Lately I have been profiling cities and politicians who are leading the way towards a low-carbon future. As many of the readers of this column know, I recently published a book with Hunter Lovins entitled Climate Capitalism Capitalism. Hunter and I were disappointed by the lack of progress on climate action in North America largely due to the unrelenting doubt cast by climate skeptics, or perhaps more appropriately as our colleagues at American Progress clarified, climate deniers. So we decided to write a book to show that whether you are on the left or the right, there is another way to get to a low-carbon economy-showing how communities, cities, countries and companies around the world are profiting from participating in the transition to the low carbon economy.
People have asked me why I am so passionate about cities when I discuss the book Climate Capitalism since most assume my focus would be on the private sector. There are many reasons for my obsession about cities.
1.) First and foremost, we recently surpassed a monumental milestone in the evolution of our species: more people now live in cities than in rural communities around the globe. And the trend is expected to increase. The UN projects that 60% of the world’s population will be city-dwellers in 2030 and 70% in 2050.
2.) Cities are major contributors to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions around the globe. Estimates suggest that as much as 80% of total GHG emissions come from cities and their residents.
3.) City leaders around the globe can enact numerous levers which can have major impacts on their GHG emissions such as transport policy, building codes and land use, district energy systems, availability of community gardens and waste management. On top of that cities themselves are owner/operators of buildings and vehicle fleets and therefore can lead by example and stimulate local climate capitalism opportunities.
4.) Cities can frequently act independently of federal or state regulators in the absence of federal action. Former Seattle Mayor, Greg Nickels, proved this years ago when he launched the U.S. Mayors for Climate Protection as a way to aggregate cities in the U.S. who were concerned about climate change and the lack of federal regulation. Today there are more than 1,000 U.S. mayors who have signed on.
5.) Cities will be the front line for adapting to climate change whether it be barrier solutions and other flood prevention policy, local food security or increased green spaces to minimize urban heat island effect. A recent research report indicated that 80% of the projected $80-$100 billon annual costs for adaptation will be absorbed by cities.
While the growing list of companies who are profiting from the transition to the low carbon economy get more attention in most media outlets, cities too are setting ambitious goals and working hard to reach them. The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) just released a study demonstrating that 72% of cities are now measuring and reporting their emissions. Furthermore, the CDP reported that 62% of cities now have climate action plans and that 90% of cities recognize the risks associated with climate change. In fact, 43% of the responding cities reported are already feeling the affects of climate change.
Cities who embrace the low-carbon economy and that seek to mitigate and adapt to climate change are now known as resilient cities.
ICLEI is an organization of municipalities and regional governments around the globe who are committed to sustainability. ICLEI has more than 1200 municipal/regional members in 70 countries representing nearly 600,000,000 global citizens. They just hosted their annual conference for the first few days of the Bonn climate talks.
The theme of the three-day event was, you guessed it, resilient cities. Mayors and city staff came from around the globe to discuss the latest in mitigation and adaptation strategies, financing opportunities and best practices.
To learn more about ICLEI, resilient cities and my first ranking of Globally Resilient Cities (to be released on June 28th), consider attending this webinar on July 13th with the President of ICLEI, David Cadman, who is also City Councilor for Vancouver, Canada.
Boyd Cohen is the CEO of CO2 IMPACT, a carbon origination company based in Vancouver, Canada and Bogota, Colombia. Boyd is also the co-author of Climate Capitalism: Capitalism in the Age of Climate Change.
This series will use the hashtag #climatecapitalism