Chicago’s city hall garden

6 September 2011 – The 10 American cities in the Large Cities Climate Leadership Group – the C40 –  have switched to hybrid or electric taxis and buses, are encouraging cycling and retrofitting home and offices, according to The Economist.

The group’s US cities are Chicago, New York, Austin, Houston, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle.

Portland’s plan, for instance calls for 90 per cent of its citizens to be able to walk or bicycle “to meet all basic, daily non-work needs” by 2030 while New York’s PlaNYC pays more attention to wetlands and coastal issues, according to an article in The Economist.

Flourishing on Chicago’s city hall roof is a garden of shrubs, vines and small trees. It  reduces the amount of energy needed to cool the building in the summer; captures water during rainstorms, thus reducing the amount of water flowing into Chicago’s already overtaxed sewers, and combats the urban “heat island” effect, which makes cities warmer than nearby rural areas.

All the cities try to reduce the amount of rubbish going to municipal landfills by encouraging composting and recycling; some are pushing for converting waste into usable energy.

Many propose more efficient outdoor lighting, which accounts for almost one-fifth of energy consumption across C40 cities and is mostly old and inefficient.

And most plans push for retrofitting homes and offices to make them more energy-efficient – especially crucial in densely built cities such as New York, where buildings account for 75 per cent of greenhouse-gas emissions.

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