Green Cities Fit for Life

Image by Jean-Dominique Billaud

Low Carbon Cities, an economic and environmental opportunity

A new report titled ‘Accelerating Low-Carbon Development in the World’s Cities’, produced by the New Climate Economy, has found that investing in public and low emission transport, waste management, and building efficiency in cities could generate savings up over 15 million euro by the year 2050. Added to these economic benefits, proposed investments could also serve to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3.7 giga tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent per year by 2030, exceeding the current annual emissions of India. The report also states that in conjunction with existing and complementary national policies reductions in fossil fuel subsidies and support structures for low-carbon innovation the savings could be as high as 19 Trillion euro.

Image courtesy of the Accelerating Low-Carbon Development in the World’s Cities’, report produced by the New Climate Economy.

Image courtesy of the ‘Accelerating Low-Carbon Development in the World’s Cities’, report produced by the New Climate Economy.

Michael R. Bloomberg, UN Secretary General’s Special envoy for Cities and Climate Change, has highlighted the additional positives which follow cities’ steps to reduce their carbon footprint. Reduction in energy costs, improvements in public health and attracting new residents and businesses are just some of the additional benefits gained from implementing these improvements. “This report can help accelerate the progress cities are making in all of these areas, by highlighting smart policies and encouraging cooperation through efforts like the Compact of Mayors.” Bloomberg has also stated that cities with clean air have a competitive advantage over cities with dirty air, ‘The fact is, people want to live and work in places with clean air, and where people want to live, businesses want to invest’.

Vitoria Gasteiz, European Green Capital 2012, where green initiatives have yielded economic benefits. Picture courtesy of http://www.basque-country.es/

Vitoria Gasteiz, European Green Capital 2012, where green initiatives have yielded economic benefits. Picture courtesy of http://www.basque-country.es/

The old adage of being pro-environment or pro-business is no longer viable with the emergence of these models, in which the drive for greener cities leads to economic growth in the long run. For many, this has long been an obstacle and in some cases excuse, directly in the way of the promotion of green initiatives. Vitoria-Gasteiz, the European Green Capital 2012 has, through green initiatives put in place, been able to reach agreements with other institutions and secure external funding for environmental projects up to 2020. Tourist numbers have also increased by upwards of 12%, exhibiting directly some of the advantages that a clean, green city has over others. With the wider social, economic and environmental benefits not factored into the 15 trillion euro estimate, these ‘savings’ estimates forecast in the report are deemed conservative by Nick Godfrey, head of policy and urban development at the New Climate Economy.

The report contains a number of recommendations, including: commitment to low-carbon urban development strategies by 2020, commitment to the Compact of Mayors, enhancement of cities’ resilience to climate change and the tracking of their progress transparently. Over 130 cities have already committed to the Compact of Mayors and their reports on ambitious emissions reduction targets are reported publicly. This aspect of the reporting process ensures that these are not empty commitments.

Cycling superhighways in greater Copenhagen. Image courtesy of cycling-embassy.dk

Cycling superhighways in greater Copenhagen. Image courtesy of cycling-embassy.dk

The report cites a number of examples which have or are projected to exhibit economic benefits due to green investment. One such example is that of Copenhagen, European Green Capital 2014, and its Cycle Super Highway Network. These infrastructure projects are estimated to have an internal rate of return on investment of 19% per year. These benefits are not only limited to cities in the developed countries. Mayor of Johannesburg, Parks Tau, has stated that developing countries have a major opportunity to lead the low carbon future. ‘In Johannesburg, the Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transit and the highly competitive R1.5bn green bond both demonstrate a commitment to economic growth and investment rooted in resilient, sustainable urban development.”

The new city model of economic growth, coupled with increased resilience and environmental benefit outlined in ‘Accelerating Low-Carbon Development in the World’s Cities’ confirms that a low carbon economy is now a feasible alternative.

The report, ‘Accelerating Low-Carbon Development in the World’s Cities’, can be found here.