Washington gets top green certification

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Commercial and residential buildings stand past the Potomac River in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

Emissions and water use fall, half of city waste recycled

On a work day, the U.S. capital does not appear much more “sustainable” than any other major city. Its streets are packed with cars, lights flicker in offices long after the occupants have gone home, and stark economic divides persist between neighbourhoods.

But beneath the surface, something is working in Washington, D.C., experts say.

In August, the city was the first to receive the top “platinum” certification under a global sustainability programme called LEED for Cities, which tracks performance on energy use, waste management, water, transport and even quality of life.

The LEED for Cities framework, which celebrated its first birthday last month, is an expansion of the world’s most widely used rating system for green buildings.

Places earning top marks with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) could serve as a model for officials around the world seeking to prove to investors and others that their cities are clean, green and offer a high quality of life, experts say.

Last month Arlington County, across the Potomac River from Washington, received the first top certification under another year-old framework, LEED for Communities, which is similar to the cities’ framework but covers different geographical scales.

With more certifications expected in early 2018, organisers say surging interest stems from the Paris Agreement on climate change shunned by U.S. President Donald Trump which has paved the way for local governments to step up as leaders in caring for the planet.

More than 100 cities around the world have expressed interest in the programme so far.

Roger Platt, senior vice- president at the U.S. Green Building Council, a non-profit that created LEED, said Asian partners, including China and India, advised that its initial focus on buildings was too narrow for the breadth and speed at which cities are transforming.

LEED for Cities tracks changes in how a city is performing across 14 metrics. It uses an online platform allowing cities to analyse and compare their progress, focusing on outcomes rather than pledges. “We are at the point now where there is a tremendous amount of information on strategies to be cleaner,” said Platt.

What’s missing — and what we think we can do — is a very disciplined and rigorous system for determining whether the use of these strategies is actually creating measurable improvement, he said.

Washington’s top certification under LEED for Cities shows the rapid progress it had made in recent years, Platt noted.

Between 2006 and 2013, it reduced carbon emissions by almost a third, to 11.9 tonnes per capita. Water consumption fell by more than 13 per cent in the past five years. And today the city recycles about half of its waste — more than double New York City’s rate.

Washington even does well under the LEED metrics on social equity, which include a city’s affordability and distribution of wealth.

The U.S. capital was an early adopter of strategic plans around sustainability and the data required to measure progress, experts say.

Lessons for Surat

Surat, Indias eighth-largest city and among its fastest-growing urban areas, is one city looking to learn from Washington.

A few hours north of Mumbai by car, Surat is working towards the LEED for Cities certification. The city’s expansion has made efficiency in service delivery a key concern, an official said.

M. Nagarajan, deputy commissioner of the Surat Municipal Corporation, said achieving the certification would help Surat create a green image, and attract best practices and technologies from developed countries. But first it needs to iron out a few hitches, he said, particularly around data on greenhouse gas emissions, which is outdated.

source- THE HINDU

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