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Climate-smart cities 'could save the world $22tn'

Climate-smart cities 'could save the world $22tn'

Climate-smart cities 'could save the world $22tn'

Yet another new study has disproved the common belief that fighting climate change offers no economic benefit, demonstrating that a green agenda for our urban centres could deliver massive cost savings within just a few decades.

The research, published on September 8th, comes from the New Climate Economy - a global commission comprising former heads of government and finance ministers, as well as leaders in the fields of economics and business, from the UK and six other countries.

Entitled Accelerating Low-Carbon Development in the World's Cities, it revealed that investments in low-emission transport, building efficiency and waste management in heavily populated areas could save public and private sector organisations as much as $17 trillion (£11 trillion) by 2050.

Coupled with complementary national policies such as support for low-carbon innovation, reduced fossil fuel subsidies and carbon pricing, this figure could climb as high as $22 trillion, the researchers added.

Moreover, they found that within a decade and a half, these investments could potentially deliver a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 3.7 gigatonnes per year - more than the amount currently output by the entirety of India.

Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City and the UN Secretary General's Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, was among those to welcome publicly the launch of the research.

"The steps that cities take to shrink their carbon footprints also reduce their energy costs, improve public health and help them attract new residents and businesses," he said. "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."

More than 130 cities - representing over 220 million people - have to date committed to this compact, in which local authorities pledge to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, bolster their resilience to climate change and track their progress towards these goals transparently.

Joining the compact is one of the key recommendations made to cities by the New Climate Economy study, alongside committing to their own low-carbon urban development strategies between now and 2020.

The report also identified a number of instances in which cities have already achieved economic returns as a result of their green investments.

These included Johannesburg's Bus Rapid Transit system, said to have delivered savings of almost $900 million, as well as Singapore's Green Mark programme for building efficiency, which is expected to generate over $400 million through reduced electricity use.

In closing, Nick Godfrey - one of the study's authors and head of policy and urban development at the New Climate Economy - said the overall economic benefit of these and similar schemes could actually turn out to be much higher than the figures highlighted in the research.

"$17 trillion in savings is actually a very conservative estimate because it only looks at direct energy savings generated from investment, which are a small proportion of the wider social, economic, and environmental benefits of these investments," he said.

 

Posted by Julie Tucker

Image courtesy of iStock-ssuaphoto