- Targeting super-emitters in cities can make the biggest impact on a country’s greenhouse gas emissions without sacrificing the economy, according to a study in "Science Advances."
- By analyzing emissions data from China, researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich, England found cities with energy production and manufacturing had higher carbon dioxide outputs than service-based or tech-focused cities. Targeting emissions cuts at the top 5% of polluters in a city could reduce a country’s total emissions by 30%, according to the researchers’ model.
- "Everything practical that you would need to do to reduce emissions happens at a city level,” Dabo Guan, a professor of climate change economics at UEA and the report's lead author, said in a statement. “Rather than creating low-carbon pathways at a national level, we need a pathway for each city.”
The United Nations Paris climate change agreement focused on national emissions goals, but emphasized the role that cities would need to play. After President Trump announced the U.S. would leave the agreement, cities have stepped up to push back — more than 200 mayors joined the We Are Still In coalition to commit to the goals of the Paris climate accords and have added the We Are Taking Action initiative to push local climate action. Cities have set their own goals for clean energy and emissions reductions, often above what states and the federal government had proposed.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has been a leader of the coalition, used a May speech at the Smart Cities New York 2018 conference to encourage leaders to take action on climate change and other issues. "I always say to my dear friends in cities all over this country and all over the world: look at your own power, understand it fully, utilize it fully," de Blasio said.
The UEA researchers caution their study data — which came from the Chinese Emissions Accounts and Datasets program — requires further verification from local governments. But it does present a guide for cities — identify the top emitting sources, like factories or power plants, and improve them with control technologies. That, they say, would limit the overall economic impact by taking a localized look at the pollution reduction, as opposed to a top-down national strategy.
The improvements also don’t have to be limited to the biggest economies. A March report by global risk management company DNV GL found mid-sized cities are often setting more ambitious goals and making bigger strides on sustainability. "What we find is that these mid-size cities can be more nimble because they're slightly smaller organizations," report author Betty Seto told Smart Cities Dive at the time. "I think what mega cities can learn from is how do you promote intra-departmental collaboration in an efficient way."