Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageOp-Ed: Climate change will be solved by cities, not governments

By Karen Graham     Dec 1, 2014 in Environment
More than half of the world's 7.2 billion people live in cities, and people living in cities are responsible for half of all greenhouse gas emissions. But tackling the challenge of these emissions is going to be done at the city level, and not by nations.
The first day of the Paris Pact meetings opened Monday in Lima, Peru with the delegates from 195 nations set with the task of figuring out a way to roll-back climate change. With almost non-stop arguments about who is the more responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, rich or poor countries, there are hopes the meeting will "build bridges," according to a Digital Journal story released today.
The funny thing about preparations made for the meeting was that the three biggest emitters, China, the United States and Europe, reportedly have "sketched out their own plans for contributing to the carbon cleanup." Does this mean someone has made some notes on the subject? Let's hope it more than a just a few words on a piece of scratch-paper.
In Seattle  Washington  King County Metro converted 59 gas-powered trolley buses to  electric-only b...
In Seattle, Washington, King County Metro converted 59 gas-powered trolley buses to electric-only between 2004-2007.
Steve Morgan
Rather than wait for the U.S. government to commit to a national policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, almost 10-years ago, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels issued a challenge to mayors in other cities around the country. He challenged them to abide by the Kyoto Protocol, the international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He was hoping to get 141 cities to commit to the challenge.
He discovered, much to his surprise, that over 1,000 cities responded to his call for action. “We hoped to send a message to places around the world that at some point the United States would rejoin the effort to protect the climate,” Nickels says. “I think we sent that message far more powerfully than we anticipated.”
Climate change falls within two categories: Mitigation and adaptation
There are a couple ways of addressing climate change, and most people looking at changing a city's infrastructure to deal with climate change decide what's wrong as a first step in the process. It can be said that mitigation addresses the causes of climate change in a direct way. We have seen countless research papers by climate scientists from all over the world on the subject of greenhouse gas emissions and how they are affecting the weather and just about everything else in the world. Regardless of the problem, identifying it is always the first step.
Adaptation, on the other hand, refers to strategies that enable us to cope with the consequences of new weather patterns, like flooding, droughts or heatwaves. In other words, adaptation is a way of figuring out how to live with a changing world. For example, building flood barriers in areas prone to floods, or working to change a city's infrastructure by adding parks with trees.
Along with Mayor Nickels in Seattle, other cities in the U.S., Canada, China, Europe and elsewhere have succeeded in doing something that many governments are still only talking about. They have adopted mitigation plans and adaptation plans. One such city in the U.S. is Grand Rapids, Michigan. Since 2009, the city has cut greenhouse gas emissions a whopping 23 percent.
In Europe, a study led by Diana Reckien of Columbia University’s Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, found that of 200 European cities, 130, or 65 percent had adopted mitigation plans. Over 25 percent of the cities with mitigation plans also had adaptation plans in place, and are considered "climate models."
Place Carnot  in Lyon  France  one of Europe s  climate leaders.
Place Carnot, in Lyon, France, one of Europe's "climate leaders."
Olivier Aumage
“It looks like that for the regular city, the path of development is you adopt a mitigation plan, you start with an adaptation plan and then you get into putting those plans into practice,” Reckien said. “It’s true that there is a lack of adaptation and adaptation engagement.”
Cities wanting to tackle climate change will usually find that setting up a mitigation plan is easier than adopting an adaptation plan. If a city is now experiencing low-level coastal flooding. Identifying the problem is the easy part. Working out a plan and financing the construction of flood-walls is where the hard work begins. But it can be done, and it has been done in countries across the globe.
View of Hua Qiang Bei road (Futian District) in Shenzhen  China.
View of Hua Qiang Bei road (Futian District) in Shenzhen, China.
Shenzhen, China is one such city that is a model of green living and a community effort in mitigation and adaptation.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Climate change, city level, IPCC, Greenhouse gas emissions, Mitigation
Latest News
Top News