June 28, 2013
Major Cities Adapting to Climate Change
by Robert Kropp
A report by the Carbon Disclosure Project and the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group reveals that
many of the world’s largest cities have launched energy efficiency and other initiatives to lessen
the effects of climate change.
The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) is
justly hailed as an investor-backed initiative that has persuaded thousands of the world's
corporations to report to it on their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and emissions reduction
strategies. But in recent years CDP has expanded its outreach to include other major players in the
climate mitigation agenda, including cities.
CDP and C40 have collaborated on a
recently published report entitled Wealthier, healthier cities for which
representatives from 110 cities were surveyed on efforts to adapt to climate change and resource
scarcity. The results of the survey suggest that major cities are not waiting for action by
national governments before undertaking effective initiatives themselves.
The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group currently includes as
members 58 of the world's largest cities, 14 of which are located in North America, “taking action
to address climate change by developing and implementing policies and programs that generate
measurable reductions in both greenhouse gas emissions and climate risks,” according to the
How important is
it that cities undertake such initiatives? According to respondents, very much so: “98% of
reporting cities believe that their cities face physical risks from climate change, the highest
percentage of cities in the three year history of the CDP questionnaire,” the report states.
“Cities classify nearly half (48%) of these risks as both near-term and serious / extremely
Energy efficiency is often described as “the lowest of the lowest hanging fruit”
in efforts to reduce the effects of climate change, and many of the responding cities report that
energy efficiency is already reaping significant benefits. “One out of every two actions that
cities are taking to reduce emissions in their municipal operations is focused on efficiency,” the
report states. “Cities report over $40 million in savings per year from tackling climate change.”
According to the report, efficiency measures most frequently employed by cities include
reducing energy use in buildings, improving fuel efficiency in municipal vehicles, and lowering the
energy consumption and maintenance costs of outdoor lighting.
Energy efficiency and
other climate related efforts are also likely to attract business to the cities that enact such
measures. “We considered an activity to be helpful in making a city more attractive to business if
academic research suggests that it can have an impact on economic growth in a city,” the report
states. “Our analysis shows that 62% of all reported emissions reduction activities being
undertaken by cities have the potential to make cities more attractive to businesses.”
Additionally, climate adaptation efforts have the benefit of improving the health of the
citizens of cities. By improving infrastructure and reducing air pollution, “ actions to adapt to
climate change...will also protect life and health,” according to the report. And mitigation
efforts to reduce emissions can lead directly to improved citizen health. “More than half of
reporting cities (55%) are undertaking emissions reduction actions that directly or indirectly
promote walking and cycling,” the report states.
“Climate change action by city
governments can yield strong and clear advantages for their citizens and businesses beyond simply
being good for the planet,” the report concludes.
“Mayors are dealing head-on with the
need to safeguard their populations, infrastructure and economies from the increasingly severe
impacts of climate change,” Rohit Aggarwala, Special Advisor to New York City Mayor Michael
Bloomberg, said. “By reporting on their progress C40 Cities are holding themselves and each other
accountable for meeting the targets they set, and continuing to demonstrate unprecedented, global
leadership in taking real, measurable actions.”
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