While national governments fumble attempts to make progress on climate targets, a growing number of organizations are calling on cities to pursue bold action. This comes as an increasing number of research institutes have found that cities alone can make substantial progress in combating climate change.
While unable to make sweeping rules and regulations regarding fossil fuels, cities are able to greatly affect the transportation and building industries—two of the largest emitters of greenhouse gasses. Multiple reports issued by the Stockholm Environment Institute and the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group hone in on practical measures that cities can take to make a difference on climate change.
- Reduce energy demands: Cities should incentivize reductions in heating and air conditioning in buildings. They can mandate efficiency standards in lighting and insulated windows. By retrofitting dated buildings, and requiring more stringent standards for new construction, cities can drive down energy use and the need for energy from dirty energy sources.
- Transform transportation: Cities should facilitate transportation solutions that make the lives of residents better. Bike lanes, mass transportation systems, and more walkable urban areas will take cars off the road—decreasing congestion and pollution.
The role of cities in combating climate change will continue to grow as populations shift to urban areas. Mayors and municipal officials must lead efforts to capitalize on the opportunities that climate change adaptation and resilience measures offer. Strong leadership will determine how well communities are prepared for a changing climate. To find out more about how your city can take the lead, check out what other mayors are doing and join their efforts at Path to Positive Communities.
Cities in the U.S.. can’t set fuel-economy standards for private cars. They don’t get to decide whether to extract fossil fuels from the prairies and mountains where deposits generally are found. And most don’t get to determine whether their electricity comes from coal or clean sources. And yet there is a lot they can do to combat climate change. A pair of reports released this week illustrate that even if national governments aren’t making big enough commitments to avert catastrophic climate change, cities can make a significant contribution to the cause.
Local governments regulate the two biggest sources of carbon emissions: buildings and transportation. Local building codes and incentive programs can greatly affect the energy efficiency of new and retrofitted buildings, and they can govern everything from windows to lighting fixtures. By reducing demand for heat, air-conditioning, and electricity, cities can hugely reduce emissions from burning coal and gas for electricity and oil and gas for heat. And while cities can’t control what kinds of cars their citizens own, they have a lot of power over how many miles those cars get driven. Adopting zoning codes that encourage dense, mixed-use neighborhoods with walkable, bikeable streets, and investing in mass transit and transit-oriented development, can dramatically reduce driving. So can changing parking regulations. For decades, cities have required new developments to build parking, which subsidizes and incentivizes driving, when we should be doing the opposite.
Stay connected and get updates from Path to Positive.Subscribe