I N · T H I S · I S S U E
The Sister City Exchange
Shaking his head vigorously from side to side. What? Is he vehemently disagreeing with my last statement about New Zealand’s renewable energy potential?
New Zealand is rich in renewable energy: sun, wind, hydro, geothermal, tidal, and wave. I’d said that with this cornucopia of resources, and the country’s relatively small population, energy autarky is well within reach. This region can blast past energy self sufficiency and be a net renewable energy exporter.
I stop my presentation in its tracks: “Do you disagree?” I ask. He’s surprised to be singled out. “No.” He’d been in the moment and was wagging his head like a Greek in agreement! No, he strongly agrees that New Zealand has abundant renewable. Yes, the country is ripe for efficiency first supplemented with 100% renewable energy. Bring it on, and fast.
There I was, a California-based energy consultant sharing Palm Desert’s energy and environmental results to Gisborne, its Sister City. We’d travelled northeast from Wellington through hours of windy roads to get there. The seminar was held at the Gisborne District Council. It was a pleasure to serve as Palm Desert’s ambassador for the day and to present Palm Desert’s energy accomplishments to a very interested and engaged audience.
Gisborne officials had arranged a two-hour seminar in the Council chambers and had invited staff and key stakeholders in the community. About 20 people came. They were fascinated to hear about their Sister City’s accomplishments: A small city in California, home to 50,000 residents, can take initiative and have statewide and even national implications. Gisborne has 44,499 residents, about 1.2% of the New Zealand total.
I explained the Six Cities Energy Project and Community Energy Partnership, and presented the Estonia Protocol and the “30:30 program,” Palm Desert’s leadership with AB 811, promoting feed-in tariffs, and recent works with sustainability planning and climate action preparation. I wrapped my talk with a review of the City’s greenhouse gas inventory. Gisborne CEO Lindsay McKenzie was interested in how Palm Desert, a conservative city, takes such progressive actions on energy and the environment. .
Quick lunch with local entrepreneur and activist, and heading northwest. I reflected on the value of the exchange. I felt great about sharing; they appreciated it so. Value and synergy indeed; sister cities make sense. They provide perspective, jolt our creativity, and entice action. Sister City International dates back to 1956 and the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower. He supported people-to-people diplomacy. These officially sanctioned relations - like twin cities, friendship cities, and others - are long-term partnerships that foster meaningful exchanges. Partnered communities are formed in a number of ways such as common ethnic heritage, similar economic basis, and even because they share the same name: Toledo, Italy and Toledo, Ohio.