Washington DC sets sights on sustainability sector

Washington DC has staked a claim as a sustainability leader, passing the most aggressive, fastest-acting climate change legislation in the United States.

The Clean Energy DC Act, the nation’s first 100 per cent renewable energy bill, requiring District utilities to source all electricity from wind and solar by 2032, was passed in December 2018 and puts the city at the forefront of sustainability discussions.

Indeed, Destination DC (DDC), the official destination marketing organisation for Washington, DC, is pitching for more meetings within the sustainability sector off the back of its strengths.

These include more LEED-certified buildings than any other city in the US. The American Geophysical Union’s 62,000sqft headquarters is the first-ever net zero energy renovation of an existing building in DC. The AGU – a community of Earth and space scientists that collaboratively advances and communicates science and its power to ensure a sustainable future – met in DC in December, gathering a record 28,000 attendees.

The city’s physical green assets are backed by a strong sustainability knowledge base. DC is home to seven universities with significant credentials in sustainability, and 35 associations, policy groups and advocacy organisations in the metro area focussing on sustainability. Its Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) employs some 300 engineers, biologists, toxicologists, geologists and environmental specialists.

Washington, DC is also part of the C40 initiative, a grouping of 90+ cities around the world dedicated to finding evidence-based and bold climate action solutions; while Mayor Muriel E. Bowser is a member of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy.

Innovation and investment in the sector is also encouraged, with the DC Green Bank using public purpose funding to attract private investment to expand renewable energy, lower energy costs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, create green jobs and enhance resilience. Potential Energy DC is an incubator of 16 organisations dedicated to propelling energy and sustainability startups in DC. Already some 20 domestic and international sustainable startups are present in the DC metro area, including Clean Choice Energy and Arcadia Power.

The sustainability focus from DDC forms part of its ‘Connected Capital’ strategy, which aligns its targets for meeting and business events with DC’s thriving industries. As well as the addition of sustainability, DDC is also now targeting events within the transportation and government advocacy sectors, as well as four existing sectors: technology, biotech/pharma, medical and education.  

Elliott L. Ferguson, II, president and CEO, DDC, says: “We want our customers to understand and benefit from the assets in Washington, DC that they can’t find anywhere else.”

Melissa A. Riley, vice president, convention sales and services, DDC adds: “Choosing DC means choosing a city where economics, culture and academics can all unite in one room.”

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