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Windy City plans climate initiative

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KAI RYSSDAL: Bill Clinton’s going to be in Chicago tomorrow. He’ll be up on a podium with Mayor Richard Daley to announce a big Windy City climate initiative. It will use private funding to improve energy efficiency in buildings like the Sears Tower. The announcement is part of a plan to make Chicago a national leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Only problem is, Chicago’s already got a lot of competition. From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, Sam Eaton reports.

SAM EATON: It’s getting harder for cities to make a splash with bold climate change initiatives. More than 700 of them have already pledged to reduce emissions 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. It’s a symbolic gesture of support for the Kyoto Protocol, which the U.S. government refused to sign. And an increasingly modest gesture as cities like New York aim even higher. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has called for a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030. Not to be outdone, Chicago will reportedly announce a plan later this year to reduce its emissions 80 percent by 2050. Adele Simmons co-chairs Chicago’s Climate Change Task Force. She says the competition between cities is real because it translates into jobs.

ADELE SIMMONS: We think people like to live and work in a city that is sustainable and that is know to be an environmental leader.

Simmons says tomorrow’s announcement in Chicago will lay out specific tools for reaching that 2050 goal. And those specifics are exactly what’s needed says University of Michigan public policy professor Barry Rabe.

BARRY RABE: We see in many states and certainly in many cities the effort to sort of reach out further and set that bar higher but translating that into real numbers in real time remains to be seen.

One problem is mayors come and go. Another, Rabe says, is that only a few of the 700 plus cities that have signed the Kyoto Protocol have any chance of meeting the treaty’s modest goal. That’s mostly due to the fact that cities have little regulatory authority compared to states and the federal government.

I’m Sam Eaton for Marketplace.

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