Cities Respond to Climate Change

Last night I attended a program hosted by Milano The New School for Management and Urban Policy and the Center for New York City Affairs called "Cities Respond to Climate Change: The Challenge of Energy Efficiency." The issue at hand was how cities, such as New York City, could mitigate the effects of climate change through energy efficiency.

I learned that buildings account for 48% of emissions in the U.S. and that two thirds of the buildings in 2050 will be built between now and then. This gives us a great opportunity (and challenge) to standardize efficiency methods and develop sustainable design models. Efficiency standards can also be applied to electrical appliances, vehicles, old buildings, as well as the generation and distribution of energy. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the use of Energy Star equipment alone has saved $14 billion per year since 2006.

One fun fact is that 5% of Portland's workforce commutes to work on a bike, up from 2% in just four years. Furthermore, Portland became the first U.S. city to adopt a global warming plan, demonstrating the power of decision-making at the local level. Other local governments, such as California and New York City, with Mayor Bloomberg's 2030 plan, have also lead the way in addressing climate change.

Despite the action taken by local governments, the biggest challenge that rose out of last night's discussion is the need for complimentary federal policy. Most of the speakers agreed that the timescale problem requires immediate federal action. One only needs to look at today's news headlines to learn that the North Pole's ice may completely melt this summer, oil just passed $142 per barrel and the federal government just froze solar energy projects. Time is simply running out. And with the presidential elections coming up, it will be increasingly important for the nominees to address the issue of climate change and how they're going to tackle it.

For more information on Milano The New School for Management and Urban Policy, you can visit their website here. You can also find out information here on The New School's new undergraduate degree program in sustainable design and urban ecosystems.