If you go to a conference on cities and climate change, you inevitably hear the statement that “countries talk…but cities act”. This message was loud and clear at the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Summit in Johannesburg last month, where a new report released by the C40 and ARUP detailed the 8000+ initiatives that C40 member cities are undertaking to either reduce GHG emissions or increase their climate resilience. Since the first such report came out in 2011, more cities are reporting on their efforts, and those reporting are doing ever more, expanding the array of initiatives they have launched.
Most experts agree that energy efficiency is a critical building block for sustainable development. This is because improvements in energy efficiency strengthen a country’s energy security, increase competitiveness, ease shortages in energy supply, and lower environmental impacts including local and greenhouse gas emissions.
Why doesn’t it happen then?
Our idea (UNDP Montenegro) - helping families legalize their homes using savings from energy efficiency measures - was voted as one of the finalists in the MIT ClimateCoLab crowdsourcing competition for the world’s most innovative solutions to climate change problems. Ours was one of 374 proposals in 18 categories.
What happens now? From August 1st to August 31st, the crowd will vote for the best among the best- the ideas they think should receive support for implementation.
So vote for us here and help us become the People’s Choice Award. In addition to potentially winning a $10,000 Grand Prize, we will have a chance to pitch it to a variety of potential partners at the MIT Crowds and Climate Conference in November.
To make sure that you know you’d be giving a vote to more than just a promising idea, we’ll give you a sneak peak at some of the feedback we got from a very eminent set of experts and authorities in climate-related fields:
Energy is essential to heat homes and cook meals. It is needed to deliver proper health care in hospitals and to teach children. It is essential for economic growth and development and for powering industries, farms and businesses. It is at the heart of any effort to make a better life possible for people all over the world, in particular for the world’s poorest.
World Bank study of Eastern Europe and Central Asian experience finds that complementary policies needed to get more renewable bang out of FiT buck.
Given that the effects of energy efficiency measures tend to be offset by a greater energy consumption that comes with economic growth, these measures, while important, will not by themselves be sufficient to achieve major reductions in emissions – making the move toward cleaner energy a rising priority for climate change mitigation.
As an economist dealing with energy efficiency on a daily basis, I have studied and written about its benefits for several countries. But it was not until recently that I got around to looking into it at home.
It all started with my work with the World Bank’s energy efficiency agenda, particularly after the G8 Forum asked the Bank in 2006 to prepare a “Clean Energy Investment Framework”. Soon thereafter, we supported a series of low carbon country case studies in India, South Africa, Brazil, Mexico, and China. A number of clear messages were delivered to us, including: “our priority is economic growth and poverty reduction”.
So how were we to get the best of both worlds – a reduction in the trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions (like carbon dioxide) and continued economic growth?
Several months ago a colleague of mine wrote about our idea to legalize thousands of informal homes in Montenegro using energy efficiency measures (or see the infographic for a visual show off the idea). We have been working on urban planning issues in Montenegro for almost a decade, but it was only when we had colleagues of different background looking at the problem- energy, economy, urban planning, communication, community engagement- that the solution came out. In short:
- Problem: over 100,000 illegal homes in Montenegro (if normally distributed would imply that every other household lives in an illegal home) that household don’t have an incentive or funds to legalize.
- UNDP idea: savings on energy bills would be re-invested into legalization and energy efficiency measures that created savings in the first place. Directly, we tackle informal settlements and high energy intensity in Montenegro (8.5 times higher than in the EU).
When most people think about energy, they see big power plants and smokestacks. What people generally do not consider is that it is much cheaper and more environmentally friendly to cut energy use than it is to build new power plants.
The problem is that saving energy is not simple. It requires changing deep-rooted behavior.
Can emerging markets make economic growth compatible with climate action? Can the trade-off between growth and rising emissions be influenced by policy?
For a country like Turkey – with the lowest carbon footprint in the OECD (around 5 tons per person in 2008), but also one of the highest rates of growth of carbon emissions over the past two decades – these are not idle questions. A recent talk with a senior Turkish policy maker about how Turkey is adjusting its policies to meet the challenge of growing green left me feeling optimistic about the role Turkey can play in this discussion. I believe that for Turkey, growing green is an opportunity. Let me explain why I think so:
The accomplishments of mid-level bureaucrats, particularly in this time of anti-government sentiment, are rarely celebrated. It was therefore striking to see major newspapers devote significant space to obituaries for John Hoffman, a long-time friend and former colleague who did as much as any one individual I know to design and implement measures to protect the global environment.
I first met John as a young lawyer in the late 1970s, while working on the then new issue of ozone depletion – he for US EPA, me for an environmental advocacy group. We quickly became close confidants working to leverage a unilateral US phase-out of CFCs to achieve an effective international agreement, the Montreal Protocol (recently celebrated at events hosted by the World Bank).
Before almost anyone, he saw the linkages between ozone depletion and climate change, and used his office to produce the first major government report on climate policy – “Can We Delay a Greenhouse Warming?” – in 1983. He was equally adept at highly technical matters such as the creation of a single metric for comparing the impact of ozone depleting substances and policy issues such as the design of environmental regulations.