Why we can't rely solely on national government to cut carbon emissions

Cities can make measurable change by themselves

By Joanna Rothkopf

Published September 25, 2014 6:57PM (EDT)

Demonstrators make their way down Sixth Avenue  in New York during the People's Climate March Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014. (AP/Jason DeCrow)
Demonstrators make their way down Sixth Avenue in New York during the People's Climate March Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014. (AP/Jason DeCrow)

A new report concludes that cities could contribute significantly to the reduction of carbon emissions, regardless of their government's input. The analysis was conducted by the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, the Stockholm Environment Institute and Michael Bloomberg, the United Nations' Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change. According to the report, city governments could cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 3.7 billion tons by 2030 and 8 billion tons by 2050, all with no national oversight.

Climate Progress' Jeff Spross reports:

As the study notes, pledges by national governments so far to cut their emissions have focused on policies that cover multiple industrial sectors, like electricity and industrial production. "Their pledges and action plans have seldom considered or reflected the impact of urban climate actions," the report said. "Cities also have unique and strong influence overs [sic] several policy levers -- such as urban planning and public transportation -- that may be less available to national actors."

What this means is that emissions reductions from specifically city-based actions can be considered in addition to national reductions, rather than as a piece of the latter. And when the potential of the two is added together, the reduction is significant.

The four biggest areas city governments can work in are building energy conservation, public transportation and urban planning, efficiency of rail shipments and improvement of waste and recycling systems.

According to the Washington Examiner, the mayors of Houston, Los Angeles and Philadelphia started a program on Monday that will set greenhouse gas emission reduction goals while supporting projects that mitigate their effects. "The reality is that the work is going to be done in cities," said Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. "It will be done mostly by mayors. And then we will drive our respective nations' national agendas around these issues."

Joanna Rothkopf

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Carbon Emissions Cities Houston Los Angeles Mayors Philadelphia