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Swiss Re to Become Climate-Neutral Company
ZURICH, Nov. 3, 2003 - Swiss Re has announced that it plans to become a greenhouse neutral company. Swiss Re will initiate a ten-year program combining internal emissions reduction measures with an investment in the World Bank Community Development Carbon Fund.
The voluntary initiative makes Swiss Re the largest global financial services company to set itself the goal to become greenhouse neutral. All Swiss Re locations will participate in the initiative. The program will utilize the same methodology as Swiss Re offers to clients through its "Greenhouse Neutral" package in partnership with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

Every Swiss Re employee emits an average of 5 to 6 metric tons (Mt) of CO2 per year, with total corporate emissions from all approximately 8 500 employees based at 70 offices in 30 countries adding up to approximately 47,000 tons of CO2 per annum. Swiss Re's CO2 emissions are split between electricity use (44%), combustion of heating fuels (13%) and business travel (43%). To become greenhouse neutral, Swiss Re will reduce its own emissions by 15% over the next ten years, the remainder will be offset by investing in the World Bank Community Development Carbon Fund (CDCF) which supports projects to improve the environment and livelihoods of local communities. Through this investment, Swiss Re expects to offset a minimum of 37 000 tons of CO2 per annum in the form of so-called emission reduction units (ERUs).

John Coomber, Chief Executive Officer of Swiss Re comments: "Swiss Re is fully aware of the great challenges arising from global climate change. We not only seek to be at the forefront of creating and working on developing a marketplace for sustainable assets through our Greenhouse Gas Risk Solutions team, but clearly believe that we should operate and manage our own operations according to the highest sustainability criteria. That is the reason why we have implemented this program."

Chris Walker, who heads Swiss Re's Greenhouse Gas Risk Solutions team says: "Becoming greenhouse neutral is a big step for every company. Adhering to the newest standards in emission reduction and finding commercial solutions to conserving the environment are a clear priority for Swiss Re. With our long tradition in risk expertise, I am convinced that Swiss Re can play a much needed facilitation role in assisting companies with their carbon management". Through its risk assessment, mitigation and transfer know-how, Swiss Re already today offers commercial solutions to enable companies to voluntarily offset their emissions footprint.

"With its participation in the World Bank fund, Swiss Re joins a committed group of governments and companies who see a triple win in the CDCF: greenhouse gas emission reductions, poverty reduction and corporate social responsibility", says Ken Newcombe, Senior Manager, Carbon Finance, The World Bank.

Swiss Re's greenhouse neutral plan was announced at the "Beyond carbon - emerging markets for ecosystems services" conference, co-sponsored by The Katoomba Group (29-30 October 2003), at the Swiss Re Centre for Global Dialogue in Rüschlikon, which brought together representatives from the business, financial, governmental and NGO communities. Part of the objective of the conference was to analyze how different industries are exposed to carbon, water and biodiversity risks. It also highlighted the need for companies to take immediate action to review their current operational strategies in preparation for international regulation.

Twin Cities' Success with Emissions Reduction Programs

Minneapolis and Saint Paul became partners in the ICLEI campaign in 1993, pledging to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions 20% from 1988 levels by 2005. They identified six strategies to help them meet their goal: improve energy efficiency in municipal buildings, reduce emissions from transportation, expand urban reforestation, improve energy efficiency in the residential, commercial and private sectors, improve the efficiency of energy production and promote the use of renewable sources of energy, and promote recycling and source reduction programs. The results? Their building retrofits save $113 million annually in energy costs and have reduced their CO2 emissions by about 18,000 tons annually. Saint Paul's recycling program reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 59,000 tons in 1997. It is estimated that the 7,200 trees planted as part of the urban reforestation program will absorb 120 tons of CO2 a year by 2010. Residential insulation programs in both cities have served 25,000 homes since the program began, and homeowners are seeing significant decreases in their utility costs and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Toronto Atmospheric Fund

