How Cities Can Lead on Climate Change Solutions

Sourced from CityLab

This week, diplomats from about 130 countries are gathered in Katowice, Poland, for COP 24, the latest in the annual series of climate change meetings convened under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. At the heart of the discussions this year is a grim report released in October by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C (SR1.5).

The product of more than 90 scientists working from thousands of peer-reviewed studies, SR1.5 laid out the catastrophic effects of exceeding 1.5°C warming over the coming decades. Much of the global news coverage that followed the report’s release focused on a chilling projection in the form of 12-year deadline the IPCC established to limit the most disastrous impacts of planetary warming. “It’s a line in the sand,” said Debra Roberts, a co-chair of Working Group II of SR1.5.

But the report wasn’t just a grave warning: It was also a roadmap to solutions. These solutions were organized around four areas, or systems—energy, land use and ecosystems, cities and infrastructure, and industry. And while urban issues comprise one of those four areas, actions in cities are integral to each system transformation. Put another way: There is no way to save the planet without serious changes in how city-dwellers live, work, and move. That’s a point stressed in this summary of the IPCC report aimed at urban policymakers, which was released at COPS 24. (I was one of the 21 co-authors of this report.) The necessary changes to limit warming must be made not only by national governments and the private sector, but also by city leaders and the residents of urban areas.

As a co-chair of the working group on impacts, Roberts led the world’s top climate scientists through the assessment, drafting, and approval process. A scientist herself, Roberts is the head of the Sustainable and Resilient City Initiatives Unit, eThekwini Municipality, Durban, South Africa. In other words, she is a rare climate expert who’s familiar with the scientific, diplomatic, and urban policy issues that this unparalleled global challenge represents.

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