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First cities named to benefit
from environmental initiative

By Brian Baker, Senior Correspondent

19 May 2010: Fifteen cities were named on 28 April 2010 as the first to have had their bids accepted as participants in the Green Capital Global Challenge initiative which was announced by entrepreneur Richard Branson during the Olympic Games in Vancouver. The 15 cities include two from Canada, three from Europe and 10 from the US.
Over the next two years and three months the cities will be supported by the Washington DC based Carbon War Room. This was founded by a group of business entrepreneurs from around the world to bring market driven solutions and especially private sector investment funds to bear on tackling climate change and moving towards a low carbon economy.

Founders of the Carbon War Room include Virgin boss Richard Branson, Craig Conut of Pegasus Capital Advisors, Shelly Meyers, the founder of Palisades Management investment advisors and Strive Masiyiwa, founder of South Africa based Econet Wireless. Amongst those from a wider background recruited to the Carbon War Room executive board are the former Costa Rica President Jose Maria Figueres and former US General Wesley Clark.

The Green Capital Global Challenge initiative has set itself the target of attracting an additional $US1 billion of private sector loans and investment by 2012 for schemes in the partner cities which reduce their carbon foot-print. These can include retro-fitting the building stock – residential and commercial - to be more energy-efficient and other resource protection and energy saving activity.

Announcing the challenge in Vancouver, Richard Branson said that in this time of uncertainty around the ability and resolve of governments to lead the planet to low carbon prosperity, it was up to businesses and cities to step up and assume responsibility. “Mayors are the entrepreneurs of the civic world who realise their pivotal role in the fight against climate change,” he explained.

Branson believes that cities across the world are frustrated in their efforts to achieve energy savings by lack of access to investment capital. He wants this initiative to establish mechanisms for more dependable flows of money from the financial institutions which want to invest in or loan to low carbon projects.

Vancouver, which has set itself the target of becoming the greenest city in the world by 2020, is included in the first tranche of cities which will work with the entrepreneurs until at least July 2012. The main report on the first wave of the challenge will be released in London during the Olympic Games.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson was an early supporter of the initiative and said at the launch that “leadership is going to come from the cities and it’s going to come from the mayors in those cities setting the tone. The cities, though, cannot do this on their own. That is why it is critical that we continue to foster partnership and collaboration with the private sector.”

The 10 US cities vary in size. The Long Island town of Babylon, which provides low interest loans to home owners who want to make energy efficient changes to their properties, is included as is Burlington in Vermont. But the initial group, who will be a test-bed for the practicability of the approach, also includes Washington DC, New York City, Chicago, Atlanta and San Francisco.

From Europe, Copenhagen, currently rated the continent’s leading green city in the Siemens/Economist Intelligence Unit Green City Index, Birmingham and London are included.

The Carbon War Room says that bids from cities to be in a second tranche will be welcome until 15th September 2010. The second tranche will be announced by the end of the year. Successful bidding cities are required to commit to funding targets, establish a dedicated team within government to focus on the challenge and to assemble a network of administrative and funding partners.

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