Colorado’s capital city gets a lot of abuse for its “brown cloud” lousy air, but here’s something: Denver came in at Number 9 on the Energy Star list this year of cities across the country with the highest number of buildings that received the Energy Star EPA program’s efficiency certification.
It’s an odd list, actually, and Denver deserves an even higher spot on a revised version. Energy Star is ranking cities based purely on the number of buildings with the certification. It doesn’t factor in the size of the population, say, or the percentage of buildings in the city that have been certified.
So Los Angeles is ranked Number 2 on the list with 475 Energy Star buildings. New York comes in at Number 4 with 299 buildings. Denver, by comparison, boasts 195 buildings. But Los Angeles is home to 3.8 million people and New York is home to 8.4 million. Denver is home to only 650,000 people. Shouldn’t we get more credit for putting a higher percentage of Denverites into a higher percentage of efficient buildings?
Rankings lists of all kinds may be silly but making urban environments more energy efficient is not silly at all.
Cities around the world only cover about 2 percent of the land, but emit as much as 80 percent of all greenhouse gases. That means it’s impossible to tackle the globe’s thickening brew of heat-trapping pollution without making a big dent in urban emissions.
The UN gets it, writing in a recent Hot Cities report that “Urban centres have become the real battle-ground in the fight against climate change and cities will neglect their role in responding to this crisis at their peril. Not just their own peril but that of the world.”
Cities are also where the greatest gains can be made at the lowest cost, and investments in energy efficiency for commercial and large residential developments start showing a return immediately in the form of lower energy bills. Re-inventing the world’s urban centers as oases of carbon-neutral sustainability should be seen as an investment in the future and a huge economic opportunity rather than a cost. That may seem daunting if you picture the vast sprawl of L.A. or the smog-wreathed cities of China.
But it’s not impossible, as Costa Rica recently showed. The Central American country’s state utility company in mid-March announced that it went the first 75 days of 2015 without using fossil fuels like coal or oil for electricity. An online TIME story has more details.
And Fort Collins gets it, too. Denver’s northern neighbor recently adopted some of the most aggressive goals in the nation to reduce community greenhouse gas emissions: 20 percent below 2005 by 2020 and 80 percent by 2030, aiming for carbon neutrality by 2050. Learn more on the city’s well-named Climate Protection website.
Photo of urban cowboy in Denver by Writ Rhet.