Chicago, Cincinnati, San Francisco Recognized for Citywide Efforts to Address Climate Change
Chicago, Cincinnati and San Francisco have been selected as U.S. finalists in World Wildlife Fund’s Earth Hour City Challenge (EHCC), a year-long challenge rewarding cities that are preparing for increasingly extreme weather and promoting renewable energy. Both Chicago and Cincinnati experienced their warmest years on record in 2012. The cities were chosen by WWF and global management consultancy Accenture for actively taking steps to transition their communities toward a climate-friendly future.
The U.S. challenge recognizes leading cities for their efforts to curb carbon pollution and prepare their communities for the harmful consequences of climate change. The U.S. Earth Hour Capital for 2013 will be announced in February, and will qualify for resources to advance local climate readiness efforts.
Nearly 30 local governments from across the country are members of this year’s inaugural group of U.S. EHCC cities (see list below). Cities listed in bold experienced their warmest year on record in 2012; cites in italics had the 2nd or 3rd warmest year on record.
“The Earth Hour City Challenge clearly demonstrates that cities are on the front lines of responding to climate change,” says WWF-US Director of International Climate Policy Keya Chatterjee. “The challenge highlights the best and brightest ways U.S. cities are keeping their communities one step ahead of the climate-driven changes we are all experiencing. Today’s finalists have put in place some of the most forward-looking, locally-oriented measures in the U.S. and are truly global leaders in addressing climate change.”
Three U.S Finalists
San Francisco is institutionalizing climate action across the board, making it one of the first U.S. cities to require all city departments to produce climate action plans. Throughout the year, the city compiles and processes data on each department’s progress to reduce the use of energy, vehicle fuel, water and associated greenhouse gas emissions. Their dedicated Climate Team coordinates with the departments to use this information to make informed decisions on how to further cut emissions and conserve resources. This coordination is enabling the ambitious CleanPower SF strategy which will have the city sourcing 100 percent of its municipal energy needs from clean sources in the next 20 years.
“San Francisco is thrilled to be chosen as a U.S. finalist for the Earth Hour City Challenge,” said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. “Our City’s progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 14.5% below 1990 levels shows that it’s possible to have a growing, dynamic economy and lower our carbon footprint at the same time. We are taking further steps to cut emissions from energy use, transportation and waste. San Francisco looks forward to participating in the Earth Hour City Challenge, and we congratulate our fellow finalists, Chicago and Cincinnati, for their environmental stewardship.”
Chicago is setting a high bar for local governments with its ambitious climate action plan and work engaging citizens about citywide efforts to reduce emissions and prepare for climate change. The city’s work to improve the resilience of its public transportation system to extreme heat and urban flooding, as well as its efforts to transition the city to renewable energy sources stand out among the nation’s best climate-smart programs. Chicago holds the top spot among U.S. cities in the deployment of some key climate strategies including the installation of more than 5.5 million square feet of green roofs and the largest urban solar electricity generation plan (10 megawatts).
“The work we are doing builds economic strength and environmental health today and ensures Chicago’s quality of life over the long term,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel today. “From investments in energy efficiency and clean energy to public transportation and bike friendliness, we will continue to enhance Chicago’s sustainability.”
Cincinnati is developing a power aggregation agreement that would make it the largest city in the U.S. to supply its energy entirely from renewable sources and committing to reducing carbon emissions two percent annually for 42 years. The city is also working with residents, businesses and community leaders throughout the city to adopt climate-smart policies; expanding current tree planting efforts, promoting metro ridership, educating students about sustainability and conducting energy audits for local non-profits.
“In Cincinnati, we have been aggressively pursuing a wide range of strategies to combat climate change and shift to renewable energy,” said Cincinnati Mayor Mark L. Mallory, today. “Our electric aggregation deal allows all of our citizens to receive 100% renewable energy. Cincinnati has become a national leader in green energy and we are going to continue to lead by example.”
