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Kresge, partners pledge $10.5 million to accelerate building efficiency efforts in U.S. cities


Making cities healthier and more efficient is the goal of a new, $10.5-million commitment aimed at curbing carbon emissions and improving the energy efficiency of large buildings in U.S. cities.

The City Energy Project (CEP) – an initiative of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Institute for Market Transformation (IMT) – is funded by The Kresge Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The first phase of the project, launched in early 2014, helped 10 cities make strides to increase energy efficiency in large buildings. The new funding will provide continued support for those 10 cities while allowing more U.S. cities to join the program.

Robert Redford, Oscar-winning actor and member of NRDC’s Board of Trustees, helped announce the CEP expansion today at the Climate Summit for Local Leaders. The Summit is taking place in conjunction with the COP 21 Paris Climate Talks. The Kresge Foundation’s Senior Program Officer for the Environment, Jessica Boehland, attended the summit and today’s announcement.

Redford, in remarks made prior to the announcement, said cities are at the epicenter of climate impacts. “For decades, cities—and the mayors who lead them—have been on the front lines of the effort to stem the tide of climate change. And it’s not hard to understand why. They’re the ones feeling the direct impact of extreme weather, and they’re the ones who realize finding and implementing solutions is far more important than playing politics. 

“The City Energy Project is the type of solution that is making a difference today and deserves expansion. It’s already creating real on-the-ground results – less pollution, lower energy bills, new jobs and improved health.  Now imagine what the economic and climate benefits would be if we used programs like these as templates, and applied them to 50 cities—or 100. That’s the power that mayors working together can have: halting climate change, one city at a time.”

The combined actions from the initial cities could lower energy bills by more than $900 million annually and cut carbon pollution on a scale equivalent to that generated annually by more than 1 million vehicles.  

“Buildings are the largest single source of U.S. carbon emissions, representing 40 percent nationwide – more than either the transportation or industrial sectors,” said Rip Rapson, president and CEO of The Kresge Foundation. “That number is even more dramatic at the city level, with more than half of carbon emissions in many U.S. cities coming from buildings. Collaborations like the City Energy Project – including city leaders, property owners, bankers, scientists, academics and a range of other stakeholders – are essential to making progress in this sector.”

The 10 original cities are Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Orlando, Philadelphia and Salt Lake City. New cities, supported by the additional funding, will be announced in 2016.

The cities currently in the CEP are working to significantly boost energy efficiency in their buildings through customized suites of pioneering policies and programs. The cities tailor their own local plans to reduce energy waste and increase efficiency, with guidance and expertise from the CEP. Benefits include reduced climate and conventional pollution, improved local air quality, job creation, reduced utility bills for building owners and tenants, reduced costs of doing business, and increased property values.

Kresge works to expand opportunity for low-income people in America’s cities. Funding for the project comes from its Environment Program, which helps communities build environmental, economic and social resilience in the face of climate change.