What Australian cities can do to curb global warming

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change paints a disturbing picture. Unless there are immediate and deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors and regions, limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees is beyond our reach. In fact, the last decade has seen the largest decadal increase in greenhouse gas emissions of all time and, without significantly strengthening our existing policies, they are expected to continue to rise, resulting in an average global warming of 3.2 degrees. 2100.

We are not on track to meet our targets and the consequences go beyond climate change. The report says that without ambitious reduction, sustainable development is also not achievable.

Cities are on the front line in the fight against climate change,Credit:Kate Geraghty

To reverse the trend, the next 5 to 10 years are critical and our cities will be on the front line.

Cities are responsible for more than two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions, which have increased by 5-10% in the period 2015-2020 alone. The highest per capita emissions are typically found in the world’s wealthiest cities, while the fastest growth rates are found in cities experiencing rapid economic growth. Meeting the infrastructure needs of rapidly urbanizing populations in developing countries could result in significant carbon emissions. For example, providing developing cities with the same level of infrastructure enjoyed by residents of today’s OECD countries on a ‘business as usual’ basis could mean a further increase 226 gigatonnes of CO2 by 2050.

Australian cities in particular have it all, boasting one of the highest per capita emissions in the world, while growing rapidly. This means that Australian cities must excel on all fronts: 100% renewable energy, carbon-free transport, better waste management, carbon-free construction and climate-friendly culture. As our major cities are also exposed to serious risks such as coastal flooding, flooding and fires – all exacerbated by climate change – the stakes are high.


Cities must seek to kill several birds with one stone. For example, building green infrastructure in cities such as green parks and green roofs is a great way to absorb carbon emissions, support biodiversity and other ecosystem functions, while helping to mitigate impacts. extreme heat waves caused by climate change. Australian cities already generally enjoy a high level of greenery, and our research in Melbourne shows that every extra bit of urban greenery counts.

The IPCC report also highlights the potential for 40-70% emission reductions in the way people buy and use goods and services. For example, switching to more plant-based diets and reducing food waste could reduce emissions in the food sector by up to 44%, and switching to active transportation and living in comfortable but more small has the potential to reduce two-thirds of emissions in each of these sectors.

Changing lifestyle does not necessarily mean individual sacrifice. Research shows that these measures also provide high levels of health and wellness benefits. Cities can provide the structural conditions and cultural changes needed to facilitate individual choices.

Teresa H. Sadler