Foreign Policy Blogs

Large Cities Summit

The Summit started in earnest yesterday.  Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, and Chair of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, had some opening remarks, including these which are very direct indeed.  (The C40 is in partnership with the Clinton Climate Initiative.  I'll have more to say about President Clinton and the CCI in a later post.)

In a separate panel later in the day, Livingstone gave considerable heart to NYC Mayor Bloomberg and other supporters of congestion pricing.  (I wrote about congestion pricing and New York's big plans last month in Mike Bloomberg's Earth Day.)  Livingstone cited the considerable success of the program in London and the acceptance by the public. 

It should be noted that in one year, the congestion charge has brought about a 38% drop in private cars entering London‚ twice the anticipated figure. There has also been a more than 80% increase in cyclists and a rise in bus passengers from four million to six million. This modal shift has been accompanied by substantial emissions reductions, including a 20% reduction in carbon emissions.

Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, the Vice-Chair of IPCC Working Group on "Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability," reported on the state of the science and the good news and the bad news:  we are in very rough waters already with climate change and it's going to get worse before it gets better, but we have the tools at hand to deal with the threat, if we apply the will and the energy.  I said it was up to political leadership and the publics they represent to address the problem.  He quoted Montaigne:  "Politics is the art of making possible what is necessary."

George David, the CEO of United Technologies, had some fascinating things to say about using energy and the potential for radically reducing the amount of power that New York City consumes.  One chord that he struck that I heard later in the day is that the overall efficiency of power generation is 30% for central power stations and 70% for distributed generation.  You simply get much more energy output per Btu input when you locate the consumer close to the source of the power.  On the same panel, Chicago's Mayor Richard Daley noted they have three million square feet of green roofs and they have a "green technology permit system" to help expedite new and retrofitted smart green buildings.  (See my last post and the discussion of green building.)  Both Daley and Toronto Mayor David Miller emphasized the message that there is economic opportunity , I do love that word ,  in green tech, and also that there are tremendous savings to be made by government, commercial interests and consumers in all of this. George David again came back to the idea of opening up power generation to small suppliers and suggesting that the federal government needs to promote net metering.

So, in the panel discussion I attended later on decentralized energy, there were some interesting tidbits.  Nicky Gavron, a deputy mayor of London, led the panel. Rotterdam and Copenhagen's mayors talked about their district heating systems that are hugely efficient and comprehensive.  New York's electric utility, Consolidated Edison, was represented by its CEO, and he talked about the highly efficient steam heating system we have.  Not incidentally, steam systems can also be engineered to provide cooling and are used this way.  The CEO of Britain's largest electric utility, EDF Energy, also spoke.  They've got a considerable investment in renewables and are working with London to promote distributed generation through its new Climate Change Agency (LCCA). There were several folks in the audience who also spoke at Gavron's urging, one of whom, Allan Jones, is with the LCCA, which is developing a number of important pathways for low-carbon energy.  Jones pioneered Woking's innovative energy project where they've had nothing but success in saving money and cutting carbon use.  Tom Casten, head of Primary Energy, spoke rather passionately and well about local generation of power.  George David of UTC had earlier cited a number of 70% efficiency for local power.  Casten said 80%.  Here's a convincing slide show from Casten that backs up his assertions.  See also this from the BBC on microgrids.  Finally, a consultant to Mayor Bloomberg on energy, Doug Foy, said that the City could be doing much more on locally generated power, as much as 2,000 mw or more.  Foy has had a distinguished career with 25 years as the president of the Conservation Law Foundation, and then he brought a new level of environmental thinking to Massachusetts, but resigned last year.

Thinking outside the box – or outside the grid – is what's going to get us to healthy, low-carbon economies. 



Bill Hewitt

Bill Hewitt has been an environmental activist and professional for nearly 25 years. He was deeply involved in the battle to curtail acid rain, and was also a Sierra Club leader in New York City. He spent 11 years in public affairs for the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, and worked on environmental issues for two NYC mayoral campaigns and a presidential campaign. He is a writer and editor and is the principal of Hewitt Communications. He has an M.S. in international affairs, has taught political science at Pace University, and has graduate and continuing education classes on climate change, sustainability, and energy and the environment at The Center for Global Affairs at NYU. His book, "A Newer World - Politics, Money, Technology, and What’s Really Being Done to Solve the Climate Crisis," will be out from the University Press of New England in December.

Areas of Focus:
the policy, politics, science and economics of environmental protection, sustainability, energy and climate change