Stopping global climate change will require making the nation's homes, offices, and schools healthier and more energy efficient, former president Bill Clinton told thousands attending the U.S. Green Building Council’s Greenbuild conference on Wednesday. The organization’s efforts to reduce the carbon footprints of buildings, which emit three-quarters of most cities' greenhouse gases, through its LEED green building rating system can measurably benefit the environment, he said.
"The sale's been made," Clinton said. "Otherwise Al Gore wouldn't have gotten the Nobel Prize. Now what we have to do is...to prove that this is not a big bottle of castor oil that we're being asked to drink. This is the biggest economic opportunity that our country has had to mobilize and democratize economic opportunity since World War II," he said."
Clinton said the Kyoto protocol treaty to reduce emissions, negotiated by himself and former Vice President Gore but not ratified by congress, needs to be succeeded by a new carbon emissions reduction treaty. The former President’s Clinton Climate Initiative has been engaging businesses and leaders of 40 cities to plot ways to reduce emissions. The project launched in August 2006 as part of the William J. Clinton Foundation.
Clinton announced that his foundation has entered an agreement with GE Real Estate that will "green" all of the real estate company’s operations, which includes $72 billion worth of assets and 385 million sf of property in 31 countries.
“Once we prove through economies of scale that this can be done, others will follow our lead,” he said.
Clinton also announced a $5 million effort from his foundation to help make the nation's schools more sustainable by retrofitting existing buildings. Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan and Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius were among those onstage with Clinton and pledged to green schools in their systems. More than 400 institutions of higher education have signed on to a separate agreement that pledges that they reach carbon neutrality throughout their systems by 2010.
Clinton consistently argued that the change from a “carbon economy” to a green economy would create enough jobs and economic opportunity to offset any losses from fossil fuel industries such as coal mining and oil refining.
“In this decade the world is plagued by persistent economic inequalities. The only countries that this isn’t true in are the ones that are meeting or beating their Kyoto goals,” Clinton said. “We have no idea what we can do for reducing emissions because we just got started.”
However, Clinton did note that no standard for the measurement of carbon reduction exists yet for building operations. He pledged to create such a tool for the AEC industries.
“We’ve got to keep score when we do this and we have to be honest,” he said. “We have to develop a standardized measurement tool. It’d be a terrible thing if we went three years down the road and they (the critics) said ‘oh, you didn’t keep score.’”