Investment in low-carbon tech for cities essential for climate change mitigation

Efforts by cities to lower carbon output in buildings, transport, materials efficiency and waste could deliver economic returns amounting to $24tr globally, according to a new report from the Coalition for Urban Transitions.

The Coalition for Urban Transitions comprises 50 organisations, with significant funding from the UK Government’s Department for International Development. The body has urged national governments to do more in cities, which now hold over half the world’s population and produce three-quarters of carbon emissions, it said.

The report calls for an investment of US$1.8tr (£1.4tr) – approximately 2 per cent of global GDP – per year. It also suggests that this investment would generate annual returns worth US$2.8tr in 2030 and US$7tr in 2050 based on cost savings alone.

Many of these low-carbon measures would pay for themselves in less than five years, including more efficient lighting, electric vehicles, improved freight logistics and solid waste management.

Low-carbon measures in cities – based on already available technologies, such as electric buses – could deliver over half the emissions cuts needed to keep global temperature rise below 2°C above pre-industrial times, the level mandated in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

“It is possible and realistic to realise net-zero urban emissions by 2050,” UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said in a statement on the report.

“To get there, we will need the full engagement of city governments, combined with national action and support.”

The report also says that city dwellers will benefit from cleaner cities with higher standards of living as well as enhanced job creation from the investments.


The measures proposed will also reduce choking air pollution, cut chronic traffic congestion and improve worker productivity.

Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles, told journalists that his city had been installing huge amounts of solar power, supporting firefighters grappling with record California forest blazes and creating jobs in electric and other green transport.

The second-largest city in the United States was pushing forward, he said, despite hostile signals on climate action from President Donald Trump, who wants to quit the Paris Agreement.

“In my country – where the Trump administration is actively pulling us back in the fight against climate change – mayors and cities are still doing the work that serves our residents and our futures,” Garcetti said.

Germany, by contrast, has a national climate initiative that has invested €905m in 29,000 local projects over the last decade, said environment minister Svenja Schulze.

These range from upgrading street lights to setting up “mobility stations” with bike-parking and car-sharing near public transport stops.

As part of his campaigning, Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden unveiled a $1.7tr plan to cut carbon emissions by rolling back corporate tax cuts introduced under Donald Trump.

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