City of Atlanta Triumphs Local Solutions to Global Problems

City of Atlanta Triumphs Local Solutions to Global Problems

On December 3rd, several Emory delegates and Dr. Eri Saikawa supported Mayor Kasim Reed at the Le Bourget La Galerie site as he spoke on behalf of Atlanta’s innovative sustainability initiatives to an international audience. The official “Buildings Day” panel highlighted the challenges and opportunities within the development sector on maximizing energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, especially since 80% of greenhouse gas emissions are sourced from urban areas. Other panelists included Mayor Clover Moore of Sydney, Mayor Bima Arya of Bogor, Indonesia, Mayor Marcio Araujo de Lacerda, of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Councillor Johannes Van Der Merwe of Cape Town, South Africa, and Ms. Jennifer Layke of the World Resource Institute.


80% of emissions come from cities


Mayor Reed delivered a compelling address on how Atlanta is taking charge of reshaping its buildings’ landscape by implementing a Commercial Buildings Energy Efficiency Ordinance this year requiring buildings over 25,000 square feet to report their energy data. Buildings will then be subject to efficiency suggestions and subsequent audits.  Mayor Reed also highlighted on the city’s Solar Atlanta initiative, the transformation of the Bellwood Quarry into a 90-day reserve water supply, and its participation amongst other cities in the Better Buildings Challenge.

“The City of Atlanta is currently leading, with over a 100 million square feet of commercial buildings contributing to the Better Buildings Challenge,” the Mayor stated.

The panelists also all agreed that effective change is catalyzed within municipalities.


“We have a political spectrum driven by climate deniers. Action will happen at the local level, where we have the ability to take knowledge from these series of meetings and move while our federal government argues.”

-Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed

Jennifer Layke, representative for WRI, agreed. She noted that cities can make change happen even faster by involving NGOs in the process.  She explained: “There is the question of where to engage in the policy dialogue. NGOs can create a stakeholder meeting and bring different stakeholders together. NGOs can guide policy transactions through a pathway.”

In regards to Atlanta, the energy-efficiency focused organization Southface has offered tremendous technical support in the implementation of both the Better Buildings Challenge and the Commercial Energy Efficiency Ordinance by offering building owners educational presentations and an everyday helpline for inputting energy information into the software.


Students in the COP21 Emory delegation meet with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed

The panel concluded by emphasizing the importance of transparency between mayors on best practices. By working together, mayors are able to more quickly implement workable and sustainable solutions to climate change problems in real-time. The moderator prodded the mayors on stage to take charge in enforcing an integrated, multi-stakeholder approach to find solutions in technology, finance, and energy efficiency.  Mayor Reed agreed, explaining that within the United States, he appreciates the “fraternity” amongst mayors.

“You can pick up the telephone and call another mayor to discuss something you feel is exemplary. And I’ll tell you that Mayor Bloomberg holds a pretty great party for the mayors after meetings.”

-Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed

Mayor Marcio Araujo de Lacerda of Brazil agreed, stating: “I love to copy! There are networks all over the world. We should learn from each other all the time.”

The panel highlighted several organizations and conventions that are assisting in the localized alliance towards a low-carbon future. These include the C40, the Compact of Mayors, and specific forums in environment, energy, and transport. Several of these organizations will be meeting during the next few days of the COP to discuss solutions in more specificity, and Mayor Reed will remain an active participant.


Savannah Miller, 12/3/2015

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