Posted by Leonard Steinberg on May 13th, 2012

Who says government has to be the sole driving force for change? Coca-Cola, Nike, and more than 30 other companies have cut carbon dioxide emissions by more than 100 million metric tons since 1999 under a partnership agreement with the World Wildlife Fund, according to a new report: That’s twice as much as the current annual emissions of the entire country of Switzerland! Her in New York City, everywhere you look you can see tangible evidence of the same thing:  Natural gas-powered and hybrid busses (largest fleet in the US), hybrid cabs (and cars), buildings switching from dirty oil-burning boilers to natural gas, a greater focus on energy-efficient lightbulbs…..and the list goes on. Yes, government has fueled this in many ways, but more importantly it is evidence that government and industry can produce magic when they work together in harmony.

The companies are part of the World Wildlife Fund’s Climate Savers program, in which companies partner with WWF and set targets to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The targets must be more ambitious than previous goals set by the company and should place companies ahead of their competitors in reducing emissions. WWF provides guidance to partner companies on ways to reduce their carbon footprint and address climate change. Other members include HP, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Lafarge, National Geographic, Natura, Nokia Siemens Networks, Novo Nordisk, Sprint, Tetra Pak, Sony, Supervalu, and Volvo.

New York by its very nature actually produces one of the lowest carbon footprints per person because of the high-rise nature of the city (stacked housing is much more efficient that individual houses), high reliance on public transportation. The average New Yorker produces about a third (7.1 tonnes) of the emissions that an average US citizen produces. New York City accounts for only 1% of United States greenhouse gas emissions while housing 2.7% of its population.  The average American is responsible for 19.8 tonnes per person, and the average Chinese citizen clocks in at 4.6 tonnes. The average British citizen is 9.7, although Australia clocks in at over 20 because of its reliance on coal for energy. Surprisingly, energy affluent countries in the Middle East such as thr UAE and Bahrain produce over 30 tonnes per person!

Mayor Bloomberg wants to cut emssions by 30% by 2030: So where does real estate come into all of this? The biggest gains are to be made in making buildings more efficient as they produce almost 80% of our emissions. Already LEED certification has become an item of prestige when buying in a new building. Tighter insulation (good windows), removing leaky window AC units, converting buildings to clean burning natural gas, solar or wind powered heating and cooling, improving the efficiency of all vehicles, both consumer and commercial, installing high tech energy managment systems, green roofs will all play a big part.  Already, the average New Yorker consumes less than half of the electricity of someone who lives in San Francisco and nearly one-quarter the electricity consumed by someone who lives in Dallas.

And why should we care? Not only is this good for our health, which could reduce the need for healthcare, but from an economic standpoint, reduced spending on energy, allows more money to flow into the economy for other things.

Now if only we could eliminate those pesky smokers who pollute the sidewalks of Manhattan with their disgusting habit…..have you noticed how they only inhale about 20% of the smoke they create?  The remaining 80% is blown into our faces, or left to ooze out of their dirty cigarettes for all of us to inhale…..

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