With constant competition for scarce resources, the development and implementation of bold climate action plans can be a difficult endeavor for city leaders. One solution to this problem is to focus on solutions, which rely less on resources, and more on changing the behavior of residents. Some cities around the globe have begun to experiment with this concept by nudging their residents towards cycling rather than driving.
Transportation accounts for over a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions—much of that coming from vehicle exhaust in some of the world’s biggest cities. To address this problem, cities large and small are collaborating to nudge people to use alternative forms of transportation that are less expensive, require less infrastructure, and have a decreased carbon footprint. Options that cities are now considering range from more busses and shuttles, to greater networks of subways. However, one option that is particularly attractive is encouraging residents to make the switch to bicycles.
Getting residents to change their behavior may be free, and may seem like a silver bullet. However, the process is a tall order, and nudging residents to trade their BMWs for bikes will require strong leadership. To help mayors and city leaders promote more cycling in their communities, ecoAmerica has conducted important research on how to communicate about climate change. Community leaders should focus on how less cars will reduce harmful pollutants, and will improve the health of their city and the health of families. Fewer cars will decongest city streets, and therefore commute times. In short, it will have a real impact on improving the lives of city residents.
Mayors and community leaders must act to promote these climate solutions. Find out how by visiting Path to Positive Communities.
Home to more than half of the planet’s 7 billion people and a large portion of its 1.2bn cars, cities face a huge challenge as the world strives to meet the Paris climate goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. Cutting emissions in cities is critical: they make up only 2% of the world’s total land area, but produce up to 70% of its climate emissions from human activity, according to a 2011 United Nations report.
As they work to reduce emissions, governments and public agencies – which often lack the resources to tackle the weighty global warming problem alone – are increasingly looking to the private sector for help, says Robert Puentes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program thinktank.
“Tackling climate change – particularly from a transportation perspective – will require these kinds of partnerships largely because traditional governments and public agencies are underperforming,” Puentes said. “The public sector often does not have the capacity or expertise to design, finance, execute and sustain policies that work, so these partnerships are helping fill the vacuum with a new kind of problem solving.”