We love cities WWF campaign

34 finalists from 14 participating countries have been selected from among 16 the entrants in this year's Earth Hour City Challenge (EHCC) and the public is invited to vote for their favourite city at a special website (below).

The project is organised by WWF working closely with ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability - to encourage cities to join the challenge and enabling their reporting through carbon Cities Climate Registry (cCCR).

An expert jury will now review the actions and commitments reported by these cities and ultimately identify one sustainability leader per country for the National Earth Hour Capital Awards to be presented on 27 March in Vancouver, Canada.

Gino Van Begin, Secretary General of ICLEI, said: “As a Main Partner, ICLEI is proud to support WWF’s Earth Hour City Challenge as it grows to become an essential global initiative for rewarding cities’ sustainability achievements through the active participation of our Member Cities, Regional Offices and through our global reporting platform, carbonn Cities Climate Registry”.

Carina Borgström-Hansson, PhD, Lead for WWF’s Earth Hour City Challenge commented: “It’s very inspiring to see the increasing number of cities striving to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels and making great strides in the transition towards a renewable energy future”.

These 34 cities are considered contenders for the title Earth Hour Capital 2014 for having demonstrated a sincere commitment to the creation of sustainable cities:

  • Belgium: Antwerp, Brussels Capital Region, Ghent
  • Brazil: Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo
  • Canada: Edmonton, North Vancouver, Surrey
  • Colombia: Medellín, Monteria
  • Denmark: Copenhagen
  • Finland: Lappeenranta
  • India: Cochin, Coimbatore, Hyderabad
  • Indonesia: Semarang, Bogor
  • Mexico: Mexico City, Municipality of Aguascalientes, Puebla
  • South Africa: Cape Town, Durban
  • South Korea: Seoul, Suwon
  • Sweden:  Eskilstuna, Stockholm, Växjö
  • Thailand: Khunhan, Muangklang, Nongsamrong
  • USA: Boulder, Chicago, Cleveland

We Love Cities

WWF encourages people all over the world to show their support for the impressive efforts that cities are making towards sustainability, and to participate in the We Love Cities campaign, which goes live today.

Web visitors are invited to vote for their favorites among the 34 finalist cities, and to share the favorite aspects of these cities via photos and videos. Visitors are also welcome to submit suggestions for how the cities can become even more sustainable.

Renewable energy investment slumps

But Carina Borgström-Hansson added a note of caution. “Despite their commendable efforts, cities can’t do it alone. If we are to protect the world from dangerous climate change while meeting human needs, a radical shift in investment must take place. In addition to local governments, national policy-makers, businesses and major financial institutions must be a part of this transition”.

But investment in clean energy is currently slumping. According to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance report published this week, investment was scaled back in both the U.S. and China over the last 12 months. For China it was the first year without growth in the sector in a decade. Investment dropped by nearly half amidst austerity in Europe.

The solar sector led the decline, as plummeting prices for photovoltaic arrays led to an industry-wide contraction of nearly 20 percent. But good news was that the front-end of the solar sector saw a surge in demand for rooftop solar installations and investors piled into installation companies, doubling the value of the MAC Global Solar Energy Index.

In May, Goldman Sachs agreed to finance more than 500 million dollars in solar panels for California-based SolarCity Corp.

“Why is Goldman Sachs investing? Why is Warren Buffet investing? The answer is these aren’t dumb players. There’s plenty of money to be made,” said Michael Liebrich, CEO of Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “For every solar panel someone is selling at a loss, someone is getting a cheap solar panel.

“We are seeing a new era of energy technologies breaking through into the big time and the finance is flowing. Those sort of eye-catching deals mean it will be that much easier for the next lot.”

Liebrich was speaking at the 6th Investment Summit on Climate Risk, held at the U.N. on Wednesday. This summit brought together nearly 500 private investors, pension managers and bankers who listened to speakers repeat two bottom lines: climate change must be diminished, and there’s money to be made in avoiding it.

But as the alternative energy sector consolidates and matures, a safer investment environment offers little immediate respite for residents in at-risk countries, where the last year has seen record temperatures in Australia, massive floods in South Sudan and in the Philippines, the most powerful storm ever recorded.

“Even without climate change, we would be moving towards lower carbon energy matrixes,” said Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. “But climate puts an urgency factor there that we otherwise would not have. We know that if we delay in being able to balance the global energy matrix, we may be facing very, very serious threats to the global economy.”

The Earth Hour City Challenge Jury:

  • Gino van Begin, Secretary General of ICLEI
  • Martha Delgado, General Director of the Secretariat of the Global Cities Covenant on Climate
  • Christiana Figueres, UNFCCC Executive Secretary
  • Simon Giles, Senior Principal Intelligent Cities, Accenture Global, Accenture
  • Dan Hoornweg, Professor and Jeff Boyce Research Chair, Faculty of Energy Systems and Engineering, University of Ontario Institute of Technology
  • Pietro Laureano, architect and urban planner, UNESCO consultant
  • Conor Riffle, Head of CDP Cities
  • Aromar Revi, Director, Indian Institute of Human Settlements
  • John F. Cook, Executive Director, US-Mexico Border Mayors Association
  • Alexandre Meira da Rosa, Manager of Infrastructure and Environment Sector, Inter-American Development Bank
  • Gil-hong Kim, Director Sustainable Infrastructure Division, Asian Development Bank
  • Seth Schulz, Director Research, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group