ICLEI Southeast Regional Workshop on Sustainability
Enlarge image From left: Consul Detlef Eckstein, KC Boyze (COO & CFO of ICLEI), Dr. Raino Winkler (City of Heidelberg), and Anette Mendez (German Consulate General) (© Germany.info) ICLEI, a leading nonprofit membership association which is devoted to local governments who are engaged in sustainability, climate protection and clean energy initiatives, hosted its Southeast Regional Workshop on Sustainability on October 12th and 13th in Atlanta.
About 40 representatives of local governments and educational institutions from seven southern states were welcomed by the opening remarks of Consul Detlef Eckstein from the German Consulate General in Atlanta, the key sponsor of the event through the Transatlantic Climate Bridge initiative.
The 2-day workshop offered presentations and panel discussions about sustainable financing, green business engagement programs and the communication aspects involved in getting the sustainability message across. Furthermore, presentations included inspiring reports about successfully institutionalized sustainability programs at the City of Roswell, GA, Athens-Clarke County, GA, and at the German City of Heidelberg.
Speakers and attendants alike shared the desire to make their communities better places to live by making them greener, more efficient and healthier communities. The work shop offered an opportunity to network and to exchange knowledge regarding resources, planning processes, and technical guidance to achieve results faster and overcome financial constraints.
Enlarge image Sustainable initiatives of the City of Heidelberg presented by Dr. Raino Winkler (© Germany.info) The German city Heidelberg has been a pioneer in tackling environmental issues since the early 90's. It was represented by Dr. Raino Winkler, one of the driving forces at the city's Environmental Protection Office since 1999. Dr. Winkler explained that Heidelberg focuses strongly on the improvement of air quality, climate protection, noise mitigation and resource efficiency, i.e. lowering water consumption and reducing waste. The city understands its threefold municipal role as being a model that is leading by example, a promoter of goals and initiatives as well as a regulator.
Heidelberg's population is largely on board with the city's green ambitions. This is typical for Germany, as the country is transitioning toward a low carbon economy and has experienced first-hand that cutting greenhouse emissions does not harm the economy. From 1990 to 2010, Germany cut emissions of carbon dioxide by about 25 %, while the economy grew at a constant rate. Meanwhile, the electric energy consumption is increasingly based on renewable energies (20% today).
Local state government representatives and business leader were also contributing success stories. For example, the City of Roswell has earned a Green Community Certification from Atlanta's Regional Commission by implementing sustainable practices and policies in ten categories, ranging from energy efficiency and green building to transportation and water efficiency.
The City initially began their sustainability efforts with curbside recycling and recommends to start simple. According to Kay Love, Roswell's City Administrator, first steps are the creation of a sustainability work force with a broad base of involved stakeholders and partnerships to set measurable goals and to adapt and implement sustainability policies. Ms. Love emphasized the importance of education and fun throughout the process, but also mentioned the need of funding sources and a dedicated follow-up for measuring, reporting and celebrating successes.
Businesses can also differentiate themselves by going green. Kim Brokhof, an ICLEI project manager, reported how ICLEI's Chicago Climate Action Plan turned out to be a fun competitive challenge that produced tangible improvements in form of energy and cost savings for its participants. The most desired award proved to be recognition for the participation and leadership in this green business program.
Technical assistance and training, fact sheets and guidebooks, case studies, templates as well as federal funding updates and policy analysis for respective initiatives are available at ICLEI USA.