U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu urged officials from the Americas on Monday to throw their weight behind a new initiative to reduce carbon emissions and make cities in the Western Hemisphere more energy efficient.

Chu launched the Low Carbon Communities of the Americas program at an event on energy and climate change that was put together after presidents at the Fifth Summit of the Americas in April agreed to collaborate more on green energy issues.

The Obama administration is pushing renewable energy and energy-saving technologies, and Chu encouraged other countries to participate in the new program.

The cities of our hemisphere are growing rapidly. How these cities develop will determine the carbon footprint for the region for generations to come, he told participants at the event in Peru's capital by video link.

We must pursue energy efficiency as aggressively as possible for both economic and environmental reasons. Energy efficiency is the most cost effective way of combating climate change.

Chu said the initiative will include financial support from the U.S. Department of Energy and technical support from U.S. national labs to identify effective policies and technologies that cities in the hemisphere can adopt.

He outlined several ways cities could reduce carbon emissions through better urban planning and modern materials.

One simple step I want to examine is by using white and light colors for roofs and pavement, he said.

So-called cool roofs and cool pavements can reduce air conditioning bills, make our homes and cities more comfortable in hot weather, and offset greenhouse gas emissions by reflecting more sunlight back into space instead of trapping that heat in the atmosphere.

(Reporting by Terry Wade; Editing by Christian Wiessner)