Cities are the cause of climate change, but part of the solution – UN report

A general view of the city skyline of Indonesia’s capital Jakarta, Indonesia, May 19, 2021. REUTERS/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana

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April 4 (Reuters) – Cities are driving man-made climate change that threatens the global environment but also offers hope.

That’s the overarching message of a chapter on cities in a major UN report on climate change released on Monday, providing city planners around the world with pointers to avert climate catastrophe.

“The fact that cities are responsible for more than two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions means that if cities do something, they can solve two-thirds of the problem. So that’s pretty exciting,” he said. Karen Seto, professor at Yale University. School of the Environment and one of the two main coordinating authors of the report’s chapter on cities.

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Many cities around the world have already taken action. Mexico has banned plastic bags. Minneapolis, Minnesota eliminated zoning of single-family homes to promote density. Paris has banned diesel cars.

“Every city can do something, and not every city will do the exact same thing,” Seto said. “Not all cities need to look the same. Not all buildings need to be tall.”

According to the report’s experts, cities, especially small and medium-sized cities in Asia and Africa that will experience the strongest growth this century, offer the opportunity to reduce dependence on the automobile, to use environmentally friendly building materials and capture runoff water.

Cities can become havens of urban forests, street trees and green roofs, which will not only sequester and store carbon, but also induce a cooling effect that will reduce energy demand and energy consumption for water treatment, according to the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Urban density also avoids rural and suburban sprawl, which is less energy efficient and destroys natural habitats.

“The 21st century will be the urban century, defined by a massive increase in global urban populations,” the report said, noting that 55% of the world’s population lived in urban areas in 2018, a figure that is expected to rise to 68% by 2018. here 2050.

At the same time, however, “the global trend towards urbanization also offers a critical near-term opportunity to advance climate-resilient development.”

The report focuses on mitigation, noting that mitigating climate change in cities will have an outsized effect on surrounding areas and help improve the mental and physical health of city dwellers.

As with the overall direction of the global report, the authors call on governments and industry to act with extreme urgency and make significant new funding commitments.

Urban areas generated 67% to 72% of carbon dioxide and methane emissions in 2020, up from 62% in 2015. Without any mitigation efforts, the gross amount of urban emissions could double from 2020 to 2050, according to The report.

But with aggressive and immediate mitigation policies, urban greenhouse gas emissions could approach net zero by 2050.

Home to generally more affluent people, urban cities emit more greenhouse gases.

Of the additional 2.5 billion people expected to live in cities by mid-century, 90% of the increase will take place in Africa and Asia, forcing more advanced economies and multinational corporations to finance development green.

Capital will be needed to promote carbon sequestration, avoid emissions and reduce energy consumption.

Seto said she is optimistic because consumers and investors in the “global north” are demanding sustainability and because the cost of new technologies such as photovoltaics and batteries for electric vehicles is falling.

“The cost of the status quo is worse than doing nothing,” Seto said.

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Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Donna Bryson and Leslie Adler

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Teresa H. Sadler