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Cities Can Help Close COP21 ‘Emissions Gap’

If cities around the world take aggressive climate change action, they can help cut global emissions by 3.7 billion tons a year by 2030 — helping to close the “emissions gap” between what countries have promised to do before the COP21 climate talks, and what is needed to avoid a rise in temperature above 2 degrees Celsius, according to a new report by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) on behalf of C40.

The emissions gap amounts to around 15 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year.

The report, unveiled today in Paris at COP21 by Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York and the United Nations secretary general’s special envoy for cities and climate change, says cities are positioned to make meaningful contributions towards more aggressive national targets to reduce emissions because mayors have strong influence over key policies that influence emissions, such as building energy standards, urban planning and public transportation.

Because city actions rarely are captured in national goals and targets, the report says, cities can be great partners to nation states in meeting ambitious goals: realizing the full potential of urban greenhouse gas emissions abatement opportunities requires bold and swift action by the world’s cities, in partnership with nation states to identify and deploy new sources of finance and supportive national policy.

The analysis identifies significant opportunities in four specific areas, including deep building energy efficiency standards for new urban buildings; building energy retrofits for existing urban buildings; aggressive energy performance standards for urban building lighting and appliances; and mode shift and transit efficiency for urban residents.

Many of the world’s cities already are deeply engaged in tackling climate change. Ahead of COP21, Buenos Aires, Cape Town, Melbourne, San Francisco and New York City were among the 10 cities that presented ambitious climate action plans in accordance with the planning and reporting requirements of the Compact of Mayors. The announcement demonstrated a global response to climate change on a promising scale: The 10 cities span five continents and represent 58 million people and more than $3 trillion in GDP.

Investing in public and low emission transport, building efficiency, and waste management in cities could generate savings with a current value of $17 trillion by 2050, according to research from the New Climate Economy, the flagship project of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate.


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