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Walking the walk in Cambridge

Could energy-efficient American cities be a key weapon in the battle against climate change?

In a recent Boston Globe op-ed piece, Douglas Foy (former secretary of the Office of Commonwealth
Development and president of DIF Enterprises) and Robert Healy (city
manager of Cambridge, Mass.) argue that they must be exactly that. Writing that "[m]any of the world's most difficult environmental challenges can be addressed and solved by cities," they briefly outline Cambridge's aggressive new strategy to be part of that solution:

[C]ities are inherently the "greenest" of all places. They are much more efficient in their use of energy, water and land than suburbs. They provide transportation services in a remarkably equitable and democratic fashion.

Cities help to save natural areas and open space by relieving growth pressures on the countryside. And cities will be the pivotal players in fashioning solutions to the growing problem of climate change....

In order to address the challenge of climate change, it is imperative that we make both buildings and transportation vastly more energy efficient. And cities are the place to start. In a way, cities are the Saudi Arabia of energy efficiency -- vast mines of potential energy savings that dwarf most of the supply options our country possesses.

It is with that efficiency goal in mind that the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Kendall Foundation have developed for Cambridge the most aggressive energy efficiency program ever deployed in a city in the United States.

The outlines of the program were announced on March 29. It will involve the investment of nearly $100 million, largely raised from private capital sources, in buildings of all types throughout the city.

We will invest in energy efficiency measures in homes, condos, apartments, offices, hotels, institutions, hospitals, factories and schools. We will measure and verify the savings and document the carbon dioxide reductions and other environmental gains. And all of this will be done with the energy savings paying for the cost of the program, without the need for any government subsidies.

By mining Cambridge's efficiency opportunities, the city will become more competitive, save money, add hundreds of quality jobs, help build an efficiency industry that can produce a model that can be replicated in cities all over the United States and add its weight to a solution for global climate change.

Photo: allanpatrick via Flickr

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