25 Years of ICLEI

A Reflection of Our Past Successes and Looking Forward to More

When ICLEI was first established in 1990, the concept of local government action on global environmental problems was highly exotic. The local elected officials and environmental managers who first gathered to support ICLEI’s establishment were often lone voices in their cities and counties.

During the ensuing decade, with early support from our municipal members, the United States, Environmental Protection Agency, and charitable foundations, ICLEI played a foundational role building the political mandate and capacity of U.S. municipalities to address complex new issues such as climate change and sustainability. We created the first software tools for local greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories, organized the first municipal green building collaboratives, facilitated the introduction of hydrogen fuel buses into the Chicago transit fleet…but most of all, ICLEI supported the establishment of new municipal managers, offices, and budgets   created solely with environmental action as the focus.

A natural outcome of such success is the maturing of a new cadre of environmental leaders, who see such action as core to their jurisdictional mandate. They have developed their own niche in this no-longer-fringe domain, and we welcome their commitment and collaboration so that together we may achieve more. Thus, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels launched the Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement in 2005. The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group was launched in the same year.  Similarly, the environmental and sustainability directors that did not exist in the 1990s would secure large budgets and seek more extensive expertise and support in new networks and partnerships.   We have existing partnerships with all of these groups and hope to facilitate more in future years.

Looking back, what is remarkable about ICLEI, both in the USA and globally, is that the organization has nonetheless remained at the forefront of the domain it first established 25 years ago. As illustrated by ICLEI USA’s 2014 Annual Report, we continue to provide the most effective software tools and technical guidance on local GHG management, and have a strong 2015 strategy set in place. We manage the global reporting center to which all the major city associations direct their member’s reports. We have remained at the forefront of the local resilience and climate adaptation challenge, whether through our involvement with the White House Task Force on Resilience, the annual convening of the Resilient Cities’ Congress, or our extensive collaboration with the Rockefeller Foundation’s Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network.

ICLEI USA has demonstrated its own resilience, and we expect that it will continue to grow and add value for another 25 years. Our sustained leadership in the United States has rested on the dedication of our staff, and on the support, expertise, and exposure that our staff gains from municipal members and professionals in ICLEI’s worldwide organization. As Chairperson and President of the ICLEI USA Board of Directors, we applaud the ICLEI team’s sustained commitment to continue to build  tools and capacity for environmental action that we started building in 1990.



Valerie Brown, Chair of the ICLEI-USA Board

& Jeb Brugmann, President of ICLEI-USA Board and ICLEI Founder