate Change that brought together more than 400 mayors from around the world to share their successes and inspire other mayors in the fight against climate change.
"Mayors are closer to the ground and closer to the people," Redford, an NRDC trustee, told the crowd. "They are the force for change."
The event was hosted by two galvanizing leaders in the field: Parisian Mayor Anne Hidalgo, whose city is on its way to a 25 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, and Michael Bloomberg, UN Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change and former New York City Mayor.
"We organized this summit," Mayor Bloomberg wrote in a recent Huffington Post column, "to ensure that mayors--who overwhelmingly favor bold action on climate change and are leading by example--have their voices heard by those negotiating a global agreement."
Launched in January 2014, the City Energy Project is a joint collaboration with NRDC and the Institute for Market Transformation with the purpose of guiding cities toward greater environmental and economic resiliency. The 10 cities participating in our flagship initiative are Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Missouri, Los Angeles, Orlando, Philadelphia and Salt Lake City. CEP works with these cities by promoting individualized programs and policies that allow them to cut energy waste from the single largest user of energy and source of carbon pollution in the United States, large urban buildings.
If U.S. buildings were their own country, they would rank third in the world in climate pollution, behind only China and the U.S., meaning the potential for energy and money savings from cutting energy waste in buildings is huge. Several CEP cities have already made substantial strides toward this goal, having developed and passed ordinances that require and/or increase incentives for energy efficiency programs that not only cut harmful pollution but save money, create jobs and improve public health.
For instance, in April, Atlanta unanimously passed its Commercial Buildings Energy Efficiency Ordinance that requires buildings larger than 25,000 square feet to benchmark and report on their energy use annually. Under the ordinance, buildings will have to conduct an energy audit every 10 years, review areas where energy is being wasted and take concrete steps to fix the issues.
Buildings of this size represent 80 percent of Atlanta's commercial real estate sector; promoting energy efficiency initiatives will have a significant impact on the city's environmental and economic sustainability. These policies are expected to create $112 million a year in energy saving benefits for Atlanta by 2030, jumpstart the city's energy-efficiency sector, spur the creation of more than 1,000 jobs a year in the first few years, and reduce building carbon emissions by 50 percent from 2013 levels.
Atlanta is leading the charge in other money-saving ways, too. Recently, the city announced that it will install solar panels on 28 municipal buildings in a measure that will save taxpayers money, cut the city's carbon emissions by 73 million pounds, and save 216 million gallons of water through 2030. These examples are a basic snapshot of the sizeable environmental, economic, and social benefits of CEP's pioneer programs.
City leaders recognize the importance and value of such initiatives and can't sit back and wait for state or federal governments to make sustainability and climate resilience a priority. They realize fighting global warming isn't just a moral obligation but also a major opportunity to make their cities better places to live and prosper. Thanks to a generous increase in funding from our sponsors at Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Kresge Foundation, and Doris Duke Charitable Foundations, CEP is able to help more U.S. cities become healthier, more livable, more resilient and more prosperous - and become leaders in the fight against climate change.