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CHICAGO-The Clinton Foundation and GE Real Estate Wednesday morning took a major bite out of the 19% of carbon emissions dumped into the air by our nation’s stock of commercial assets. During his keynote address at GreenBuild 2007, former President Bill Clinton revealed a joint venture with GE to retrofit its entire global portfolio and “to build sustainability into the investment criteria across the entire portfolio.” GreenBuild is sponsored by the US Green Building Council.

To put the initiative into perspective, Clinton told the standing-room-only crowd that GE represents some $72 billion of assets in 32 countries. He stated that the foundation would be “working with building managers around the world” to retrofit the stock to LEED standards.

The initiative, he explained, would start in five cities. He did not enumerate which cities these would be.

Much of Clinton’s speech focused on the economic benefits of going green and that the current environmental situation is as much opportunity as crisis. He noted that he saw GE as a sort of model for what the real estate community can do. The ex-president noted that, “Once we prove through economies of scale that this can be done, others will follow our lead.”

He used his time at the podium to unveil as well a number of school districts that have joined his foundation’s Green Schools program. The school districts of Miami/Dade County in Florida and the entire school system in the state of Kansas are the latest to sign up.

Ron Pressman, president and CEO of GE, said the size of the business necessitates action. “We recognize that the building sector is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, with commercial buildings producing between 30% to 40% of these emissions annually,” he said in a statement. The company’s overall commitment will including evaluating acquired properties for environmental improvement retrofits, tracking energy and environmental metrics on assets and using the LEED framework as a benchmark, sharing green learning and best practices with customers and business partners.

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