It is cities, not national governments, that are most aggressively fighting the climate crisis – and in 30 years they could look radically different by John Vidal. By 2050, cities will be home to over 70% of the world population. The great global challenge is to adapt them to the changing climate and reduce emissions. That means conserving water, planting trees, banning fossil fuels, changing diets, adapting farming, improving soils, reducing air pollution which contributes to warming, and even painting buildings white to reflect heat. Many north European cities have started to ditch diesel and petrol, ban cars and plastic and turn to renewable power, aiming to be “carbon-zero”. Seoul is planting 30m trees and expanding its green spaces vastly to create shade; Melbourne and many other Australian and British cities will benefit from ambitious street tree-planting programmes. Denmark, one of the most urban of all European countries, aims to cut emissions by 70% by 2030; its capital, Copenhagen, aims to be carbon-neutral by 2025. Many cities have less money or access to technology, but even those are developing ambitious adaptation schemes. São Paulo is reducing emissions by paying people to use less water and energy. Dar es Salaam and some cities in Canada are relocating people who live in flood-vulnerable properties and pulling down their houses. Many cities have banned any kind of building in wetland areas. Some of the richest cities, such as New York, are planning huge ocean barriers to protect the most valuable properties; others, such as London, are overhauling their drainage systems to cope with greater populations and heavier rains. In poorer countries such as Bangladesh, city mayors and governments have concentrated on improving early warning systems and developing urban resilience. Mexico City has saved power (and improved health) by installing thousands of rainwater harvesting and water-purification systems. It’s not only a question of money. Those cities that start early in adapting for the climate breakdown will be the most successful, says Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Dhaka, Bangladesh. “Our long history of catastrophe gave us a head-start,” he says. “Bangladesh has one of the best plans in the world for adaptation. Everyone is involved, from schoolchildren to urban mayors and governments. Communities here are not waiting. “The climate problem has indeed become a matter of urgency. This message is reverberating among both the young and old generations around the world.”
Guardian 10th Oct 2019 read more »
Copenhagen plans to be net carbon-neutral by 2025. Even now, after a summer that saw wildfires ravage the Arctic Circle and ice sheets in Greenland suffer near-record levels of melt, the goal seems ambitious. In 2009, when the project was formulated, it was positively revolutionary. “A green, smart, carbon-neutral city,” declared the cover of the climate action plan, before detailing the scale of the challenge: 100 new wind turbines; a 20% reduction in both heat and commercial electricity consumption; 75% of all journeys to be by bike, on foot, or by public transport; the biogas-ification of all organic waste; 60,000 sq metres of new solar panels; and 100% of the city’s heating requirements to be met by renewables. Radical and far-reaching, the scheme dared to rethink the very infrastructure underpinning the city. There’s still not a climate project anywhere else in the world that comes close. And, so far, it’s working. CO2 emissions have been reduced by 42% since 2005, and while challenges around mobility and energy consumption remain (new technologies such as better batteries and carbon capture are being implemented), the city says it is on track to achieve its ultimate goal. More significant still is that Copenhagen has achieved this while continuing to grow in traditional economic terms. Even as some commentators insist that nothing short of a total rethink of free-market economics and corporate structures is required to stave off global catastrophe, the Danish capital’s carbon transformation has happened alongside a 25% growth in its economy over two decades. Copenhagen’s experience will be a model for other world cities.
Guardian 11th Oct 2019 read more »