National Academy for Housing and Sustainable Communities Meeting
French Embassy, July 9, 2014
Academy chair Kent Watkins,
Speaker Bruce Katz,
Cher Dave Stevens (CEO of the Mortgage Bank Association),
NVRC Chairman Bob Lazarro,
Dear Academy Fellows and Friends,
It is a great pleasure for our Counsellor for Sustainable Development Bruno Fulda, for my staff and for me to be here today with such a distinguished audience of academics, scholars and officials. I would like to welcome you all to the French Embassy for what we hope will be very fruitful discussions on a major issue.
In December next year, tens of thousands of delegates will gather in France, to tackle global warming issues at ‘Paris Climat 2015’, the 21st Conference of the Parties on climate change. This is our number 1 priority.
As you know, although cities cover less than 2% of the planet space-wise, they consume more than 60% of global energy supplies, and they generate more than 70% of the greenhouse gases that directly affect our climate.
Cities are a concentrate of energy consumption, transportation demand, and of risks and contingencies when facing massive natural disasters – one only needs to recall the damages inflicted by hurricane Sandy two years ago. The challenge is big : we need to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels, build our future cities in a sustainable way, reduce transportation needs, and further develop public transport. This would increase cities’ resilience to natural threats.
But cities also concentrate intelligence and innovative potential. Applying imagination to urban planning, transit arrangements, and building techniques is key to developing new models of economic and sustainable growth. In Indianapolis, for instance the French company Bolloré launched its electric car sharing service, as it has already done in France in Paris and Lyon.
Today people are capable not just of developing solutions to combat climate change, but also of sharing them. The U.S. has a lot to share. So has France, which has a long legacy of coping with climate change issues, great urban planners, imaginative public transportation financing options, and world-class transit operators.
We can share these solutions through regular conferences. But they also need to be implemented through more deeply-rooted cooperation, which will also help to build partnerships, such as the one I recently had the great pleasure of signing with the Governor of Virginia, Terry Mc Auliffe, – and I would like to take the opportunity to salute the Virginians present today. The first evidence of this cooperation that we both envisioned is a joint project in the field of sustainable cities, with two young French engineers embedded in the Northern Virginia Regional Commission.
That’s why we have decided to host at this embassy a binational conference on sustainable cities in October, to contribute to finding solutions to be proposed during ’Paris Climat 2015’.
Thank you for dedicating some of your time to preparing for this gathering in october, which I expect will make an important contribution to the Paris conference.
As some of you know, this is one of my last acts as ambassador of France to the United States of America. But the issue is dear to me. And in my new position as Representative of France to the United Nations, I shall very soon put as much attention and energy into this topic.
As we are gathered here today to join forces for such an important cause, I want to pay tribute to the late Jim Oberstar, who I know was a Fellow of your Academy, a very experienced and able legislator, and a great friend of France.
Congressman Oberstar’s commitment to French – American friendship was second to none and given his dedication to innovative and clean transportation technologies and to transit-oriented development, I am sure that his legacy will be a great asset to your work, including the forthcoming opening of the Silver Line to Dulles airport.
My warmest thanks again to each and everyone of you for joining us at the French Embassy today and for your commitment to promoting sustainable development.
I wish you a great and productive day./.