Why cities have a crucial role to play in tackling climate change

23 May 2007

by Alex Fernside, Cities Program Manager

Returning from the C40 Large Cities Climate Summit in New York, Cities Programme Manager, Alex Fearnside, writes on the key issues.

Thankfully, it's now widely accepted that if we are to avoid the full impacts of climate change - increased security risks, more frequent floods and drought, reduced water availability and quality, extreme heat and rising rates of infectious diseases - we need to achieve a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Furthermore, these reductions need to start by 2015.

Now consider that our urban environments are home to some 50 percent of global population and are responsible for 75 percent of global fossil fuel use and its associated greenhouse gas emissions. Add to this the fact that the global urban population is growing by approximately 75 million people per year; which is the equivalent of the combined population of the world's eight largest cities - Seoul, Sao Paulo, Mumbai, Karachi, Jakarta, Moscow, Istanbul and Mexico City. By 2030 the world's urban population will reach five billion, a 36 percent increase over today's figure, the vast majority of which will occur in so called developing countries.

These facts show that we face a considerable challenge - the imperative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, whilst housing and feeding a rapidly growing urbanised population, and ensuring that our cities can adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate change. They also show that if we can not reduce our emissions from cities, then we will not win the fight against climate change.

This is an extraordinary challenge and one that is the focus of a number of high profile summits and conferences in 2007, for example the C40 Large Cities Summit which just took place in New York. These events are all working towards the same broad goal - helping cities to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. I am confident that these are playing a critical role in our fight against climate change; they are raising awareness of solutions and providing critical networks for implementation. However, it is the follow-up and the implementation after these events that is of utmost importance.

The °Climate Group is working with a range of cities and partners to ensure that this follow-up and implementation will lead to real and lasting cuts in climate change emissions.

For Further Information please contact Alex Fearnside, email: afearnside@theclimategroup.org

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