Cities: a ’cause of and solution to’ climate change

© UN-Habitat/Kirsten Milhahn Melen, a slum area in the middle of Cameroon’s capital, Yaoundé.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


Cities around the world are the “main cause of climate change” but can also offer a part of the solution to reducing the harmful greenhouses gases that are causing global temperatures to rise according to UN-Habitat Executive Director Maimunah Mohd Sharif.

Ms. Sharif will be joining world leaders at United Nations headquarters in New York next week at the Climate Action Summit convened by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

UN-Habitat is supporting one of the nine action tracks designated by the Secretary-General “Infrastructure, Cities and Local Action” under the leadership of the Governments of Kenya and Turkey.

UN News asked the UN-Habitat Executive Director what role cities should play in slowing down climate change.

Why are cities an important part of tackling climate change?

Over half of the world’s population lives in cities, and this is likely to increase to over two thirds by 2030. Cities use a large proportion of the world’s energy supply and are responsible for around 70 per cent of global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions which trap heat and result in the warming of Earth.

Levels of carbon dioxide, the most prevalent greenhouse gas, are at the highest levels ever, mostly due to the burning of fossil fuels for energy.

The huge carbon footprint created by our cities results from poor planning and layout. Low-density suburban sprawl with little public transport and homes far from work and shops means more cars on the roads emitting carbon dioxide. In addition,most of the ever-increasing number of buildings still use fossil fuels for their energy needs.

Cities, while being the main cause of climate change, are also the most affected. Most cities are situated near water putting them at risk from rising sea levels and storms. However, given their role as hubs of innovation and creativity, we also look to cities to provide us with answers. Energy, building, mobility and planning solutions and innovations in cities have the potential to deliver major emission cuts.

How can cities contribute to reducing climate change?

Huge gains, in terms of reducing harmful gases, can be made by changing how we plan, build, manage and power our cities and towns. Well designed, compact, walkable cities with good public transport greatly reduce our per capita carbon footprint and are key to achieving many of the Sustainable Development Goals of which climate action is a key part.

We urgently need to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide produced by our homes and offices by moving to zero carbon buildings, which do not use any carbon for heating, lighting, cooling or electricity. They can manage this by becoming more energy efficient and using renewable energy sources.

Our expanding cities, towns and villages can create buildings and infrastructure that are highly energy efficient and designed with the local climate in mind using innovative technologies. For example, most of the new buildings in the next 30 years will be in Africa and Asia which should move away from air conditioning and maximize natural ventilation.

To power our cities we must generate clean, resource-efficient energy and move away from fossil fuels. Since 2009, the cost of renewable electricity has dropped both for solar and wind power and will keep going down as more of us use them.

The extraction and manufacturing of materials for buildings such as steel and concrete and construction processes produce carbon dioxide so using low carbon infrastructure will also slash emissions.

Transport also produces significant amounts of emissions. Cities need should not be planned around cars but people and should invest in zero-carbon public transport, footpaths and protected bike lanes. Electric public transport, powered through renewable energy could prevent 250 million tonnes of carbon emissions by 2030, as well as improving people’s health, and lowering noise and air pollution in our cities.

Organic matter emits methane as it decomposes, which is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide in the short-term, so it’s key to minimize organic waste by improving waste management methods and to take steps to capture and use the methane emissions from landfills.

And in addition to the long-term solutions that require a change in the way our economies operate, we can all make personal choices to alter our lifestyle and consumption patterns.

Climate change is already happening and affecting cities, how can cities prepare for this new reality?

The effects of the recent changes in the planet’s climate, as well as expected future climate risks have pushed about a thousand cities worldwide to declare a climate emergency.

Climate adaptation, whereby cities adjust to actual or expected future climate, is a sound investment. This can include early warning systems, climate-resilient infrastructure and housing, and investments in water resources.  The 2019 Global Commission on Adaptation Report shows that investing US$1.8 trillion in climate adaptation can generate US$7.1 trillion in total benefits.

Resilient shelter will only work if we have resilient communities. I have recently met the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, and other world leaders and we are committed to working together to ensure we build back better. Our focus on “Infrastructure, Cities and Local Action” is part of the larger UN-Habitat Strategic Plan to build climate resilience worldwide.”

To what extent are the poorest and most vulnerable people most impacted by climate change in cities?

The least well off in our cities and communities will bear the brunt of climate change in the form of  floods, landslides and extreme heat. This is because they often live in inadequate housing in fragile locations like mountain sides or floodplains, with no risk-reducing infrastructure such as functioning storm drains. Globally, there are an estimated 880 million people living in informal settlements that are highly vulnerable to climate change.

