- Cities are "key implementers" of policies that will help avert the worst consequences of climate change, according to a new guide from 18 authors of the latest United Nations (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. The guide — released by The Global Covenant of Mayors and C40 Cities — says that without action from cities, “there will be no limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”
- Cities will be home to an estimated two-thirds of the world’s population by 2050, and already account for roughly three-quarters of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the UN.
- In order to limit warming below the 1.5 degree threshold, emissions from buildings in 2050 will need to be between 80% and 90% lower than today, while energy use from transportation will need to be about 30% lower than today’s levels. Measures like building codes, energy efficiency measures and public transit are among the urban strategies that can meet those goals, the report recommends.
The policy guide builds on October’s IPCC report, which warned of catastrophic consequences if temperatures rose higher than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and said policymakers needed to take extreme action to restrict emissions to avoid them. Countries are currently gathered in Poland for the United Nations Climate Conference, where delegates failed to adopt the findings of the IPCC report.
Cities have always been key to meeting the goals of the UN Paris climate accord, since their economic engines produce a substantial share of carbon emissions, and urban leaders generally have more direct control over policy to combat climate change. The new guide lays out a suite of potential policy options for cities, including transitioning to low-carbon energy, reducing food waste, encouraging efficient building and adopting cleaner transportation sources. Cities should also invest in technology to reduce and sequester carbon from the atmosphere, the report says.
A recent survey from the U.S. Conference of Mayors found that 60% of cities had adopted or expanded a climate policy in the prior 12 months, including many focused on renewable energy. In the absence of U.S. federal leadership, many cities have taken up the goals of the Paris agreement through the "We Are Still In" coalition.
However, the policy guide recognizes that funding can be a challenge, since taxes often flow to the top levels of government and current capital investments can’t support the necessary changes to urban infrastructure. Advanced financing and partnerships can drive more money, and “directing public investments towards mitigation and adaptation can mobilize” other investors, the report recommends.
“Cities are ready to lead on the transformations necessary to secure the future that we want, the future we can trust,” Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, the chair of C40 Cities, said in a statement.