Why Boston was chosen for the next US-China climate summit

Mayor Marty Walsh announced Tuesday that Boston will host the 2017 Climate-Smart Low-Carbon Cities Summit, cementing Boston's role as a model in energy efficiency.

Mark Schiefelbein/AP
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh takes a smartphone photo at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, Wednesday, June 8, 2016. Walsh is part of a delegation of leaders from American cities participating in the US-China Climate-Smart, Low-Carbon Cities Summit.

Mayors from China and the US will gather in Boston next year for the Climate-Smart Low-Carbon Cities Summit.  

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is speaking at the second annual two-day Cities Summit this week in Beijing. The two-day meeting between local leaders in the two countries is described as “an opportunity to exchange best practices between US and Chinese cities.” 

The summit is organized by the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, which began in 2005 as a network for like-minded leaders and has grown into an organization of the world’s largest cities. Considering the fact that cities occupy only two percent of the world’s landmass but emit 70 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions and consume two-thirds of the world’s energy, C40 participants believe that, “As part of the climate change problem, cities also have the opportunity to be integral to its solution." 

And C40 cities have already committed to reducing emissions by three gigatons of carbon dioxide by 2030

“City mayors are directly accountable to their constituents for their decisions, and are more nimble than state and national elected officials to take decisive action – often with immediate and impactful results,” C40 explains on their website. “What our cities do individually and in unison to address climate change can set the agenda for communities and governments everywhere.” 

The growing organization now includes 83 cities around the world: 10 cities in Africa, 11 in East Asia, 19 in Europe, 11 in South America, 14 in North America, and 18 cities in South, West, and Southeast Asia.

C40 cities represent 25 percent of global GDP and 600 million people worldwide.

“C40 is making a significant difference in improving the scale and speed of climate action, with 30 percent of all climate actions in C40 being delivered through city-to-city collaboration,” says the organization. “Today, nearly 10,000 climate change actions are in effect in C40 Cities, with over 78 percent of actions reported in 2015 planned for expansion.” 

As vice chair of the group, Mayor Walsh flew to Beijing this week (with travel expenses paid for by the organization’s lead sponsor, Bloomberg Philanthropies) alongside Secretary of State John Kerry. Alongside Secretary Kerry and local Chinese leaders, Walsh announced plans for the 2017 meeting. 

“This is an enormous honor and a clear sign that the policies put in place in Boston and Massachusetts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and grow a clean energy economy are working and are of worldwide significance,” Ken Kimmel, a former commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection, tells the Boston Globe.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) named Boston the most energy efficient US city in 2015, and has named Massachusetts the most energy-efficient state since 2011. In Massachusetts, the clean energy industry grew 12 percent in 2015 to employ 100,000 additional people. 

According to ACEEE, Boston excels at reducing energy usage through community-wide initiatives, building policies and utilities. Some relevant initiatives include LEED certification for commercial building projects over 50,000 square feet, the Renew Boston program to connect utility energy efficiency services with small businesses and middle income homes, and the Greenovate Boston initiative to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050. 

The Cities Summit in 2017 will help boost the Boston economy by advertising this industry's growth as well as contributing about $1 million in tourism revenue.   

A conference of this scale “really cements Massachusetts’ reputation as a clean energy leader,” Peter Shattuck, director of Acadia Center’s Massachusetts’ branch, tells The Boston Globe. “It puts Massachusetts companies on display.”

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