Now that the federal government has stepped back from a leadership role on climate change, cities are stepping up to meet the challenge of preserving the environment for future generations. In fact, cities have been leading the way for a number of years.
This makes sense. The federal government can certainly help, by reauthorizing the 179D tax deduction for energy upgrades in commercial buildings and through EPA and Department of Energy programs and research, for example. But cities are in a position to tailor an approach to sustainability for their specific industries, building types and climates, and they can tap into local citizens, groups and organizations that are passionate about the quality of life in their hometowns.
MORE THAN JUST COMFORT
Besides quality of life issues, risk mitigation is another important driver for cities. Moody’s Investor Services recently warned coastal cities that susceptibility to climate change impacts, including rising sea levels and severe storms, factors into their credit ratings. Currently, Moody’s seems more interested in transparency than action, and the ratings agency has yet to downgrade a municipality’s credit rating due to inaction. That could change, though, particularly if property values sink from climate-related events or if a city fails to make infrastructure investments to increase resiliency in the face of climate change.
Cities are not alone in their pursuit of sustainability leadership. Several organizations have been assisting them. For instance, STAR Communities offers the STAR Community Rating System™, a framework and certification program for evaluating local sustainability through economic, environmental and social measures. Cities such as Atlanta, Wichita, Tacoma, Cleveland, Birmingham, Tucson, St. Louis and Baltimore are among those engaged with STAR Communities.
Another organization, 2030 Districts®, focuses largely on urban downtowns. 2030 Districts commit to reducing building energy use, water consumption and transportation greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by the year 2030. They work toward this goal through public-private partnerships and collaboration. Austin, Detroit, Dallas, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, San Antonio, Seattle and Denver are among the cities in the 2030 Districts Network.
Companies are also assisting. They make investments in the locations in which they have operations, often working with the cities, counties and states in those areas. Many companies have realized that comprehensive sustainability strategies provide more benefits than positive public relations and goodwill with local residents. Green buildings and renewable energy installations can reduce expenses. Climate-related events such as wildfires and intense storms can disrupt their operations and supply chains, so they are interested in solutions that reduce those risks.
Technology companies are also a driving force behind the “smart cities” movement. Smart cities use cutting-edge energy technology, connected infrastructure, new distribution methods, driverless vehicles and data collection and analysis to advance livability and sustainability. Alphabet, Panasonic®, Hitachi®, IBM®, Schneider Electric™, Cisco® and other leading companies already provide products and solutions for smart cities.
BE AN ACTIVE PARTICIPANT
In a sense, a city is a collection of buildings in which people live, work and play—so property managers are in a unique position to participate in and gain from these developments. Find out what your city is doing in sustainability and the smart cities movement. Investigate incentives and track policy initiatives. Join your city in finding viable solutions to climate change impacts.
By: Todd Feist (JPM)
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