Cities are where climate change is both fuelled and felt: urban areas generate 70 percent of the globe’s CO2, while at the same time 80% of city dwellers are regularly exposed to unsafe air quality.
Indeed, cities are essential to fighting climate change, according to new research. It is both a major contributor to the problem, but also, with the right policy, the potential saviour when it comes to cutting carbon emissions.
Toward a Healthier World, a new report released by C40, a global network of cities committed to confronting climate change, argues that progressive urban policy can not only make a significant dent in the problem, but benefit the economy at the same time.
“This research quantifies and provides the business case for what mayors have long known to be true: taking bold climate action also improves public health,” C40 executive director Mark Watts said in a statement. “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.”
The new report laid out a series of actions C40’s 96 member cities could take now that would have significant impact, touching nearly every aspect of urban policy. Many cities have experimented with, or enacted, a handful of these policies, suggesting that, taken one by one, they’re far from fringe suggestions.
They include revamping transportation systems to bolster walking, cycling, and mass transit, as well as prioritizing transit-oriented development and introducing zero-emission districts in cities. A number of mayors have already pledged to create carbon-free zones, including in Barcelona, Paris, Seattle, and Mexico City, and an earlier C40 report showed that 27 cities around the globe have already seen their emission peak, suggesting it is possible to combine growth and emissions reductions.
Transportation has become a central issue, if not the core issue, for cities seeking to claim an environmentally progressive mantle and truly start cutting their environmental footprints. In the United States, in particular, while cities such as Sacramento have begun experimenting with reducing the share of trips taken with cars, more action needs to be taken to alter the transportation system if cities have any hopes of meeting their emissions reductions targets.