C40 paves a new path for climate positive cities

27 September 2019

A new report titled For cities, by cities by C40 highlights key lessons for urban decision-makers from the recent IPCC findings, providing a bold agenda for effective climate action. The document contains what every urban decisionmaker needs to know. 

It starts from the ambitious yet realistic warming of 1.5°C premise, suggesting that a 2°C temperature rise is no longer a viable option, considering the current pace of climate change even under relatively moderate warming. It further provides key global milestones that action in cities should align with.

Among those are reaching peak emissions by 2020, achieving 45% to 75% emission reductions by 2030, and getting global emissions to zero by 2048.

With all this, we still have only a 50% probability of hitting the 1.5 °C target, which means it would be even better if we aimed for more. As national commitments are not on track to meet those goals, cities are our islands of hope to speed up necessary change. And while some places are just planning to kick-start necessary action, cities like Paris are already out with the third edition of their climate plan.

Cities are uniquely positioned to unite actors, reduce pressures on climate, and drive a cultural change. All of these  are cornerstones of effective and lasting change. They can also mobilize the necessary climate finances and investments into projects that deliver climate-positive outcomes and multiple co-benefits, as well as facilitate climate innovation and the rapid adoption of new sustainable technologies.

The report also highlights the vast carbon footprint of cities and their capacity for delivering required emission reductions. In particular it notes the need to drastically reduce short-lived climate pollutants like black carbon and methane, which can be done through the transformation of industry, transport and agriculture.

One more reason for advancing urban action is that cities are also uniquely vulnerable to a changing climate. Food, water, energy, health and infrastructure are tightly linked in urban habitats. When one person gets a virus, very soon it can spread across the population. When an energy blackout happens, in some cases the whole city can suffer at once.

Responding to this challenge, cities can serve as hubs and best-practice examples of resilience. Balanced implementation of nature-based solutions can make the whole population less vulnerable to heat stress. Meanwhile, a transition to renewable energy, backed by effective storage and distributed grids, can lower the likelihood and scope of a blackout. 

The report suggests that cities are one of our greatest tools for addressing climate change, concluding that “we must act.” Ultimately, our future will be up not only to countries and international treaties but to cities, corporations and ordinary citizens as well. If we manage to get all of them on board, we’ll have a much better chance to succeed.

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