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Zerofootprint Cities

(In response to my earlier post about why we need better city rankings, Ron Dembo of Zerofootprint wrote telling me about the progress of his organization's Zerofootprint Cities, which we covered earlier. I asked him to write up a note about their concept and how it's unfolding. - Alex)

Imagine a tool that could link the citizens of large world cities around issues involving climate change. Imagine further that these citizens could be mobilized to reduce their environmental footprint and their collective actions could be measured and celebrated.

To give an example, imagine mobilizing the citizens of the C40 cities (a group of large cities committed to fighting climate change). These cities, which include Mumbai, Toronto, New York, Sydney, London, have a combined citizenry in the hundreds of millions and they form, what we refer to as a “Country Without Borders”. It is larger than the United States and much less encumbered when it comes to taking action. Actually, if one chose the right 5 cities in Canada, they would encompass over 85% of Canada’s GNP. Similar relatively small groups of cities would essentially represent geographically bound countries.

Such a tool exists today – it is called the Internet. It has matured to a point that I use it to regularly communicate with people all over the world, including a group in a war-torn area of the Congo. Over a billion people worldwide regularly access it and the amount of data and information stored on it continues to grow exponentially. It is “worldchanging” in that it has reduced the power of governments and enhanced the power of individuals. It does not respect borders. Social networks of people can be linked around issues regardless of their geographical location. News and ideas can be spread virally in record time to many millions of people. Facebook was relatively unknown in Toronto 2 years ago and today one million people, approximately one quarter of the population, are registered users.

Cities have already begun to take cooperative action, often to fill the vacuum of national policy. Since May 2006, with the US Federal Government continuing to reject Kyoto, the mayors of over 700 U.S. cities have signed a climate protection agreement committing themselves to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to seven per cent below 1990 levels by 2012. Among the measures the mayors have agreed to pursue are improved public transport, better pedestrian and cycling facilities, curbs on urban sprawl, and a switch to renewable energy sources. Chicago, for example, plans to increase its renewable energy use to 20 percent by 2010, while Seattle's green commitments amount to a reduction of 638,000 tons of emissions a year. What was a small group of 30 cities brought together by the Mayor of Seattle 2 years ago has now blossomed into a large country without borders..

London Mayor Ken Livingstone, chair of the C40, said at the launch of the programme: “National governments still struggle to agree a way forward on global warming, but cities, which are responsible for around three quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions, are today demonstrating the leadership and decisive action necessary to prevent catastrophic climate change.”
This is what has motivated us to launch Zerofootprint Cities, an initiative to link the citizens of the world’s cities around software that combines an environmental footprint calculator, linked to social networking and business intelligence tools. The idea is simple.

Imagine that we could motivate millions of citizens of many cities around the world to measure their footprint. In doing so, we would build up a picture of where their footprint originates and would understand where the biggest opportunities were to reduce their collective impact. Using the Internet and appropriate software, we could track and report changes, encourage and report pledges, and help individuals understand the relative benefits of their various actions. We could launch initiatives and understand how well they worked in short order. We could discover what concerned citizens most and where they would be most willing to act. We could go further and use the tremendous buying power of large groups of citizens to create the economies of scale needed to reduce the “price of green”. And, all of this does not need a willing President or Minister of the Environment to decide on policy or the World Trade Council to come up with new rulings. Nor does it need a tortuous set of discussions over 10 years to reach a new Kyoto accord, with all its watered-down language to satisfy the all the political constraints of the countries involved.

We announced this idea at the C40 Cities conference last May and set about building the first release. The first release of our Zerofootprint Cities platform was in February 2008. To date four cities have signed up -- Seattle, Toronto, Evanston and Boulder -- and a few more are considering doing so. It is still very early days but this group already encompasses over 5 million people. Our goal is to open this platform up to developers and content providers and to actively seek more cities to join our Country Without Borders.

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Comments

Hi,

this a great idea!!!!! I am working on sustainable procurment and developpement solution in Bordeaux plus my work.

What do you think about ICLEI and Procura+?

Would you be interested in making a partnership between Bordeaux and zerofootprint cities ? Would it be possible to open an office of worldchanging in Bordeaux France and make this city a green laboratory ? Would it be possible through a network to make new green firm coming in bordeaux area to implant and develop sustainable development economy, industry and ethics.

We are somme very motivated to work with you how can we do ? We have got a very good political and economical networkand backround and i was écowarrior in great britain with surfers against sewage when i was younger, i would love to develop international sutanable cooperation in bodeaux.

We are not greedy business people we are all around 36, well skilled and very motivated since we read your book to work in cooperation with you. We strong believe in international mouvement to handle this new area.

Sincerely,

Hubert tortes saint jammes


Posted by: hubert tortes saint jammes on 19 Apr 08

I am also very impressed with this notion --- organized groups of citizens who measure their consumption and emissions, set ambitious goals for reducing both, and share both solutions and the identification of intransigent problems that call for infrastructure change, law, or regulation. This goes far beyond "lifestyle activism" to changing lives and culture. Politicians will not lead, they follow. We need more citizens who have been radicalized by their awareness and acceptance of responsibility for the climate crisis.


Posted by: Martha Hagood on 20 Apr 08

A very effective and interesting concept of borderless country for globalised action through initiatives like C40--measuring footprints and communicating actions for reducing it if possibly made over the internet using appropriate software could very much be the ideal of an IT leveraged global platform for local actions--global thinking and local action : the economic counterpart of the Mach principle in philosophy of the blobal influencing the local
SURESHKUMAR,SCIENTIST AND HEAD,PME,NIIST,TRIVANDRUM,KERALA,INDIA


Posted by: sureshkumar.s on 20 Apr 08



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