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Green City Index Ranks Charlotte 20th in Environmental Sustainability

by Kathy Chaffin

Charlotte was ranked 20th in a recent Green City Index rating 27 major metropolitan areas in the United States and Canada in environmental sustainability.
San Francisco was named the “greenest” city in the U.S. and Canada Green City Index followed by New York, Seattle, Denver and Boston. The index ranked cities on environmental performance and policies across nine categories: CO2 emissions, energy, land use, buildings, transport, water, waste, air quality and environmental governance.
Rob Phocas, energy and sustainability manager for Charlotte, said city officials would like to have ranked higher overall. “I think having this report and this information is a good way to figure out at least what one group thinks we need to do to move up in those rankings,” he said.
Charlotte ranked ninth in two of the categories for what the report describes as “robust”  land use and water policies and 11th for environmental governance. The report describes Charlotte’s green action plan as one of the strongest in the index.
The city ranked in the bottom half of the remaining six categories.
Phocas was hired in May of 2010 after Charlotte received a $6.7 million grant in 2009 for energy-efficiency programs. “True sustainability is what people describe as the triple bottom line — economy, equity and environment — and we’re having discussions about where we want to fit into that conversation,” he said.
Though Charlotte is doing a lot with its environmental programs, Phocas said it isn’t necessarily in a coordinated way. “We’re working internally to make that coordination more effective,” he said. “So I think in a few years, if they do this study again, we’ll be in a different place in our internal organization.”
Phocas said it’s difficult to compare Charlotte’s environmental sustainability with cities like San Francisco, Chicago and Portland which have sustainability staffs of 30 to 50 people “and have been involved in and speaking this language for a lot longer than we have. I think our area has a lot of education on these issues that needs to be accomplished.”
The Green City Index study was conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit and commissioned by Siemens Corp., which has an energy division in Charlotte.
“The Green Cities Index demonstrates that America’s cities are the driving force behind the nation’s sustainability efforts,” said Eric Spiegel, president and CEO of Siemens Corp, in announcing results of the study. “Despite the fact that we do not have a federal climate policy in the United States — and no federal carbon standard — 21 of the 27 cities in the index have already set their own carbon reduction targets.
“Cities are creating comprehensive sustainability plans, utilizing current technology and proving every day that we don’t have to wait to create a more sustainable future.”
The report can be viewed online at www.siemens.com/press/en/events/2011/corporate/2011-06-northamerican.php.

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