United Nations and GWU convene sustainability leaders | U.S. Green Building Council
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In late January, George Washington University (GWU) and the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) brought together leaders from the public, private and nonprofit sectors for a half-day conference on the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Pathways Post-Paris.

The event came on the heels of a blizzard that caused most of Washington, D.C., to shut down for days while everyone shoveled out, but that did not deter an interested audience from gathering early in the morning to hear from nearly 20 subject matter experts. 

Climate action update

Christy Goldfuss, Managing Director, White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) kicked off the gathering with an invigorating keynote address. She touched on the work happening at CEQ and noted that the recently passed omnibus budget bill included tax extenders that incentivize clean energy and energy efficiency. This step will help the nation reach its pledged emissions reduction goal of cutting emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025, compared to a 2005 baseline. Goldfuss noted that the United States is on its way to reaching this goal, and could potentially surpass it, thanks to the efforts of leaders at all levels of government as well as in the private and nonprofit sectors, and added emphatically that “progress inspires confidence—now the focus is on implementation.”

Goldfuss then discussed the importance of the climate action work taking place in towns and cities of all sizes across the country when it comes to helping the United States reach its ambitious target, and commented on the unique ability to adopt and implement innovative policies that municipalities hold by stating that “mayors are able to take out politics…and really focus on the work that must be done to create more resilient communities.”

International pledges

Following the opening remarks, three panel sessions focused on ways in which the United States and countries all over the world could potentially go about meeting their pledged Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). Panelists offered information on best practices in land management, international financing, corporate sustainability efforts, local climate leadership, sustainability at colleges and universities and the significance of data and metrics. 

USGBC was represented by Liz Beardsley, Senior Policy Counsel, who spoke to urban sustainability measures and underlined the huge opportunity that buildings provide for climate mitigation. In addition to UNEP and GW, other entities represented included the World Resources Institute, World Environment Center, the Nature Conservancy and General Electric.    

Closing remarks were made by Paul Bodner, Senior Director for Energy and Climate Change, National Security Council, the White House. He noted that “climate change and development are not two different things...the majority of work done around climate change is done so that development can continue."

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