Cities, on front lines of climate change, can make outsized difference

Air pollution in Paris; a new C40 report suggests that cities have the potential to make a significant dent in carbon emissions.

A new C40 report argues cities can boost the economy while
responding to pressing climate change crisis

Cities will be the front lines in fighting climate change,
according to new research released today, both oversized
contributors to the problem, but also, with the right policy,
potential saviors when it comes to cutting carbon emissions.


Towards a Healthier World
, a new report released by C40, a
global network of cities committed to confronting climate change,
argues that progressive urban policy can not only make a
significant dent in the problem, but benefit the economy at the
same time.

“This research quantifies and provides the business case for
what mayors have long known to be true: taking bold climate action
also improves public health,” C40 Executive Director Mark Watts
said in a statement. “There is no longer any trade-off for cities
between delivering policies that benefit the environment, drive
economic growth and improve the health of citizens.”

Cities are where climate change is both fueled and felt: urban
areas generate 70 percent of the globe’s CO2, while at the same
time 80 percent of city dwellers are regularly exposed to unsafe
air quality. A recent World
Health Organization report
estimates that globally, 630 million
children under 5 years old are exposed to unsafe air.


Shutterstock Transportation is a key issue for cities seeking to
cut carbon emissions.

The last few months have brought a series of deathly serious
reports on the state of the Earth’s climate. The breadth and
depth of the climate change challenge has only ramped up debate on
what solutions to pursue, and the political will necessary to enact
such sweeping changes. A series of new reports seeks to answer that
question by positioning cities as a big part of the answer.

Between the Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change
(IPCC)’s October report, which says we have
just 12 years to limit devastating global warming, to last week’s

U.S. Climate Assessment
, a government report that detailed how
climate change is currently impacting the U.S. and its economy.

A game plan for cities to combat climate change

The new report laid out a series of actions C40’s 96 member
cities could take now that would have significant impact, touching
nearly every aspect of urban policy. Many cities have experimented,
or enacted, a handful of these policies, suggesting that, taken
one-by-one, they’re far from fringe suggestions.

They include revamping transportation systems to bolster
walking, cycling, and mass transit, as well as prioritizing
transit-oriented development and introducing zero-emission
districts in cities. A number of mayors have already
pledged to create carbon-free zones
, including Barcelona,
Paris, Seattle, and Mexico City, and an earlier C40 report showed
that 27 cities around the globe have
already seen their emission peak
, suggesting it is possible to
combine growth and emissions reductions.

Transportation has become a central issue, if not the core
issue. for cities seeking to claim an environmentally progressive
mantle and truly start cutting their environmental footprints. In
the United States, in particular, while cities such as Sacramento
have begun experimenting with reducing the
share of trips taken with cars
, more action needs to be taken
to
alter the transportation system
if cities have any hopes of
meeting their emissions reductions targets.

For building and zoning, cities need to introduce stringent
energy-efficiency standards and codes, and work to improve heating,
ventilation, and lighting via automation and controls to cut energy
usage. Industrial plants also need to be a focus of energy
efficiency retrofits and technology, especially emissions
capture.

Can cities seize the moment to make significant change?

If the steps laid out in the C40 report were to be taken, in
concert with a decarbonized energy grid, the result would be an 87
percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, 223,000 premature
deaths averted and $583 billion in economic benefit.

The report, funded in part by Johnson & Johnson Services,
Inc. and conducted by C40 in collaboration with BuroHappold and
Cambridge Environmental Research Consultants, hinges on some
significant steps, including decarbonizing the power grid.

But as awareness grows among citizens, as well as demand for
climate action—in the U.S., the
Green New Deal
has become one of the more discussed policy
proposals awaiting the newly elected Congress, and polling suggest
the public is
more receptive to climate action
—these policies may form the
backbone of a larger effort.

The scale of change required by any serious solution, as well as
the disruption expected from the impacts of climate change, will be
immense, especially for
coastal cities threatened by rising sea levels
.

“These systems transitions are unprecedented in terms of
scale, but not necessarily in terms of speed, and imply deep
emissions reductions in all sectors,” says the
IPCC report
.

But as C40’s plan suggests, in either case, cities will likely
be the front lines for fighting climate change.

Source: FS – All – Architecture 10
Cities, on front lines of climate change, can make outsized difference