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C40 climate conference: cities should lead the fight against climate change

Zhang Ni | 2014-02-27 | Hits:

Climate change may wipe out some islands and even some coastal cities. Tuvalu, an island country in the Pacific, is under such threaten.

Being a nexus of strong capabilities, advanced technology and political will, cities are well poised to be at the forefront of efforts to combat climate change, stressed C40’s report Climate Action in Megacities. The second version of a same-titled report published three years earlier, 2014’s report was released at the fifth C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group Mayors Summit, held in Johannesburg, South Africa on February 4-6. Themed “Towards Resilient and Liveable Megacities–Demonstrating Action, Impact and Opportunity”, the conference addressed key issues such as making cities adaptable, resilient and livable, and the socioeconomic development of emerging megacities.

The second version of Climate Action in Megacities tracks specific actions taken to address climate change, with an emphasis on how mayors have tried to implement policy or work around resistance. It is based off of data on current and planned climate action research in 59 of C4’s 63 member cities, covering transportation, energy use, water management, the economy and sustainable development.

“We are living in a rapidly urbanizing world,” said Benoit Lefevre, director of the Transport and Climate Initiative for EMBARQ at the World Resources Institute. “Over 50% of the world’s population lives in urban areas and that number is on the rise. Between 2011 and 2050 the population living in urban areas is expected to increase from 3.6 billion to 6.3 billion.”

Lefevre pointed out that while cities are main emitters of greenhouse gases, they are also “the locus of technological, institutional, and societal innovation and produce innovative policies.” He then stressed that because of their economic and demographic importance, cities, and particularly megacities, will play an important role in driving and focusing future climate change policy.

Matthew A. Turner, a professor from the Department of Economics at the University of Toronto, also observed the contradictory role cities have in propagating and combating emissions. Population increase necessarily comes with increased carbon emissions, he said, but on the other hand, the accumulation of wealth, technology and human resources will enable cities to improve environmental quality.

Philipp Rode, senior research fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science and executive director of LSE Cities, asserted that cities should take a leading role in developing the green economy regardless of a country’s level of development. Addressing the gap between green policies and their implementation for many cities, he qualified that some cities do not have strong enough economies to support environmental policies.

Rode also said that many cities do not take the measures they could because, though aware of the significance of developing a green economy, neither the private nor public sector has put these programs on top of its investment list. Many industries are not willing to change their current business models for fear of the damage to their short-term interests, he added. He believes that real progress requires individuals and groups’ consumption habits to be further veered toward those of a low-carbon lifestyle.


The Chinese version appeared in Chinese Social Sciences Today, No. 560,February 17, 2014
                                                                                                                                                  Translated by Jiang Hong
                                                                                                                          Revised by Charles Horne