In 1990, Toronto pledged to reduce its current CO2 emissions levels 20% by 2005. In order to achieve this goal, the city established an Energy Efficiency Office and raised $23 million to establish the Toronto Atmospheric Fund to provide loans and 50:50 grants for a variety of CO2-reducing initiatives. In 1992, the city used a $14 million loan from the fund to convert the street lighting to more efficient bulbs. The city is seeing savings of $2 million a year in electricity bills, as well as the reduced CO2 emissions that go along with energy efficiency. The fund also loaned $2 million to the Better Buildings Partnership to perform energy efficiency retrofits that will save local businesses $3 million a year and reduce CO2 emissions by 40,000 tons a year.
Related Link: Toronto Atmosphere Fund
Source: Stormy Weather p. 97

Australian Councils Reach Beyond Milestone Five

Most cities do very well to complete all five milestones laid out by ICLEI's Cities for Climate Protection (CCP) ®. For those cities that want to go beyond, there is CCP Plus - a program that assists councils in further reducing their GHG emissions. The first element of this program focuses on transportation. In Australia, 16 councils are part of CCP Plus.
Source: Initiatives, an ICLEI newsletter, December 2002

Improving Efficiency in Government Operations

Investing in Efficient Lighting Pays Off

In Newcastle, Australia, the local government discovered that the City Hall's Function Center was costing $105,000 annually in electricity. This is because they lit the building with 380 100-watt incandescent bulbs that were only 3% efficient, releasing 97% of their energy as heat. In a two-year period, the city invested just $20,000 to switch to 18-watt compact fluorescent bulbs, reducing the energy consumption of the Function Center by 80%. This in turn reduced CO2 emissions by 100 tons. With the energy saved, the new bulbs paid for themselves within 2-3 years. The city has since set up the Newcastle Green Energy Project with a revolving loan fund to finance other energy saving programs.
Source: Stormy Weather p. 99

Green Buildings in San Francisco

In 1999, San Francisco passed a Resource Efficiency Building Ordinance that mandated green design practices for all future and existing buildings owned or leased by the city. The ordinance included toxics reduction, the use of recycled-content building materials, improved air quality, energy and water efficiency, construction and demolition waste diversion, and building commissioning. Employees on the city's design staff now have mandated training and a Resource Efficient Task Force has been created to shape the process.
Source: Stormy Weather p. 98

Denver's Green Fleet

In 1993, the City of Denver began a Green Fleet Program to improve the efficiency of city-owned vehicles. The program mandated a reduction in the size of the fleet, a 1% annual reduction in fuel expenditures and a 1.5% annual reduction in CO2 emissions. Their strategy was to exchange full-sized sedans for more efficient compacts or mid-sized sedans. They also made fuel efficiency one of the purchasing bid specifications. The program is really paying off: by 2005, the city will be saving $106,000 annually, and will have reduced its CO2 emissions by 22%, even though they've seen an overall 19% increase in total miles traveled by city employees.
Source: Stormy Weather p. 98

Related Links

  • American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy
  • Canadian Association of Energy Science Companies
  • Energy Star equipment and buildings
  • Energy Star Purchasing Initiative Toolkit
  • Environmental Purchasing Guide
  • Environmental Purchasing (Sweden)
  • European Good Practice Guides
  • King County, Seattle Environmental Purchasing Program
  • National Association of Energy Service Companies
  • Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility

Trees Make a Difference

Shade in Dade

In Dade County, Florida, residents of the Richmond Heights neighborhood worked with Cool Communities, a local non-profit group, to plant trees. The residents and the members of the nonprofit used aerial images to show the landscaping of their neighborhood and the need for more greenery. 600 volunteers got involved and they planted 200 trees in a five-block area in just three weeks.
Source: Stormy Weather p. 105

Trees for Tucson

In Tucson, Arizona, members of a local environmental group called Trees for Tucson have set their sights high. They seek to plant 500,000 trees in the city by working with residents, schools and neighborhood organizations. Once in place, each tree will save 27 kWh annually through cooling and evapo-transpiration, and 61 kWh with direct shading. That's a whopping forty four million kWh saved city wide every year!
Source: Stormy Weather p. 105

Related Links:

