The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the United Nations Environment Programme's Regional Office for North America (UNEP RONA) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) have announced a new initiative to highlight the important role of buildings and cities in the green economy.

Scheduled to launch in Toronto at the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo on Oct. 4-6, the "Road to Rio+20" initiative will engage private sector leaders, civil society and local government officials in highlighting examples of the green economy in action, with a focus on energy efficiency in buildings and sustainable cities. Events will take place in locations across North America throughout the coming year.

In June 2012, Rio de Janeiro will host the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, also called "Rio+20" as it marks the 20th anniversary of the 1992 UN Earth Summit. The Road to Rio+20 effort will raise awareness of the Rio conference and discuss sector-based challenges and solutions related to buildings and cities in the broader context of shifting to a green economy-a central theme of the conference. While showcasing regional examples of innovation, the events will also facilitate discussion of positive governmental actions and concrete outcomes linked with Rio+20.

During a July speech hosted by the USGBC at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Sha Zukang spoke about the importance of the Rio+20 conference and highlighted key opportunities to make progress toward a sustainable future. Mr. Zukang called on the audience of high-ranking officials representing the Obama Administration, ambassadors from China and Brazil, major corporations, academia, the scientific community, non-governmental organizations and civil society to show leadership in contributing to a successful conference.

"Rio+20 offers a unique opportunity to jumpstart progress toward green economies, not only at the global, regional and national levels, but at the city level as well" said Amy Fraenkel, director and regional representative of UNEP. "With more than half of the world's population now living in urban areas, UNEP's Regional Office for North America is excited to be working with the USGBC and the WBCSD to build momentum towards effective outcomes on sustainable cities and green buildings at this historic conference."

"The building sector, which makes up approximately 15 percent of annual U.S. GDP and accounts for over a third of greenhouse gas emissions, is a critical economic sector to examine in the lead up to Rio +20," said Roger Platt, svp global policy and law at USGBC. "Our goal is that this collaborative effort between USGBC and two global heavyweights in the field of sustainability will move the green economy debate forward locally and globally, and support efforts to make green cities and buildings pillars of sustainable economic development in all regions of the world."

"Rio+20 offers an opportunity for all sectors to collaborate on creating a green economy," noted Christian Kornevall, director of the Energy Efficiency in Buildings Project at WBCSD. "Among other things, we're pushing for the uptake of energy efficiency in buildings and more sustainable cities as ideal vehicles, not only to reduce CO2 emission and increase energy savings, but also to stimulate job creation and economic growth."

To find out more and to see the Road to Rio +20 event schedule, please