We are urging governments to plan better and build back better.

How different are the challenges faced by cities in developing countries compared to those in the developed world?

The whole world is threatened by climate change but developing countries are often hit the hardest. They often do not have the capacity to face extreme weather events and have insufficient governance frameworks to manage climate challenges.  Cities in developing countries also face barriers in accessing climate finance including a lack of focus on cities as a strategic priority.  Ultimately climate change does not respect borders – everyone will all be affected and we all need to act together to stop it now.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the European Sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

M360 Security for 5G: Security for 5G Predictions 2020, in association with The European Sting

United States: UN chief ‘deeply saddened’ by deadly California wildfires

Khashoggi case highlights ‘very worrying practice’ of overseas abductions, says UN expert

COP21 Breaking News: “There is an ecological debt that the world needs to pay back to Africa”, French President Francois Hollande promises 2 Billion euros by 2020 from Paris

Who is to lose from the 6-month extension of the EU economic sanctions against Russia?

Innovation for a smarter world: ITU Telecom World 2018

UN commission agrees roadmap on ensuring women’s social protection, mobility, safety, and access to economic opportunities

China is sending science students to live with rural farmers – and crop yields are skyrocketing

The von der Leyen Commission: for a Union that strives for more

Sudan military committed to ‘ensuring stability’ and ‘peaceful transition’ says senior diplomat, as UN rights chief appeals for protesters’ rights to be upheld

3 ways blockchain can revolutionize global supply chains

Eliminating hepatitis calls for ‘bold political leadership, with investments to match,’ UN health chief says

10 start-ups that are helping to change the Arab world

Time to say goodbye to the plastic straw. But what’s the best alternative?

Sustainable development demands a broader vision, says new OECD Development Centre report

Service and Sacrifice: Malaysian peacekeepers in Lebanon proud to serve their homeland and the United Nations

The Stray

JADE Romania Celebrates the 4th Anniversary

These are the world’s most tree-covered countries

The EU Commission fails to draw the right conclusions about corruption

‘Passport to dignity’ that schools represent may expire fast, without emergency funding warns UN Palestine refugee agency

EU Leaders’ meeting in Sofia: Completing a trusted Digital Single Market for the benefit of all

This is how trees could help solve the climate crisis

Our poisonous air is harming our children’s brains

EU: Tax evasion and fraud flourish under political protection

EU free-trade agreements with Canada and US: imagine the fallout if put to national referendums

Globalization 4.0 must build a better world for working people

Charlotte in Ghana

Dozens of children at risk as clashes in Hudaydah near hospital – UNICEF

Visa-free access to the EU for UK nationals and to the UK for EU nationals

Why your next work meeting should be a ‘walk-and-talk’

EU elections 2019: Trump’s share in the support of populism

European Agenda on Migration: Still fragile situation gives no cause for complacency

We must stop turning a blind eye to the world’s health crises

UN human rights chief denounces grave ‘assaults’ on fundamental rights of Palestinian people

250 days until the European Parliament elections

Want a more inclusive society? Start with mobility

How Africa’s entrepreneurs are changing the direction of globalization

European Banking Union: Like the issue of a Eurobond?

These are the world’s best universities by subject

Trump and Brexit: After the social whys the political whereto

UN chief condemns attack in south-west Iran which killed dozens

How will the EU face the migration crisis when the Turkish threats come true?

The key takeaways of G7 Summit in Canada

Draghi sees inflationary bubbles

As rural communities age, their public transport is shrinking. It’s time to fix this

Some progress made towards security in Mali, but still a long way to go, Security Council hears

‘Global sisterhood’ tells perpetrators ‘time is up’ for pandemic of violence

A revolution, an ecosystem, an ocean: 5G is just the beginning

MEPs back EU partnership agreement with Armenia

Pesticides: MEPs propose blueprint to improve EU approval procedure

EU to manage external borders against the will of member states; Greece to be the first target

New UN-supported farming app is cream of crop in tackling Sahel pest

EU Parliament: No EU-US trade agreement without safe data

Lessons from the Global Entrepreneurship Index

FROM THE FIELD: Rohingya babies conceived out of ‘incomprehensible brutality’

Germany takes cover from Trump in Eurozone and decides to pay for it

GSMA Mobile 360 Series – Europe – 14 June 2016

‘Path to peace’ on Korean Peninsula only possible through diplomacy and full denuclearization: US tells Security Council

Service and Sacrifice: For Ghana, UN peacekeeping is a ‘noble opportunity to serve humanity’

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s