Starting at the Top
An ambitious new energy program targets the world’s largest cities

August 1, 2007

On May 16, 2007, former President Bill Clinton announced the creation of a landmark global energy program. This Energy Efficiency Building Retrofit Program is a project of the Clinton Foundation’s Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI), which helps cities reduce their energy usage and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This program is a joint initiative, with participation from four of the world’s largest energy service companies (ESCOs), five of the world’s largest banks, and 16 of the world’s largest cities. The goal of the program is to create a coordinated effort to significantly cut energy consumption levels in buildings by providing both cities and private building owners with access to the necessary funds to retrofit existing buildings with more energy-efficient products. In a typical building, this will lead to a 20- to 50-percent energy savings.

“Climate change is a global problem that requires local action,” said President Clinton. “The businesses, banks, and cities partnering with my foundation are addressing the issue of global warming because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it’s good for their bottom line. They’re going to save money, make money, create jobs, and have a tremendous collective impact on climate change all at once.”

According to, buildings are responsible for more than 50 percent of GHG emissions in most cities and more than 70 percent in mature cities like New York and London.

Big Beginnings

The initial 16 cities that have agreed to participate in the Energy Efficiency Building Retrofit Program and offer their municipal buildings for the first round of energy retrofits include Bangkok, Berlin, Chicago, Houston, Johannesburg, Karachi, London, Melbourne, Mexico City, Mumbai, New York, Rome, Sao Paulo, Seoul, Tokyo, and Toronto. These cities have agreed to work with the Clinton Foundation and its experts to develop programs to make their municipal buildings more energy efficient. They will also provide incentives to commercial building owners to retrofit their buildings with energy-saving technologies. The retrofit program will be consistent with, and work within, city procurement and tendering rules.

CCI and its partners will help train local workers on the installation and maintenance of energy-saving and clean energy products. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) have agreed to help coordinate these programs. Other features of the Energy Efficiency Building Retrofit Program include the following:

  • Honeywell, Johnson Controls, Inc., Siemens, and Trane will conduct energy audits, perform building retrofits, and guarantee the energy savings of the retrofit projects.
  • ABN AMRO, Citi, Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase, and UBS will arrange $1 billion each to finance cities and private building owners to undertake these retrofits at no net cost, doubling the global market for energy retrofit in buildings.
  • These banks will work with energy efficiency finance specialist Hannon Armstrong and CCI to develop effective mechanisms to deploy this capital globally. Cities and building owners will pay back the loans plus interest with the savings generated by reduced energy costs resulting from the building retrofits.
Clinton Climate Initiative

The Foundation’s CCI program was launched in August 2006. CCI is working with the C40 Large Cities Climate Leadership Group, an association of large cities dedicated to tackling climate change, to develop programs to reduce GHG emissions. Cities contribute approximately 75 percent of all heat-trapping GHG emissions to the atmosphere, while only comprising 2 percent of land mass.

CCI helps enable its partner cities to reduce energy use and GHG emissions in the following ways:

  • by creating a purchasing consortium that pools buying power of cities to lower prices of energy-saving products;
  • by calling on top experts in areas like building efficiency, clean transportation systems, renewable energy production, waste management, and water and sanitation systems for technical assistance in developing and implementing energy and emissions-reducing programs; and
  • by creating and deploying common measurement and information flow tools that participating cities can use to establish a baseline on GHG emissions, track the effectiveness of their emissions reduction programs, and share what works and what does not work with each other.

Additional steps that cities or other facilities can take to reduce energy consumption and employ cleaner energy include the following:

  • Create building codes and standards that include practical, affordable changes that make buildings cleaner and more energy efficient.
  • Conduct energy audits and implement retrofit programs to improve energy efficiency in municipal and private buildings.
  • Install more energy-efficient traffic and street lighting.
  • Implement localized, cleaner electricity generation systems.
  • Develop bus rapid transit and non-motorized transportation systems.
  • Use clean fuels and hybrid technologies for city buses, garbage trucks, and other vehicles.
  • Implement schemes to reduce traffic, such as congestion charges.
  • Create waste-to-energy systems at landfills.
  • Improve water-distribution systems and leak management.

The C40 Large Cities Climate Leadership Group includes Addis Ababa, Bangkok, Beijing, Berlin, Bogotá, Buenos Aires, Cairo, Caracas, Chicago, Delhi, Dhaka, Hanoi, Hong Kong, Houston, Istanbul, Jakarta, Johannesburg, Karachi, Lagos, Lima, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Manila, Melbourne, Mexico City, Moscow, Mumbai, New York, Paris, Philadelphia, Rio de Janeiro, Rome, Sao Paulo, Seoul, Shanghai, Sydney, Toronto, Tokyo, and Warsaw.

For more about CCI, please visit To learn more about the C40 Large Cities Climate Leadership Group, please visit