Reinvented cities could hold climate key | WWF
Reinvented cities could hold climate key

Posted on 22 March 2010

Urban infrastructure decisions over the next three decades will determine whether cities will be a major driver for environmental destruction or a sustainable future, an Earth Hour conference in Stockholm was told today.
Stockholm, Sweden: Urban infrastructure decisions over the next three decades will determine whether cities will be a major driver for environmental destruction or a sustainable future, an Earth Hour conference in Stockholm was told today.

The conference, along with a new WWF report Reinventing the City, come as the Swedish capital prepares to join Earth Hour for the first time, joining numerous other national capitals around the world in turning off lights at 8.30 pm this Saturday night in a global call for effective action on climate change.

At the Earth Hour Conference the two Swedish cities of Stockholm and Malmö and the German cities of Hamburg and Freiburg will share their visions for reaching low or zero carbon emissions over the next decades, while companies Ericsson, IKEA and Interface will outline their view of the benefits of the transformation to a sustainable society.

Various estimates link cities to 70-80 per cent of current carbon emissions, with no end in site to the trend for ever greater proportions of the world’s people to live in urban areas. It is estimated that an additional 1.7 billion people will become urban dwellers in Asia and Africa alone over the next three decades, posing immense challenges to surrounding environments.

“We are approaching a world with nine billion inhabitants, and continued rapid urbanisation,” said Lasse Gustavsson, Secretary General of WWF Sweden, who commissioned the report. .

”If the cities of today are the biggest threat to the climate, tomorrow’s cities may well be the solution.”

Reinventing the city cites a Booz & Company analysis conducted for WWF, showing that in a business-as-usual scenario), $350 trillion or seven times current global GDP, will be spent on urban infrastructure and operation over the next 30 years.

Directing these massive investments towards the development of low or zero carbon cities will be crucial to keeping average global temperature increases below the two degree rise accepted internationally as presenting unacceptable risks of catastrophic or runaway climate change.

According to Reinventing the City much of the growth in urban populations will be taking place not in the world’s mega-cities but in small and fast growing cities. These will have great opportunities to provide new low carbon infrastructure, but will also often be trying to handle growth with limited resources.

The report says the measures most needed are for cities to adopt aggressive energy reduction goals, looking to best practice urban planning as a key pathway to achieving them. Innovative financing strategies will need to be employed to find an additional $20-30 trillion over business as usual projections in additional infrastructure costs, with developed nations needing to assist developing countries meet the challenges of clean development in growing cities.

And the latest technological advances must be utilised to support and enable the planning, construction and operation of urban infrastructure in all cities.

“Massive investments are required to support a growing an urbanising world in any case,” said Gustavsson. “It is imperative these future investments are made in sustainable solutions.”

Thousands cities, towns and regions from over 117 countries are expected to take part in Earth Hour events on Saturday, with city administrations flicking the switch on many of the world’s best known urban landmarks including the Eiffel Tower, Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, New York’s Empire State Building and the Forbidden City in China.

“Cities are the engine room of Earth Hour and for good reason,” said Earth Hour Executive Director Andy Ridley. “It is the mayors and their local councils that are on the ground, day to day, seeking sustainable solutions for their local citizens. It is the sum of these hundreds of thousands of communities across the planet that will make the difference in taking action against climate change."




Various estimates link cities to 70-80 per cent of current carbon emissions, with no end in site to the trend for ever greater proportions of the world’s people to live in urban areas.
Various estimates link cities to 70-80 per cent of current carbon emissions, with no end in site to the trend for ever greater proportions of the world’s people to live in urban areas.
© Paul Forster / WWF