The need for action to make our planet more resilient to climate change was prominent in the President’s State of the Union address Tuesday. Unfortunately, due to gridlock in Washington, D.C., it is unlikely that significant action tackling climate change will be taken by the federal government anytime soon. At an event last night, “Smart Cities: An Edelman Conversation with Antonio Villaraigosa,” we heard that cities are where the real action is taking place.
A leader on the frontlines of city innovation and resilience, former Mayor of Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa, recently joined Edelman as a senior advisor in California. His track record on energy innovation blazed a path for other big cities around the world. His accomplishments included securing 20% of the city’s energy supply from renewable resources, acquiring the largest municipal owned wind farm in the country, reducing emissions from the Port of L.A. by 90%, installing 140,000 LED street lights, reducing water use to 1970 levels, and an overall reduction of carbon emissions by 30%.
As the mayor explained last night to a room full of Edelman energy experts, cleantech clients, industry leaders, NGOs and academic pioneers, the key to driving action in Los Angeles was the mayor’s ability to form public-private partnerships. Shortly after taking office, Mayor Villaraigosa brought together CalPoly, UCLA, USC, Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, the Los Angeles Business Council, the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, LADWP and the CRA/LA, forming the Clean Tech Los Angeles alliance to collaborate on research, education and commercialization of cleantech. He then designated a four-mile stretch in downtown L.A. as a Cleantech Corridor as the center of the cleantech ecosystem in the region and founded the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator to turn the great work happening among the alliance into actionable jobs and new technology. This public-private collaboration is a model for how cities will collaborate with academia and the private sector in the future, and is corroborated by Edelman’s Trust Barometer which found that academics and NGOs enjoy the highest levels of trust by general and informed publics.
Mayor Villaraigosa also emphasized that the cleantech industry has an obligation to tell its story. There are still too many people unaware of the success of sustainability. Further to this point, the Edelman Trust Barometer revealed that the cleantech industry has a tremendous license to lead, as 70% of people worldwide report strong trust in the renewable energy industry, 26% higher than trust in government. If business leads the way, government will follow. Cleantech companies must be aggressive in building public support, because government does not have nearly the capability to inform and educate the public.
Cities are a laboratory of innovation. They are on the front line of resilience and innovation in the face of a changing planet. When ocean levels rise and water temperatures warm, cities are in the most danger from flooding and severe storms. When shifting weather patterns lead to extreme drought, cities are the ones that have to deal with water shortages. It is for this reason that cities are willing to take risks, invest and find innovate solutions to energy and sustainability problems.
If you are looking for a partner to help grow your cleantech business, cities should be your first stop.
Photo credit: Edelman