Can fixing energy-wasting buildings stave off global instability? Former president Bill Clinton thinks so. In the biggest project his foundation has taken on since securing a supply of cheap generic AIDS drugs for third world countries, Clinton has brokered a $5 billion effort to finance the retrofit of old buildings in 16 cities around the world.
The project, which Clinton announced at a climate conference in Manhattan yesterday, creates a financing and labor pool to replace energy-hogging light fixtures, as well as install better building insulation and more efficient HVAC systems. ABN Amro, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase, and UBS will offer loans, which landlords will repay with the savings gained on their utility bills. Johnson Controls, Honeywell, Siemens, and Trane will manage and audit the work while three trade associations, including the U.S. Green Building Council, will train minority contractors and “long-term unemployed” laborers in the construction techniques. “This will create a system to make it easier for building owners to make improvements,” Clinton said.
Sounding a bit like his former vice president, environment guru Al Gore, Clinton added that cities emit three-quarters of the world’s greenhouse gases and that buildings account for between 50 and 80 percent of this toll. The program’s first wave of cities—Bangkok, Berlin, Chicago, Houston, Johannesburg, Karachi, London, Melbourne, Mexico City, Mumbai, New York, Rome, Sao Paulo, Seoul, Tokyo, and Toronto—will start by retrofitting publicly owned buildings. Proponents are keeping the program open to private landlords as well—the landlord of Clinton’s offices in Harlem, Cogswell Realty, has signed on. Clinton’s foundation will also team with the C40 Large Cities Climate Leadership Group, a coalition of mayors and business, to promote the program and spread it to other cities.
Ever the optimist, Clinton promised the program would reduce utility bills and create good jobs everywhere it goes—including here at home in the U.S. “Much of the material needed will be made in this country,” he said, “and with all due respect to the mayor of Mumbai, you can’t outsource the greening of a roof.”