Report: Mid-size cities 'leading the way' on sustainability, lowering carbon emissions
- A report by global risk management company DNV GL found while larger cities attract more headlines, significant leadership and innovation on climate change and sustainability is happening in mid-size cities.
- Betty Seto, head of DNV GL's Sustainable Buildings and Communities Department and the report's author, said that goals like an 80% reduction in emissions by 2030 in Palo Alto, CA; a 60% reduction in emissions by 2025 in Groningen in the Netherlands by 2025; and Adelaide, Australia's goal of being carbon neutral by 2025; go "far and beyond the Paris agreement," and show that some believe international pacts do not go far enough.
- The report studied 10 cities from around the world and found cities are increasing staffing on climate change and adding new programs, although they need to work on financing these goals and ensuring that energy systems and buildings are resilient in the face of extreme weather or other major events.
This research echoes similar reports which have found, regardless of size, a city can achieve sustainable energy solutions. Cities across the United States have promised to uphold the global Paris Climate Agreement despite President Trump pulling the country out last year, and Seto said mid-size cities have looked to seize the initiative and set ambitious targets in the face of what they think is "inconsistent international leadership."
But, Seto said, cities need to look more at their resiliency plans and make sure extreme events do not clobber any new infrastructure designed to improve energy efficiency. And the report found that while installing solar energy has been a key point of emphasis for mid-size cities, they now must play catch-up on storing energy and providing infrastructure to cope with electric vehicles (EVs).
The report also calls on cities to experiment more with pilot programs, and to explore new business and revenue models, including public-private partnerships with private companies. Those go hand-in-hand, as one major stumbling-block for greater EV use is the lack of charging infrastructure. Although, earlier this year Spokane, WA looked to waive fees around charging stations.
And Seto said larger cities can learn from mid-size cities by being flexible when dealing with problems and engaging multiple departments at one time in working groups and other ad hoc bodies.
"What we find is that these mid-size cities can be more nimble because they're slightly smaller organizations," she said. "I think what mega cities can learn from is how do you promote intra-departmental collaboration in an efficient way."
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