De­vel­op­ing cities may hold key

Otago Daily Times - - WORLD -

BARCELONA: The fu­ture that fast­grow­ing cities in South Asia and Africa choose — cleaner and safer, or dirt­ier and more dan­ger­ous — will be piv­otal to ef­forts to limit global warm­ing to 1.5degC, sci­en­tists said in a key United Na­tions re­port this week.

Metropolises such as New York and Lon­don of­ten grab head­lines with their plans to cut air pol­lu­tion, adopt elec­tric trans­port, de­sign green build­ings or pro­tect res­i­dents from floods.

But greater ef­forts are needed to make sim­i­lar changes in de­vel­op­ing­world cities, par­tic­u­larly as many smaller ones lack the knowl­edge and fi­nan­cial re­sources to do it, ex­perts said.

‘‘We know that much of ur­ban growth is go­ing to be in these small and medium­sized cities in the global south,’’ Wil­liam Solecki, an au­thor of the cli­mate science re­port and pro­fes­sor at Hunter Col­lege­City Uni­ver­sity of New York, said.

How­ever, ‘‘these are cities that his­tor­i­cally have had lim­ited ca­pac­ity in gov­er­nance and fi­nance’’, he said.

Around the world, cities con­sume more than two­thirds of the world’s en­ergy and ac­count for about three­quar­ters of car­bon diox­ide emis­sions, ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions.

Whether they can cut those emis­sions swiftly and pro­tect in­hab­i­tants against wors­en­ing cli­mate im­pacts, from flood­ing to heat­waves, will play a huge role in de­ter­min­ing whether the goals of the 2015 Paris Agree­ment on cli­mate change are met.

But many cities in poorer na­tions face sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges, in­clud­ing large and grow­ing slum pop­u­la­tions that lack ba­sic ser­vices and are in­creas­ingly at risk from cli­mate dis­as­ters, ex­perts said.

‘‘The re­port high­lights that cli­mate change will im­pact the most vul­ner­a­ble, that the ca­pac­ity to re­spond will be most lim­ited in those lo­ca­tions and among those peo­ples,’’ Solecki said.

The re­port from the In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change out­lined ways to hold warm­ing to 1.5degC above prein­dus­trial times, and sounded the alarm about the con­se­quences if ac­tion to achieve that is not stepped up.

The world’s slum pop­u­la­tion, for in­stance, is ex­pected to triple to 3 bil­lion by 2050, plac­ing a sig­nif­i­cant pro­por­tion of peo­ple ‘‘be­yond the di­rect reach’’ of for­mal poli­cies to cut emis­sions and adapt to wild weather and ris­ing seas, it noted.

How to tackle the con­di­tions that lead to in­for­mal ur­ban set­tle­ments and fuel the risks to their in­hab­i­tants ‘‘is a cen­tral ques­tion’’, the re­port said.

Among the prob­lems that need to be ad­dressed, it said, were poverty, weak gov­er­nance and low lev­els of in­vest­ment by lo­cal author­i­ties.

On the brighter side, the lack of gov­ern­ment ser­vices in poorer parts of cities also can spur ‘‘green’’ in­for­mal economies, based around things like re­cy­cling.

Bring­ing low­car­bon tran­si­tions to slums will re­quire gov­ern­ments team­ing up with com­mu­ni­ties, it said.

But ‘‘there is no guar­an­tee that these part­ner­ships will evolve or co­here into the type of ser­vice de­liv­ery and cli­mate gov­er­nance sys­tem that could steer the change on a scale re­quired to limit to warm­ing to 1.5degC’’, the re­port warned.

Still, it ac­knowl­edged work by some or­gan­i­sa­tions, such as Shack/Slum Dwellers In­ter­na­tional (SDI), to try to make that hap­pen.

Mark Watts, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of C40 Cities, which pro­motes cli­mate ac­tion in metropolises, urged cities to stop in­vest­ing in in­fra­struc­ture — in­clud­ing roads — that is likely to hike car­bon emis­sions in fu­ture.

In­stead they should put scarce re­sources into clean trans­port, zero­car­bon build­ings and train­ing peo­ple to de­liver green in­fra­struc­ture, he said.

Seven cities that are mem­bers of C40 — New York, Barcelona, Copen­hagen, Lon­don, Oslo, Paris and Stock­holm — have al­ready pub­lished cli­mate change strate­gies de­signed to de­liver on the 1.5degC goal, and a fur­ther 65 have com­mit­ted to do so.

But most cities are still de­vel­op­ing in an un­sus­tain­able way that is adding to car­bon emis­sions, Watts said.

‘‘The cities that don’t change won’t be vi­able in a few decades’ time,’’ he warned. — Reuters

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