  • American Forests
  • Canopy (Palo Alto)
  • City Farmer's Urban Agriculture Notes
  • Friends of the Urban Forest (San Francisco)
  • How to calculate carbon in urban trees: 1-800-803-5182
  • International Society of Arboriculture
  • National Alliance for Community Trees
  • National Arbor Day Foundation
  • National Tree Trust
  • Tree Canada Foundation
  • Treefolks (Austin)
  • Treelink - Community Forestry Resource
  • Urban Trees sequestration spreadsheet


Alternate Method Incentives

In California, some businesses pay their employees a monthly travel allowance instead of providing free parking. Employees have the option to either pay for parking while at work, or find alternate means of transportation and pocket the allowance. This practice has yielded win-win results: typically, 10-30% of employees chose to walk, ride their bikes, carpool, telecommute or use mass transit. Some employees have even moved closer to their workplaces. With employee parking needs decreased, the companies can sell or lease the empty spaces and make some pocket money of their own.
Source: Stormy Weather p. 108

Close Roads, Open Doors

Hassaelt, Belgium is a great example of a community that has become more sustainable and more livable at the same time by changing its attitude towards transportation. It used to be a commuter city with 68,000 residents and 200,000 commuters. When the community was short on money and experiencing negative growth, the town trashed its plan to build a third ring road, closed one of the existing ring roads and planted trees in its place. They also laid more pedestrian walkways and bicycle paths, increased the frequency and quality of the bus service and made the public transportation system free. In just a year, the public transport system experienced an 800% increase in ridership, and businesses flourished. With fewer drivers on the road, there were fewer car accidents and road casualties. Social activity increased as residents finally met their neighbors. Because of the booming business community, the mayor was able to cut taxes and the town is now experiencing a healthy rate of growth.
Source: Stormy Weather p. 109

Related Links

  • Association for Commuter Transportation
  • Automobile Trip Reduction Programs for Municipal Employees
  • Better Environmentally Sound Transportation (Vancouver)
  • Calculating local auto-subsidies
  • Car-Free Cities
  • Center of Excellence for Sustainable Development
  • Community Guide to Traffic Calming
  • Citizens Guide to Traffic Calming
  • Greenest city
  • "Packing Pavement"
  • Portland's Traffic Management
  • Rides Program (commuter trip reduction, San Francisco)
  • Surface Transportation Policy Project
  • Telework Guidelines
  • Transportation Alternatives (New York)
  • Transportation for Livable Communities
  • Victoria Transport Policy Institute

Local Achievements

Sonoma County

  • A photovoltaic electrical system has been installed on the roof of the Information Systems Department building, providing an estimated 50% of the building's electricity.
  • As the roofs are replaced on county-owned buildings, they are being insulated more effectively and covered with lighter-colored material to reflect heat and decrease air-conditioning needs.
  • The county captures methane gas from the landfill and uses it to generate electricity, instead of burning it in a flare as many other landfills do.
  • The county has consolidated its air conditioning chillers into one facility. The chillers operate at night, taking advantage of off-peak rates and the water is then stored in a 650,000 gallon tank. The new streamlined system is more energy-efficient than the smaller, more widely dispersed chillers.
  • Eight Toyota Prius hybrid cars have been added to the fleet, and are in high demand from employees.
  • Smaller electrical vehicles are used for short-distance transportation.
  • Over 5,000 office lights have been replaced with more energy-efficient types.
  • Over 900 motion sensors have been installed to reduce unnecessary energy use in unoccupied office space.
  • More efficient, flat screen monitors are replacing less efficient computer screens at employee workstations.
  • Most refrigerators in county office break rooms have been replaced with more efficient models.
  • The county is beginning a program to encourage employees to turn off their computers at night. It is estimated that 80% of employees regularly leave their machines running at the close of the workday.

  • Sources: Dave Kronberg, Sonoma County General Services Director and Ann Hancock

Cotati's New Police Station Being Built Green

Cotati is taking a big step to help preserve the earth, spurred by growing awareness and environmental stress. The city's new police station is being built to meet eco-friendly and demanding LEED standards. The design will produce a structure that generates less waste, uses materials efficiently, and conserves energy as well as money. Cotati is surely doing its part for the earth, starting here in the hub of Sonoma County.



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