Expert Voices: Roger Platt, Senior Vice President, Global Policy and Law and Maggie Comstock, Associate, Policy, US Green Building Council

We had the pleasure of attending the C40 side event in Durban last week as a guest of Simon Reddy Executive Director of C40. At the event Simon and a great group of speakers made it clear that Cities are leading the way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change. As observed in the outcome of the Durban Climate Talks, countries are slow to commit to legally binding reduction targets. It’s cities that are moving forward without national or international mandates in order to save the planet’s climate.

According to the June 2011, Arup and C40 Report, Climate Action in Megacities: C40 Cities Baselines and Opportunities, buildings account for 45 percent of C40 cities’ carbon emissions and estimates that more than half of all buildings in existence today will still be in use in 2050. This points to buildings, notably existing buildings, as an obvious sector from which cities should reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In a survey of the over four thousand actions taken by cities to reduce their carbon footprint, existing building improvements accounted for nearly 30 percent! Buildings represented the largest proportion of actions taken throughout all sectors!

During the second week of COP17, the World Green Building Council highlighted the achievements of cities to reduce emissions through green building programs and policies. On December 7th, six cities were announced as the winners of the Government Leadership Awards, including San Francisco for Best Green Building Policy; Mexico City for the Climate Action Leadership Award; Birmingham, UK for the Urban Retrofit Award; Singapore for the Regional Leadership Award; New York City for the Industry Transformation Award; and Tokyo, Japan for the Most Groundbreaking Policy Award. Each of these awards recognizes the leadership taken by cities to green their built environment. See the World Green Building Council Government Leadership Award Publication for more information regarding the winning policies as well as the other innovative cities that were nominated for awards. It is no surprise to note that a number of the winning and nominated cities are members of the C40.

Global mitigation goals require local implementation of emissions reductions. C40 cities have embraced buildings as one of the greatest opportunities for long term emissions reductions at least cost. As cities green their built environment, local governments and their citizens reap the secondary benefits of green buildings, including improved indoor air quality, conservation of natural resources and improved occupant health. Through the leadership of cities, we are able to move closer to our mitigation goals despite disturbing sign of continued international procrastination.