Chris Hondros  /  Getty Images
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former President Clinton and London Mayor Ken Livingston pose for photos after a press conference Wednesday announcing a $5 billion climate program.
updated 5/17/2007 8:14:34 AM ET 2007-05-17T12:14:34

Sixteen cities around the world will begin cutting carbon emissions by renovating city-owned buildings with green technology under a program financed by major global banking institutions and organized by former President Clinton's foundation.

Clinton announced the partnership Wednesday, joined by mayors of several of the cities, as part of an international climate summit he is hosting this week with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It is the second meeting of the C40 Large Cities Climate Summit, which was created so mayors and local governments could share strategies for reversing climate change trends.

"Climate change is a global problem that requires local action," Clinton said.

The former president said Citi, Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase, UBS and ABN Amro have each committed $1 billion to finance upgrades of municipal buildings in the participating cities, which include New York, Chicago, Houston, Toronto, Mexico City, London, Berlin, Tokyo and Rome.

The makeovers will include:

  • Replacing heating, cooling and lighting systems with energy-efficient networks;
  • Making roofs white or reflective to deflect more of the sun's heat;
  • Sealing windows and installing new models that let more light in;
  • Setting up sensors to control more efficient use of lights and air conditioning.

Clinton's foundation said the planned changes have the potential to reduce energy use by 20 to 50 percent in those buildings. The reduction could mean a significant decrease in heat-trapping carbon emissions, as well as cost savings on utility bills.

Huge carbon sources
Clinton's foundation said the planned changes could reduce energy use by 20 to 50 percent in those buildings. The reduction could mean a significant decrease in heat-trapping carbon emissions, as well as savings on utility bills.

Buildings often represent a city's worst culprits in contributing to overall emissions. In New York, for example, the consumption of electricity, natural gas, fuel oil and steam needed to operate buildings generates 79 percent of the city's total carbon count.

Clinton said cities and private building owners would like to build and renovate with more energy efficiency but often cannot put up the initial costs. The partnership will make that possible and benefits everyone involved, he said.

With the money from the banks, cities will get the green technology at no cost. The program assumes that cities already have money set aside for building operations and will pay back the bank loans, plus interest, through the energy savings that the projects achieve over several years.

To ensure those savings are realized, Honeywell, Johnson Controls Inc., Siemens and Trane will conduct energy audits of the buildings, complete the makeovers and guarantee the energy savings. If the expected savings are not realized, those companies will pay the difference or make the changes in the buildings to achieve the savings, the foundation said.

The exact nature of the financing will be developed in coming months, the foundation said, and some details will likely different from city to city.

Warren Karlenzig, author of "How Green Is Your City?" applauded the plan and said many of these retrofits have been "crying out to happen."

"The technology is there; it's just that the financing has been missing," he said.

Karlenzig has examined elements of the program, and said it appears detailed, focused and doable, despite its complexities.

Many cities have already taken steps to green their municipal buildings, but the foundation said less than 1 percent of the potential market is being tapped in the U.S., and are even less common elsewhere.

Streamlined remodels
To expedite the project, the bank paperwork and building permitting will be streamlined so that the work can begin on groups of buildings, rather than one at a time. That could happen as soon as this summer. The time it takes to retrofit a building varies greatly; it can be done in as little as a few months or can take years.

At the announcement with Clinton, Bloomberg and London Mayor Ken Livingstone said that the financing formula would enable significant changes in their cities.

"It really is groundbreaking; it really is going to make a difference," Bloomberg said. New York City has about 4,000 city-owned buildings.

The other cities are Mumbai, India; Karachi, Pakistan; Seoul, South Korea; Bangkok, Thailand; Melbourne, Australia; Sao Paolo, Brazil; and Johannesburg, South Africa. The foundation expects the partnership to expand to more cities and companies after the first round.

Also at the summit on Wednesday, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa described his city's environmental plan that he announced a day earlier. Ideas include building more high-density housing near mass transit and expanding the subway system to reduce vehicle use. The goal is to reduce the city's carbon footprint to 35 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

The American Lung Association this month placed Los Angeles at the top of its list of cities with the most polluted air. The association found that the metropolitan area, which includes Long Beach and Riverside counties, had the worst air based on 2003 through 2005 figures.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Clinton and climate


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