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New studies show cities are key to driving economic growth and fighting climate change

Posted by Guest Author on November 26, 2014

New study highlights opportunities to build cleaner cities in the developing world
NCE papers highlight opportunities to build cleaner cities in the developing world

How cities develop will be critical to achieving economic growth and tackling climate change, according to a series of studies released this week by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate.

The studies provide real-world examples of how to achieve better patterns of urbanization and highlight how cities can grow their economies while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“Over the next two decades, cities will grow by over a billion people and generate two thirds of global economic growth,” said Graham Floater, director of the cities research for the Global Commission. “If this rapid urban growth is managed badly, we face a world of sprawling, inefficient, polluted cities – and a major climate change risk. But a new breed of cities is emerging with compact, connected development – innovative cities that are more productive, attractive and low carbon. Governments can learn from these cities.”

The report shows that shifts towards more compact, connected development can create cities which are better for people to live in, more economically competitive and also lower carbon emissions. Other key highlights of the study include:

There is real potential for similar savings across major cities:

  • The world’s 724 largest cities could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 1.4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent annually by 2030 through better, more efficient transport systems. This is greater than the annual emissions of Japan.
  • Adopting low-carbon technologies - such as new building technologies and electric buses – across 30 megacities could create more than 2 million jobs, while avoiding 3 billion tonnes of cumulative greenhouse gas emissions and 3 million tonnes of local air pollution by 2025.

Progress is already being made around the world:

  • Curitiba in Brazil has accommodated a threefold increase in population since the 1960s while achieving per capita greenhouse gas emissions 25% lower and gasoline consumption 30% lower than the national average.
  • In Europe, Stockholm reduced emissions by 35% from 1993 to 2010, but grew its economy by 41%. Car ownership in London decreased 6% from 1995 to 2011, while the city’s economy grew by 40%.

Business-as-usual urbanisation is creating huge economic and social costs:

  • Traffic congestion for example costs 3.4% of GDP in Buenos Aires and 2.6% in Mexico City. In Beijing, the social costs of motorised transport, including air pollution and congestion, are as high as 15% of GDP.
  • Urban sprawl in the United States adds some US$400 billion in extra costs each year, as a result of greater infrastructure, public service delivery and transport costs.
  • Alarmingly, 86% of cities currently exceed World Health Organisation guidelines for outdoor air pollution, leading to 730,000 premature deaths.

The full reports can be downloaded here:


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