With many cities and regions around the world already demonstrating climate leadership, new research backs up the importance and huge potential benefits of urban areas going low-carbon. The report from New Climate Economy also finds the green measures would save massive amounts of money: US$17 trillion (over €15 trillion) by 2050, which is equivalent to one-fifth of global GDP. This could be bumped up to as much as $22 trillion if national low-carbon policies are also put in place. According to Nick Godfrey, Head of Policy and Urban Development at the New Climate Economy:
“US$17 trillion in savings is actually a very conservative estimate because it only looks at direct energy savings generated from investment, which are a small proportion of the wider social, economic, and environmental benefits of these investments.”
Annual global carbon emissions would drop by 3.7 gigatonnes per year by 2030 – the equivalent of India going zero-carbon – through investment in public and low emission transport, building efficiency, and waste management in cities. According to past-New York City Michael R. Bloomberg, now serving as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change:
“The steps that cities take to shrink their carbon footprints also reduce their energy costs, improve public health, and help them attract new residents and businesses. This report can help accelerate the progress cities are making in all of these areas, by highlighting smart policies and encouraging cooperation through efforts like the Compact of Mayors”.
This adds to the wealth of information already showing that less carbon means cleaner air, better health and significant business opportunities. Forward-looking mayors, regional authorities and citizens movements are already driving the transition to 100 per cent renewables which will benefit people in urban and rural areas alike. According to Johannesburg Mayor Parks Tau:
“Developing country cities have a major opportunity to lead the low-carbon future. In Johannesburg, the Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transit and the highly competitive R1.5bn green bond both demonstrate a commitment to economic growth and investment rooted in resilient, sustainable urban development.”
Urban areas account for around 85 per cent of global GDP and 75 per cent of emissions. And while national governments are hemming and hawing on climate change, many cities have leapt ahead. From commitments to reach 100 per cent renewables to improved waste management and steps towards low-carbon public transport, urban centres around the world are taking steps towards cutting emissions.