Burlington Selected to Join Elite 'Carbon War Room' | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice


Burlington Selected to Join Elite 'Carbon War Room'


Published April 29, 2010 at 9:05 a.m.

Burlington is among 15 cities from around the world that will take part in a 30-month challenge to develop new, market-driven solutions to combat climate change.

The Carbon War Room, a non-profit organization founded by Virgin mogul Sir Richard Branson, made the announcement Wednesday.

The thrust of the Carbon War Room, and the Green Capital Global Challenge, is to connect private investment and entrepreneurs with environmental projects – building a new economy based on green development that in the end is both good for the environment and investors' bottom line, said Joe Reinert, a spokesman for Mayor Kiss.

Mayor Bob Kiss attended a Carbon War Room forum in Vancouver, Canada in February during the Winter Olympics at the invitation of Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, who co-hosted the forum.

Kiss took part in a panel discussion with San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and Mayor Eduardo Paes of Rio de Janeiro. The panel, titled "Visions for Green Capital", was moderated by Branson.

Joining Kiss in Vancouver was Jennifer Green, the co-director of Burlington's Legacy Project and coordinator of the city’s Climate Action Plan.

Kiss attended the forum despite pleas by Progressives and Burlington Telecom allies not to fiddle in Canada while BT burned. At the time of the conference, a key decision was handed down by the Vermont Public Service Board that barred BT from borrowing funds from the city's "cash pool" to pay a $386,000 lease payment.

It appears as if Kiss' decision to trek to Vancouver paid off. At the end of the conference, organizers announced a $500 million investment pledge for its " Green Capital Global Challenge"; essentially a half billion dollars it had secured to help cities fund green development.

"Burlington looks forward to working with the Carbon War Room in a common effort to promote energy efficiency and reduce green house gas emissions,” said Kiss in a statement.  “The Carbon War Room promises to foster new public and private partnerships in order to stop climate change. In this alliance, Burlington hopes to serve as a model small city and welcomes the chance to work alongside the Carbon War Room and other first wave cities.”

Participating cities were selected from across the United States, Canada and Europe, after the Carbon War Room reviewed an overwhelming number of applications from cities around the world.

The other cities chosen include:  Atlanta, Babylon (New York), Charleston (South Carolina), Chicago, Gainesville (Florida), New York City, Portland (Oregon), San Francisco, Washington D.C., Toronto, Vancouver, London, Birmingham (England), and Copenhagen.

Branson said mayors, and by default the cities they lead, have the ability to be the true public entrepreneurs in today's global marketplace.

“In this time of uncertainty around the ability and resolve of governments to lead the planet to low-carbon prosperity, it is up to businesses and cities to step up and assume responsibility,” said Branson, co-founder of the Carbon War Room.  “Mayors are the entrepreneurs of the civic world who realize their pivotal role in the fight against climate change.”

Branson said the cities chosen will be able to move forward on a number of carbon-saving projects, such as green building initiatives and renewable energy programs to achieving full carbon neutrality.

“These cities are committed to taking immediate action to be a part of a movement that will create jobs, help local economies thrive, and green cities around the world,” said Jigar Shah, chief executive officer of the Carbon War Room.  “These cities, along with many others that applied for the first wave, have pioneering sustainability visions, but they cannot do it on their own. The Carbon War Room is committed to working with them to create the mechanisms that will allow cities and the private sector to work together to make these visions a reality.”

Launched by the Carbon War Room during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, the Green Capital Global Challenge is a two-year program that aims to mobilize capital and resources into city-led energy efficiency initiatives that will culminate in a review of results during the summer of 2012. That review will occur in London.

“We were inspired by the quality and quantity of nominations in the selection process,” said Peter Boyd, director of operations of the Carbon War Room. “We will be working hard alongside the first wave of cities to help connect them with the private capital they need to improve energy efficiency of their buildings, and create jobs in their cities.”

In order to join the Green Capital – Global Challenge, cities will be completing a five-step plan that involves

• Committing to the challenge with funding targets;

• Forming a dedicated team within their government focused on the challenge;

• Assembling a network of administrative and financing partners capable of bringing these plans forward;

• Working within their local governments to put the enabling policies in place; and

• Launching the financing program to begin moving their visions forward.

To this first group of cities, the Carbon War Room will provide convening power, international networking and support to the cities in the development of their energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. The focus of the "War Room" is to help accelerate deals across the finish line.

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