Collaboration is Better than Competition in the War Against Climate Change (Part Two)

Sustainability is only achieved through collaboration and cooperationThere are numerous examples of organizations, towns and cities working within a collaborative framework to address the looming threat of climate change. Although there are areas where market oriented competition will continue to be invaluable, there are other areas where collaboration is little more than common sense. Cities working together to share methods of being more sustainable are an effective way to pool resources in the effort to combat climate change.

The first part of Collaboration is Better than Competition in the War Against Climate Change explored collaboration within a company that can make innovation and commerce both more efficient and more sustainable.

This part explores a few examples of regional and municipal sustainable initiatives. These efforts are on the front lines of initiatives to combat climate change. Sustainable cities are designed with consideration for the environmental impact including minimizing inputs of energy, water and food, and the outputs of heat, air pollution and water pollution.King County Cities Climate Collaboration

A number of sustainability initiatives in the Northwest illustrate the power of collaboration. This is the subject of an article by Andrea Lewis, CSBA, LEED AP ID+C and Senior Project Associate at O’Brien & Company.

On June 9, 2011, King County and several of its cities officially pledged their support for a new partnership known as, the King County-Cities Climate Collaboration. The climate change mitigation efforts of jurisdictions within King County is a collaborative effort that benefits all parties. Through this initiative, cities are learning from each others sustainability efforts.

There are now six mayors who have signed a pledge enhancing the effectiveness of local governments’ climate and sustainability efforts. The signatories to the Pledge will partner on climate change outreach, coordination of standards, strategies and goals, climate mitigation solutions, and funding commitments for shared resources.  The group is grounded in local efforts and bound by common higher level commitments such as the US Conference of Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement, and ICLEI membership.

This effort involves outreach, coordination, solutions as well as funding and resources. These initiatives support and enhance projects and programs like green building, renewable energy, sustainability outreach and education, and alternative transportation.

Through these programs’ city and county staff work to share local best practices and relevant resources, they also collaborate on related projects and programs, and support regional efforts such as the Growth Management Planning Council’s work to set countywide greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets.

King County’s support includes ongoing initiatives, such as the Sustainable Cities Roundtable  and the GreenTools program.  The Sustainable Cities Program provides learning opportunities to work together to create regulations that support green buildings and get projects on the ground.

The King County GreenTools program helps builders, residents, businesses and governments create and sustain green buildings, and sustainability policies and programs. The GreenTools Team provides technical assistance, grants, hands-on training, and information necessary to find locally-produced, high quality sustainable building materials and resources.

Seattle’s 2030 District

The City of Seattle’s 2030 District  is a collaborative model that involves property owners sharing utility data usually considered proprietary. This effort is largely driven by a private sector group. Although these companies are usually competitors, they are each working together to share practices and techniques in order to maximize their combined energy conservation.

The Seattle 2030 District committee intends to go beyond just the data gathering and reporting. The committee has adopted additional goals to create a sustainable, low-energy downtown.

Seattle’s 2030 district was started by local architect Brian Geller, a sustainability specialist with ZGF Architects in Seattle. He was inspired by the Chicago Central Area Decarbonization Plan. Geller, along with a group of individuals concerned with large-scale energy efficiency, have involved six major property owners and managers in the downtown core and surrounding business neighborhoods, two City utilities, Cascadia Green Building Council and the active participation of the Office of Sustainability and Environment and DPD’s City Green Building.

The 2030 Challenge for Planning also includes reduction goals for water use and transportation vehicle miles traveled as well as the aggressive carbon reduction and energy efficiency goals of the original 2030 Challenge.

Specific Seattle 2030 District goals are as follows:

  • Existing buildings: A 10 percent reduction by 2015, incrementally increased to a 50 percent reduction by 2030.
  • New and renovated buildings: An immediate 60 percent reduction, incrementally increased to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030
  • Emissions of auto, freight, and water consumption in existing buildings: A 10 percent reduction by 2015, incrementally increased to a 50 percent reduction by 2030.
  • Emissions of auto and freight, and water consumption in new and renovated buildings: An immediate 50 percent reduction.

The Seattle 2030 District Committee has already begun to aggregate and analyze data to define current baselines and energy, water and vehicle miles traveled (VMT) reduction targets. Concurrently, the committee is exploring best practices for energy efficiency improvements as well as incentive and financing plans to implement improvements.

Inspired by efficient European cities, the committee will also explore opportunities beyond individual building strategies through incorporation of district heating and cooling and distributed generation.

Emerald Cities Collective

On the national level, the Emerald Cities Collaborative (EEC) leverages the expertise, assets and skills of the public and private sector to create clean economy cities. Seattle and Portland are two of several early municipal partners who have signed on. ECC is a national coalition of diverse groups that pools the resources of 21 national partners that include unions, labor groups, community organizations, social justice advocates, development intermediaries, research and technical assistance providers, socially responsible businesses, and elected officials.

They are united around the goal of rapidly greening our nation’s central cities and metropolitan regions. They envision a future in which American cities are the greenest and most equitable in the world.


These initiatives help to provide economies of scale that make efficient building design and cleaner energy sources more viable. These collaborative efforts are working across economic, political, and social boundaries to develop more sustainable cities. In the absence of federal legislation, cities are ideal candidates for collaborative initiatives that are leading the way in the war against climate change.


Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of THE GREEN MARKET, a leading sustainable business blog and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

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Richard Matthews
Richard Matthews
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, sustainable investor, and writer. He is the owner of THE GREEN MARKET, one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. He is also the author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, green investing, enviro-politics, and eco-economics.

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