U.S. National Climate Initiative Announced

Senator John Edwards joins Global Green USA as a co-chair of national climate initiative to protect coastal communities.

Green building strategies for New Orleans are highlighted as model solutions for at risk coastal cities.
New Orleans, – July 24, 2008 – Former Presidential Candidate Senator John Edwards joined Matt Petersen, President of Global Green USA (Green Cross US national affiliate) to call for a national US climate initiative to protect coastal communities that focuses on promoting and increasing municipal and state level green building efforts that will save money, improve health and reduce global warming pollution.
The event was held at the New Orleans Port Authority overlooking the Mississippi river and highlighted the significant risks facing New Orleans and coastal communities around the world due to rising sea levels, extreme storms and other threats caused by global warming.
As New Orleans demonstrated and a report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released last week confirms, global warming poses significant threats to human health and mortality, and inner cities and poorest citizens in the US and worldwide are at greatest risk.
“Poor people are the people most affected by climate change. As a matter of fact you can see it with the results of the hurricane and what’s happening in the Lower 9th Ward,” said Senator Edwards. “I’m proud to be with Global Green for a number of reasons. First, they’re pushing very hard for legislative response and leadership response because America must lead with this issue. It’s absolutely crucial that we do. Secondly, the Holy Cross Project in the Lower 9th Ward shows that you can rebuild green. You can do it in a way that no longer contributes to greenhouse gases and the problems with climate we have in America and globally, and you can do it in a way that actually saves low income families money and it makes all the sense in the world.”
In the U.S., well over 50% of the population lives in coastal cities, and of the 33 cities worldwide that are projected to have 8 million or more residents by 2015, at least 21 are coastal cities that will likely have to contend with significant sea-level rise from climate change. Tens of millions of people living on or near the coast are at risk along with hundreds of billions – if not trillions – of dollars in infrastructure and economic activity are similarly threatened.
New Orleans is now adapting creative strategies to mitigate climate change and can be used as an energy blueprint for a prosperous 21st century American municipal – and national – economy. Specifically, a number of Global Green and other green rebuilding projects in New Orleans are offering critical solutions to how we create highly efficient, net-zero energy homes, while at the same time aiding under-served and underprivileged communities. By demonstrating that our homes and schools and businesses can be built green to save energy, improve our health and mitigate climate change, New Orleans can provide a roadmap for other cities to follow.
“Even if we are able to rebuild New Orleans as a model sustainable green city and restore the wetlands and levees, New Orleans will ultimately still be one of the first American cities lost to climate change due to sea level rise unless cities across the country and around the world make significant changes to embrace renewable energy and adopt energy-efficient green building,” said Matt Petersen.
Senator Edwards also discussed the significance of rebuilding New Orleans’ as not simply a local concern but a matter of establishing precedents for national and worldwide building.
“One of the great things about this particular project (Holy Cross) is that it gives us an opportunity to demonstrate to our political leaders, both locally and nationally, what is possible if we put our efforts and our resources behind it. I think that model is exactly what we should be doing. Not only should we rebuild New Orleans, we ought to be rebuilding in a way that shows the rest of America what’s possible,” said Senator Edwards.
Our nation’s buildings contribute to over half of all greenhouse gas emissions, thanks to the energy it takes to build, maintain, and operate them. Most of those buildings are in cities, and it is our municipal and state governments that regulate much of the building codes and policies that can require and encourage more efficient commercial, industrial, and residential buildings that use renewable energy, and materials that produce less heat trapping pollution.  Just last week, California announced mandatory green building requirements for new construction, following the lead of cities like Los Angeles, Boston, and San Francisco.
After showing animations of global warming’s impacts on low-lying coastal cities across the country, Petersen called for a national climate initiative to protect our coastal cities that would:
1) Make a quantum leap in both energy conservation and efficiency implementing carbon neutral building standards for all new construction and retrofitting exiting buildings. Power our buildings and transportation systems with renewable, non-carbon emitting energy sources such as solar, wind, and geothermal.
2) Launch a national US campaign to educate the public and develop new constituencies to push for green building and solar/renewable electricity production, and mandatory, binding greenhouse gas emission reductions to move the US toward carbon neutrality.
3) Initiate a national/international Coastal Climate Conference and Commission in New Orleans, assembling key mayors, governors, and legislators to protect our coastal cities and other communities vulnerable to climate change through local and state measures, while informing the incoming President and Congress in 2009 on necessary federal action.
Also attending the press event were Louisiana State Representative Walt Leger III, California State Representative Fiona Ma and Global Green supporter and actor and New Orleanian Anthony Mackie.
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