On this year’s Earth Day, governments who “hold the keys to transform and build the green economy” are being summoned to “invest in our planet.” Yet so far, national governments signed up to the Paris Climate Agreement have been slow to facilitate low-carbon economies.
Current emission reduction commitments are on track for an increase of nearly 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 F) of global heating above preindustrial levels double the 1.5 C threshold for a livable planet. In the meantime, governments continue to subsidize the fossil fuel sector. Three times the rate of clean energy, putting far-reaching emissions cuts out of reach.
The failures are complex, ranging from the long-term influence of the fossil fuel lobby on the national stage to the energy crisis fueled by the invasion of Ukraine, which has states looking to boost non-Russian oil and gas supply.
But local, city and regional governments are stepping up in the wake of sluggish national climate action.
Sadiq Khan, London mayor, said that “the difference between cities and national government is the difference between day and night, between delayers or doers.” of commitments to climate action during last year’s COP26 climate conference.
Here are four ways that municipal authorities invest in the planet, starting with Copenhagen, which promises climate neutrality by 2025, way ahead of the Paris deadline in 2015 to create compact, car-free, zero-carbon zones.
1. Copenhagen: The world’s first climate-neutral capital?
Back in 2012, Copenhagen’s government unveiled a 2025 Climate Plan that had the ambitious goal of creating the world’s first carbon-neutral city. The Danish capital remains on track to reach net-zero emissions by 2025, a full 25 years before the national government’s 2050 net-zero target.
About 66% of city emissions are attributed to energy, and 34% to transport. It plans to make cuts by tackling energy consumption and production, as well as green mobility. The aim is to reduce emissions by 100% compared to 2005 and increase economic growth by Nearly 25%During the same period, through increased investment and job creation. In 2020, Copenhagen only had 20% more in cuts to go to reach its goal, with private cars the main source of remaining carbon pollution in the city.
Copenhagen’s government is replacing oil, gas and coal with renewable energy. Electricity and heat are the largest sources of CO2. Although wind, solar, and biomass have already taken up a lot of this slack in recent years, half of the reduction will be due to the energy efficiency measures the city has implemented. Smart energy gridTo reduce huge amounts of waste in housing, retail, and production.
In terms of transport, the Copenhagen government wants at least 75% of trips in the city to be taken on foot, bike or public transport by 2025. By 2030, all internal combustion engine vehicles in the city will be outlawed.
2. Mumbai: A South Asian climate leader
It was a promising step by India’s third-largest CO2 emitter, when Narendra Modi, the Indian Prime Minister, committed to carbon neutrality by 2070 in COP26.
Mumbai, the country’s most populous city, has well over 20,000,000 people living in its metropolitan area. It is now pursuing this goal, promising to achieve net zero carbon emissions two decades before schedule.
The first city’s ad hoc newspaper Climate Action Planwas revealed in March. It was created in collaboration between the US nonprofit World Resources Institute and the global urban climate action initiative C40 Cities.
Recognizing the need for climate adaptation in a coastal metropolis that is highly susceptible to heat stress and flooding the plan calls for the decarbonization a 72% energy sector responsible for 72% city emissions. Mumbai, which has a nearly entirely coal-powered energy grid, will increase its use of solar power in order to achieve a 50% renewables target by 2050. It will also be focusing on energy efficiency in buildings, which are responsible for the majority of energy emissions.
Another key focus is transport, with plans to electrify Mumbai’s extensive urban transport network. It will first put more than 2,000 electric buses on its roads by 2023.
Mumbai is also establishing a zero-landfill waste management plan and planting urban forests throughout the city to mitigate the near 10% of emissions attributed to waste, especially landfills that spew methane.
3. Paris: The 15-minute city
Carbon emissions can be reduced by avoiding sprawling cities with high-emissions and creating dense, walkable and bikeable areas.
This idea is expressed in the concept of the 15-minute cityThere are already experiments underway in the wake the pandemic to reduce travel times and allow people to live and to work locally, including Melbourne. 20-minute neighborhoodsThe Paris 15-minute city.
The 15-minute Paris was central to Anne Hidalgo’s 2020 campaign for reelection. In part, the traffic-clogged French capital is installing bike paths on every street. This is partly due to reclaiming 70% off street parking. Paris’ 2050 goal to be carbon-neutral by 2050 is the objective of this project.
By expanding co-working hubs and encouraging use of local shops and playgrounds, the city wants to facilitate “hyperproximity” in Paris neighborhoods whereby residents can access all amenities within a relaxed 15-minute stroll or bicycle ride from home.
4. Climate-friendly communities in Freiburg, Seattle
Though city and regional authorities are often beating national governments on climate action, even more can be done at the micro level of self-developed urban housing cooperatives.
A Seattle architecture and urbanism firm. Larch Lab, which focuses on decarbonized, low energy urban buildings and “ecodistricts” that are based on the German idea. “Baugruppen, or building groups, refers to housing cooperatives.
These sustainable areas are designed by residents and not developers. They will be more efficient in building efficiency and use net-zero energy. Passivhaus building standards, which are expensive up-front but more affordable in the long term.
This dream is already in motion in Germany, in the district Vauban. It is a model eco-neighborhood in Freiburg’s pioneering green city. At the forefront of ambitious climate targets, Freiburg is planning a 60% emissions cut by 2030.
Built on the site a former French barracks, the neighborhood is home to approximately 5,600 people. The streets are pedestrian-friendly, car-free and bicycle-friendly. A biogas power plant fed with local sewage complements electricity needs.
The Zero-Emissions Town, also known as the Greenest in EuropePassivhaus architects developed the, in collaboration with a local community group and a municipal government that was committed to investing in the planet.
Edited by Jennifer Collins