The International Earth Hour City Challenge
The U.S. EHCC is part of a larger international challenge that includes cities in Canada, India, Italy, Norway, and Sweden. Seventeen finalists selected from among 66 entrants were announced earlier today. In addition to Chicago, Cincinnati and San Francisco, they include:
- Canada: Colwood, Surrey, Vancouver (see press release from WWF Canada)
- India: Cochin, Coimbatore, Delhi
- Italy: Forli, Siena
- Norway: Arendal, Oslo, Stavanger
- Sweden: Malmö, Stockholm, Uppsala
Each of the 17 global finalists’ climate programs are being evaluated by an international panel of experts in climate policy and sustainable development. The jury will pay particular attention to cities that have developed inspiring, credible plans for low-carbon development as they strive to fulfill the everyday needs of their citizens. A National Earth Hour Capital for each country will be announced in February. One of them then will be designated the Global Earth Hour Capital. The capitals, together with the Global Earth Hour Capital, will be presented at a conference on March 19, 2013 in Malmö, Sweden.
The international EHCC project aims to mobilize action and support from cities in the global transition toward a climate-friendly future. Cities have contributed significantly to climate change due to a history of unsustainable consumption and production patterns, and are currently responsible for over 70% of fossil fuel related carbon dioxide emissions globally. Yet cities can also be part of the solution.
“The Earth Hour City Challenge clearly demonstrates that strong commitments at the local level can help reverse unsustainable trends," says Jim Leape, Director General of WWF International. "We applaud the many local governments who have set extremely ambitious development plans to create desirable cities by providing housing, transportation and energy which improve their citizens’ quality of life while simultaneously reducing their impact on our planet – and we encourage others to follow their lead.”
Actions taken by these cities include the implementation of congestion charges in Stockholm and the expansion of public transport systems in Chicago and New Delhi as a means of reducing the use of private cars. Meanwhile, in Colwood and Coimbatore solar energy hubs are being developed to kick-start the transition toward widespread renewable energy use. Many of the potential Earth Hour capitals are also focusing on the refurbishment of old buildings, resource efficiency, as well as the integration of strict sustainability criteria to public procurement policies.
WWF has worked closely with ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, in mobilizing cities to join the challenge and enabling their reporting through carbon Cities Climate Registry (cCCR).
“Cities are already aware of the need for measuring, reporting and verifying their actions in order to advance climate action globally. ICLEI is pleased to support the Earth Hour City Challenge as an excellent model of partnership with civil society to motivate and reward local governments for their achievements,” says Gino van Begin, Secretary General of ICLEI.
World cities take the lead on essential climate action. Press release from Earth Hour City Challenge, 17 January 2013.
Earth Hour City Challenge: Edmonton, AB and Richmond, BC. Press release from WWF Canada, 17 January 2013.
World Cities compete for Earth Hour Capitals. Press release from ICLEI Global, 17 January 2013.
ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability USA. See ICLEI's In Hottest Year on Record, a Wake Up Call for Cities and Counties, a fact sheet on how 20 leading cities and counties experienced extreme weather and climate impacts in 2012, and how they are responding through climate adaptation.
- Video introduction to WWF's Earth Hour City Challenge, 13 Sep 2012.
- Earth Hour 2012 Kicks-Off WWF City Challenge, 1 April 2012.
- Video: Arizona Public Media Interview with two Leaders of Tucson's Efforts to Address Climate Change , 30 March 2012,
- "Power to Prepare Tucson" Summit: Faced with more Extreme Weather, Citizens Engage in City's Climate Preparedness Efforts, 28 March 2012.
- International Panel Highlights “Climate Resilient Cities,” as Communities Mobilize for Changing Weather Patterns , 28 March 2012.
- Former EPA Administrator William K. Reilly: On Climate Change, Cities May "Save Us From the Ideological Gridlock in Washington,” 11 November 2011.