C40: A Global Climate Organization 

 Written by Ashley Sherman 

Brian Yeoman, C40 City Director for Houston, acts as a liaison and directly assists the city of Houston on projects focused on issues such as energy efficiency, transportation, sustainability, and waste management.“The original dream was to place in each of the world’s forty cities, a person such as myself with some level of technical experience, to serve as the relationship manager and help cities do large-scale environmental projects”. Prior to becoming involved with the Clinton Climate Initiative and subsequently the C40 organization, Yeoman acted as the Chief Facilities and Procurement Officer for the University of Texas Health Sciences Center Houston where he became an early adopter of sustainability practices. Under his tenure, the first Houston LEED gold building was built. After a brief attempt at retirement, Yeoman was recruited by the Houston Advanced Research Center to create a green building team to work on projects across the nation. Due to his vast experience and relationships with both the public and private sector, Yeoman was chosen to head CCI and now C40 initiatives in the city of Houston, aiding in then-Mayor Bill White’s and current Mayor Annise Parker’s goal of transforming Houston from the “energy capital to the energy conservation capital”. 

One of the initial projects Yeoman worked to implement in the city of Houston was the installation of a small device called a VendingMyser in all of the city’s vending machines. Yeoman describes the project as “a wonderful example of an opportunity to install energy efficiency projects, to demonstrate the power of that and do it in a really non-threatening way”. Moreover, the projected savings would generate over a million dollars in revenue across a ten-year period, greatly surpassing the cost of the devices and labor.  The success of this endeavor spurred additional support from the city and led to a project that replaced the incandescent light bulbs in traffic signals at 2,457 intersections throughout Houston with LEDs. By investing in technology, the city saves over 10,000 dollars a day in electricity costs. The longevity of LEDs also dramatically reduces citizen inconvenience caused by repeated maintenance. 

Evolving from there, Mayor White committed to an energy efficiency building retrofit program for municipal buildings, an enormous undertaking.  Twelve other mayors involved in C40 did the same. The project is still ongoing, expected to enter the next phase, covering many of the public libraries, in the coming months. Thus far, the city of Houston has created savings of over 22 million-kilowatt hours of electricity per year and has completed six million square feet. Yeoman talks of the multitude of successes associated with the program, including “massive greenhouse gas emission reductions, reduction in natural gas usage, and water conservation”.

In addition to the strides made in energy efficiency and conservation, Houston has made dramatic changes in the transportation arena, particularly in regard to the usage of electric vehicles. The city of Houston worked with companies, including Ecotality and NRG, to secure charging stations and set up infrastructure. A significant landmark was the development of the Houston Fleet Share. This program consolidated cars from individual departments to create a singular fleet of electric vehicles. The Tranquility Parking Garage is the largest single installation of charging stations in the United States.

Over the past few years, Houston has been repeatedly recognized for its sustainability initiatives; however, many citizens are unaware of the vast accomplishments the city has made in this area. Yeoman describes Houston as “one of the most successful stories in the C40”, emphasizing the unwavering support the initiatives have had across two mayoral administrations. Recently Houston has garnered international recognition for winning the Mayor’s Challenge, organized by Bloomberg Philanthropies, for the city’s one bin recycling system. Houston also received the 2012 Financial Times/ Citi Ingenuity Award for the success the city had in organizing the Green Office Challenge and encouraging private sector energy efficiency. Perhaps the most significant change that the city has not received any accolades for is the continued commitment to supporting green energy. The city of Houston is the largest municipal purchaser of green power in the United States. Just a few weeks ago, Mayor Annise Parker announced that the city would further increase its blend of power to be composed of fifty percent wind.

The future of C40 includes a transformation that Yeoman describes as “changing from one focused on projects and direct assistance into one under the notion of networks, that is reinforcing the idea that this organization is created by cities for cities”. By focusing on initiatives, the organization has been expanding knowledge and creating best practices, utilizing the myriad of data available to cities to help determine what can truly make the biggest impact. Yeoman values the global network, stressing the importance of “direct city-to-city conversations in which ideas are being exported to help address problems”. The projects you see implemented in the city of Houston could soon be seen on the streets of Bogota or Shanghai. C40 puts Houston at the center of the world stage, and that global connection will continue to be invaluable.