The mayors from 10 major U.S. cities yesterday will undertake a united effort to significantly boost energy efficiency in their buildings, a move that combined could cut as much climate change pollution as generated by 1 million to 1.5 million passenger vehicles every year, and lower energy bills by nearly $1 billion annually.

The mayors will be participating in the new City Energy Project (CEP), an initiative from the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Institute for Market Transformation that is designed to create healthier, more prosperous American cities by targeting their largest source of energy use and climate pollution: buildings. The following 10 cities will be CEP’s first participants: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Orlando, Philadelphia and Salt Lake City.

Funded by a partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and The Kresge Foundation, the City Energy Project will help the 10 cities craft their own customized plans for boosting energy efficiency in their building.

Largely due to their electricity consumption, buildings are the largest single source of U.S. carbon emissions, representing 40 percent nationwide – more than either the transportation or industrial sectors. That number is even more dramatic at the city level, with more than half of carbon emissions in most U.S. cities coming from buildings – and in some cities as much as 75 percent. Much of the energy these buildings use, however, is wasted.

Fortunately, we have the technology and know the best practices that can make our buildings vastly more efficient, according to the NRDC. Working together, these cities can make significant progress in reducing their contribution to climate change. And in the process, they can give their local economies a boost.

“City skylines have long been symbols of aspiration and innovation—this project takes that to a new level,” said Laurie Kerr, Director of the City Energy Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “These mayors are showing there is the political will to put people to work to build a healthier, more prosperous future for America’s cities. In the face of a changing climate and increasingly extreme weather, they know they must act now to make their cities more resilient and sustainable.”

Through this new project, the cities will develop their own locally tailored plans to advance energy efficiency and reduce waste in their large buildings, which can represent roughly 50 percent of their citywide square footage. These plans, which will include multiple integrated strategies, can make more progress in each city than any one program or policy could alone.

The City Energy Project will offer their energy expertise to help guide the cities through the planning, designing and implementing processes. The energy efficiency solutions that CEP will help the cities develop are flexible to each city’s unique situation, supporting the following goals:

  • Promote efficient building operations: Strong building energy performance can be achieved through efficient operations and maintenance, and the training of facilities personnel.
  • Encourage private investment: Common-sense solutions to financial and legal barriers to energy efficiency should be adopted to increase private investment in building energy improvements.
  • City leadership: Cities should lead by example and reduce taxpayer-funded energy consumption in municipal buildings, and encourage the private sector to match their actions.
  • Promote transparency: Building energy performance information should be transparent and accessible to enable market demand and competition for energy-efficient buildings.