Cities are responsible for 70% of global CO2 emissions, largely through buildings and transportation.
A large part of fighting climate change will entail reducing the collective carbon footprints of cities worldwide, while ensuring cleaner air and higher quality of life for their residents, says a new report that examines the environmental impacts of urbanization worldwide.
Cities are responsible for 70% of global CO2 emissions, largely through energy consumption in buildings and transportation, notes the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group in its new “Towards a Healthier World” report. Buildings contribute more than half of CO2 emissions worldwide, with road traffic accounting for another 25%, the report points out.
Scaling back those vast amounts of CO2 emissions will be key in the fight against climate change in coming decades. New buildings in cities worldwide will have to be constructed in line with green building guidelines, while old ones will have to be retrofitted with energy-saving features. Simultaneously, electric and hybrid vehicles will have to be embraced in favor of current smoke-belching varieties propelled by the burning of fossil fuels.
Cities also remain constant sources of acute air and water pollution. They will also have to be made more livable for their inhabitants in an ever-urbanizing world in which two-thirds of the world’s population will be living in urban areas by 2050, according to the United Nations.
In low- and middle-income countries at present a shocking 97% of cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants fail to meet air quality guidelines set by the World Health Organization. Unless drastic measures are taken, chronic air pollution will continue to blight the lives of people in urban jungles, especially the lives of the urban poor.
“Before cities can begin to plan climate action, they must first establish a clear understanding of the problem – what are the main sources of both greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and air pollution?” the report’s authors explain. “These challenges are often understood from differing perspectives, and approached from different policy arenas. However, evidence shows that both the sources of climate change and air pollution are generally aligned and solutions should be found to address them simultaneously.”
In other words, by reducing the sources of CO2 emissions, such as the number of cars powered by fossil fuels, cities can also clean up their air. “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,” C40’s Executive Director Mark Watts stresses.