Low-carbon cities would slash global emissions and save US$17 trillion


With many cities and regions around the world already demonstrating climate leadership, new research backs up the importance and huge potential benefits of urban areas going low-carbon. Annual global carbon emissions would drop by 3.7 gigatonnes per year by 2030 – the equivalent of India going zero-carbon – through investment in public and low emission transport, building efficiency, and waste management in cities. The report from New Climate Economy also finds the green measures would save massive amounts of money: US$17 trillion (over €15 trillion) by 2050, which is equivalent to one-fifth of global GDP. This could be bumped up to as much as $22 trillion if national low-carbon policies are also put in place.   



Key Points

  • Climate action is good for lungs and wallets. Research from New Climate Economy shows that investment in low-carbon measures such as public transport in cities can eliminate 3.7 gigatonnes of CO2 per year – the amount produced annually by India – by 2030, and save US$17 trillion by 2050. This adds to the wealth of information already showing that less carbon means cleaner air, better health and significant business opportunities.
  • National governments are at risk of slipping behind. Forward-looking mayors, regional authorities and citizens movements are already driving the transition to 100 per cent renewables which will benefit people in urban and rural areas alike. With the latest negotiations on an international climate change agreement criticised for their slow speed, the pressure is now on Ministers and Heads of State to use the short time before the crunch talks in Paris in December to make real headway.





“The steps that cities take to shrink their carbon footprints also reduce their energy costs, improve public health, and help them attract new residents and businesses. This report can help accelerate the progress cities are making in all of these areas, by highlighting smart policies and encouraging cooperation through efforts like the Compact of Mayors”.–  Michael R. Bloomberg, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change.

“Better, more resilient models of urban development are particularly critical for rapidly urbanising cities in the developing world. Cities around the world are already leading the way in implementing sustainable and innovative urban solutions. By sharing and scaling-up these best practices through international collaboration, cities can save money and accelerate global climate action.” – Eduardo Paes, Mayor of Rio de Janeiro and Chair of C40 Cities.

“Developing country cities have a major opportunity to lead the low-carbon future. In Johannesburg, the Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transit and the highly competitive R1.5bn green bond both demonstrate a commitment to economic growth and investment rooted in resilient, sustainable urban development.” – Parks Tau, Mayor of Johannesburg.

“US$17 trillion in savings is actually a very conservative estimate because it only looks at direct energy savings generated from investment, which are a small proportion of the wider social, economic, and environmental benefits of these investments.” – Nick Godfrey, Head of Policy and Urban Development at the New Climate Economy.

“There is now increasing evidence that emissions can decrease while economies continue to grow. Becoming more sustainable and putting the world – specifically cities – on a low carbon trajectory is actually feasible and good economics.” – Seth Schultz, a researcher for the C40 climate leadership group.

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