Washington, DC (May 7, 2009)- A new report released today called Green Cities is one of the first assessments of exactly how 40 of the country’s largest cities are trying to limit their carbon footprints and take the steps needed to raise these efforts to the next level. The report was initiated and conducted by Living Cities, a long-standing collaboration of 21 of the world’s largest foundations and financial institutions.
Based on conversations with the leading thinkers and practitioners in the field, the report is an effort to showcase and support the innovative ways in which cities are creating an equitable green economy- one that connects low-income people and under-invested urban communities to the economic mainstream. According to the featured survey included, it is here where cities have generally fallen short.
Don Chen, Program Officer at the Ford Foundation, addressing the latter point, notes that, “This report shows that cities are leaders in using green strategies to advance economic recovery efforts and create better jobs. But it also signals the urgent need for these efforts reach more people- including low-income and working families – to build stronger communities for the long term.
Living Cities’ is also serving as a resource to inform the usage of federal dollars available through stimulus funds and the workforce dollars associated with investments in the energy efficiency sector. The Green Cities report is focused on building energy retrofits, green workforce development and transit-oriented development, three areas also identified as priorities by local leaders and to which the recently passed stimulus bill brings extraordinary new resources.
Ben Hecht, Living Cities CEO, notes that, “The emerging green economy can and must deliver opportunities to low-income people and communities, from lower energy and transportation costs, to good jobs and career paths. We are working with city governments, nonprofits and businesses who share that vision.”
Key insights culled from the Green Cities Report include:
* Most cities are starting to seize the challenge and opportunity of addressing climate change… but findings also reveal a deeply concerning trend: Few Cities are prioritizing the needs of low-income people and communities as part of their green strategies and programs.
* This is a ‘right now’ issue. Four in five big cities report that sustainability is among their top five priorities and more than half of the big cities are either currently creating a sustainability plan or have already finished creating one.
* More than three-quarters of big cities have, or will soon have, detailed plans on how they will reduce greenhouse gases.
* How much big cities are investing in reducing greenhouse gases varies widely
Several cities report that they have a single staff member dedicated to these issues, while others report they have several dozen.
* More than two-thirds of cities reported that state and federal governments have little or no impact on their work.
* Rising energy costs have driven increases in public transit ridership in virtually every city in the survey and a significant number of cities reported they’re investing in one or more of four central strategies to boost mass transit.
* Cities are building more efficient buildings and nearly have of cities have programs subsidizing insulation, energy-efficient appliances, and weatherization.
* About one in four cities have green building mandates that go beyond city buildings and apply to private construction: usually commercial and, in a few cases, residential.
* Nearly all cities want to attract green-collar jobs and industries
In fact, one in three cities have partnered with area colleges and created green-focused training programs.
* One in six report they have programs that place trainees in green jobs
In recent years, American cities have made sustainability a priority- and they’ve put dollars behind their pledges. Living Cities asked officials about the staff and funds they’ve committed to the work. Nearly all said it was a challenge to come up with hard and fast figures: fighting climate change is typically handled by staff across many agencies and programs, rather than just in a single department. Nonetheless, most cities were able to at least make an educated guess as their resource commitment. Reports about budgets are similarly varied, with responses falling between $75,000 and $15 million. Most cities reported budgets of between $150,000 and $500,000.
Living Cities Green Report is timely as cities are beginning to grapple with the recession and its impact on budgets. Most said they expected their commitment to battling climate change to remain strong noting that retrofitting city buildings and greening a vehicle fleet can actually save cities money and pave the way to a new green economy.
Cities surveyed (ranked by population): New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, Philadelphia, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, San Jose, Detroit, Jacksonville, San Francisco, Indianapolis, Columbus, Austin, Fort Worth, Memphis, Charlotte, Baltimore, Boston, El Paso, Milwaukee, Seattle, Nashville, Denver, Washington, D.C., Las Vegas, Louisville, Portland, Oklahoma City, Tucson, Albuquerque, Atlanta, Miami, Oakland, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Saint Paul, Cleveland.
Living Cities collaboration also includes other critical features that advance the larger “green economy” agenda including the nation’s first “Green Stimulus Boot Camp” to be held, May 31-June 2 at Harvard University, where leaders from 14 cities and states will convene for intensive training and peer networking to discuss their leading edge efforts to create jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions through large scale building retrofit initiatives.
Green Cities Report Assesses How Key Cities in America are Combating Climate Change