new report from the Coalition for Urban Transitions, supported by 50 leading
institutions, shows that national governments that invest in low-carbon cities
can enhance economic prosperity, make cities better places to live and rapidly
reduce carbon emissions. The report finds that implementing low-carbon measures
in cities would be worth almost Rs. 17 lakh crores (US$24 trillion) by 2050 and
could reduce emissions from cities by 90%.
Emergency, Urban Opportunity is the most comprehensive report to date to
examine how national governments can achieve equitable and sustainable economic
development in cities, which are home to over half the world's population and
which produce 80% of gross domestic product and three-quarters of
energy-related carbon emissions.
a third of India's population lives in urban areas, and the urban population is
increasing by over 2% every year. This equates to 416 million additional urban
dwellers by 2050. Trillions of dollars will be invested in urban infrastructure
to meet the needs of these new urban residents. This offers a huge opportunity
to direct investment to sustainable buildings, energy, transport and waste. The
coming decades are therefore crucial to shape India's cities into sustainable,
equitable and resilient places where residents enjoy a high quality of life and
access to opportunities."
tells us that we need to reach net-zero emissions by mid-century to avoid
dangerous climate change. The Urban Opportunity report shows that it is possible
to cut 90% of emissions from cities using currently available technologies and
practices in buildings, transport, materials efficiency and waste. Low-carbon
measures in cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru could collectively deliver
over half of the emission reductions needed to keep global temperature rise
below two degrees Celsius.
Urban Opportunity report also shows that these low-carbon measures would
deliver a significant economic return. The measures would require an investment
of US $1.8 trillion (approximately 2% of global GDP) per year, which would
generate annual returns worth US $2.8 trillion in 2030, and $7.0 trillion 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 improved solid waste
report also demonstrates that in addition to their economic benefits, compact,
connected and clean cities provide a higher standard of living and greater
opportunity for all. Investments in low-carbon measures in cities could support
87 million jobs worldwide in 2030. These measures will also reduce choking air
pollution, cut chronic traffic congestion, and improve worker productivity.
more compact urban development could enhance food security and reduce the cost
of services (since less land, materials and energy are required when people
live closer together). Urban expansion is a major issue in India, which ranks
third behind only China and the USA in land converted to urban areas from
2000-2014. Over half of this expansion took place on to agricultural land.
cities are at the forefront of climate action, national government support and
accelerating access to resources is critical." said Mayor Nanda Jichkar,
Mayor of Nagpur and gcom Board Member. "Nagpur, along with Central India,
has faced extreme heatwave conditions this year and expects to face worse in
the years to come. Thriving cities make prosperous countries and we need
support from the government in India and across Asia to tackle this
made about cities in the next decade will put countries like India on a path to
prosperity and resilience - or decline and vulnerability. National governments
must seize this brief window of opportunity, as the costs of inaction could be
devastating. Over ten percent of the world's population, 820 million people,
live in coastal zones less than 10m above sea level, and 86 percent of them
live in urban or quasi-urban areas. In India, more than 55 million people live
in urban centres less than 10 metres above sea level. These people are
especially vulnerable to storm surges, sea-level rise and other climate
city governments are already playing an active role in tackling the climate
crisis: nearly 10,000 cities and local governments have committed to set
emissions reduction targets. However, even the largest and most powerful city
governments can only deliver a fraction of their mitigation potential on their
own: the Urban Opportunity report shows that, excluding decarbonisation of
electricity, local governments have direct power over less than 1/3 of the
emissions reduction potential in their cities. National and state governments
have power over a further 1/3. More than a 1/3 depends on different levels of
government working together to cut emissions, making the future of cities a
vital collaborative effort.
O P Agarwal, CEO, WRI India, said, "India is already on a 'smart'
development pathway through its Smart Cities Mission program. While the past
years have focused largely on creating infrastructure for cities, it is time
now to expand the focus to ensure a low-emissions, high-sustainability model
for the economic and overall well-being of the people."
just ahead of the U.N Climate Action Summit, the Urban Opportunity report
provides the evidence and confidence that governments need to submit more
ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions (ndcs) in 2020, and to propel
inclusive, zero-carbon cities to the heart of their national development
fewer than two in five countries have an explicit national strategy for cities,
and only seven countries currently have both a National Urban Policy and a Nationally
Determined Contribution (NDC) that specifically address climate mitigation in
cities. India's NDC references climate challenges and the importance of climate
adaptation in cities.
report offers case studies from around the world where national and local
governments have worked together to rapidly and profoundly transform their
cities for the better within two or three decades, including: Chile, China,
Colombia, Denmark, Germany, India, Indonesia, Namibia, Rwanda and South Korea.
case study on Indore, Madhya Pradesh, shows how the Government of India can
support and build on the work of city governments. In just four years, the city
of Indore moved up the rankings from India's 149th cleanest city to the
cleanest city in the country. It did this by building latrines, expanding waste
collection services and building a waste-to-energy plant that now powers about
15 city buses. The national government partially funded these efforts through
the Swachh Bharat and Smart Cities Missions, as well as by introducing
legislation that enabled city governments to issue municipal bonds. Cities
across India are now looking to replicate Indore's success.
report also presents six key priorities for actions that national governments
can take to seize this opportunity:
Develop an overarching strategy to deliver shared prosperity while reaching
net-zero emissions – and place cities at its heart, which can guide all line
ministries to incorporate urban development into their approach, de-risk
low-carbon investment by providing clear signals to private actors, and empower
local governments to go farther and faster.
Align national policies behind compact, connected, clean cities. Examples
include removing land use and building regulations that limit higher, liveable
density; banning the sale of fossil fuel-powered vehicles; and adopting green
alternatives to steel and cement. Senior decision-makers in India are already
suggesting that the sale of fossil fuel-powered passenger cars and two-wheelers
will be prohibited from 2030.
Fund and finance sustainable urban infrastructure. Examples include eliminating
subsidies for fossil fuels and establishing a carbon price of US$50–100 per tonne
to sharpen investment incentives; reforming land and property taxes; and
shifting national transport budgets from road-building to public and active
transport. Today, India spends 20% more of its national transport spending on
roads than rail investments. Shifting its transport budget to support safe,
shared streets could improve air quality, reduce traffic injuries and cut
greenhouse gas emissions.
Coordinate and support local climate action in cities. Examples include
authorising local governments to introduce climate policies and plans that are
more ambitious than national policies; and allocating at least one third of
national R&D budgets to support cities' climate priorities.
5. Build a multilateral system that fosters inclusive, zero-carbon cities. Examples include placing cities at the heart of enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions in 2020 and 2025 and ensuring that all international development assistance is aligned with national urban strategies compatible with the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
6. Proactively plan for a just urban transition. Examples include using revenues from carbon taxes or fossil fuel subsidy reform to compensate those who bear the costs of climate action; supporting community-led upgrading of informal settlements to reduce poverty and enhance climate resilience; and anticipating, protecting and supporting the workforce of the future, including by developing transition plans for fossil fuel-based workers and industries.
By Verghese V Joseph