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Megacities accelerate climate action efforts

by dbdh

The 92 cities participating in the C40 network are in need of solutions to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate changes. The cities are intensifying their efforts over the coming years and are looking to Copenhagen as a source of inspiration.

The 92 C40 cities have committed themselves to exceptional efforts to minimise emissions of greenhouse gasses via the sharing of data, scenarios, targets and action plans as well as climate adaptation measures.

When cities draw up their action plans, mitigation and adaptation must go hand in hand. According to Project Manager at C40 Malcolm Shield, doing so is one of the key points for learning and knowledge sharing across cities. Malcolm Shield is based in Vancouver and travels the world to help increase efforts in combating climate change in cities of approximately 650 million inhabitants combined.

“We try to standardise what constitutes proper planning for climate changes. The cities have very different staring points when it comes to for example economy and infrastructure but there are common characteristics too”, says Malcolm Shield, who is trying to standardise the collection and use of data in order to compare the cities’ efforts in a transparent way.

Copenhagen as a source of inspiration
In order to accelerate developments, a number of cities (Mexico City, Los Angeles, Durban, Melbourne, Paris, London and others) have promised each other to draft tangible climate plans similar to the ones in Copenhagen. The Danish state has funded the project with EUR 2 million so that seven megacities in developing countries – Addis Ababa, Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City, Wuhan and Qingdao – can also draw up climate plans as well.

According to a report from C40 entitled ‘Focused Acceleration’, twelve initiatives including efforts in renewable energy, transport solutions such as electric busses and improved waste treatment can result in extensive environmental gains for the cities.

With a target of becoming CO2-neutal by 2025, Copenhagen serves as an inspiration to many of the other C40 cities. The Danish capital’s transition to a more CO2-neutral society will be enabled through initiatives such as a conversion of the Amager combined heat and power plant from coal to biomass, more energy efficient buildings through the Energispring Partnership and testing electric busses.

Following a cloudburst during the summer of 2011 that caused damages for EUR 940 million, the City of Copenhagen has made substantial investments in management of extreme weather in combination with embellishment of urban spaces.

‘Framing’ is key
Malcolm Shield from C40 points to the importance of cities learning from each other’s processes and experiences across national borders. “And never underestimate opposition to changes”, he adds with reference to heated debates such as a recent one involving the gas supplier in Vancouver.

According to Malcolm Shield, another key aspect is to articulating one’s plans in a positive way so that the public understands the nature of the issue. For instance, when Vancouver developed its ‘Greenest City Action Plan’, the city decided not to use headlines concerning CO2-neutrality because it is difficult to understand, nor fossil-free because it might be associated with loss. Additionally, ‘Clean Energy’ was rejected due to the coal industry’s use of the term.

Public sector cooperation
Malcolm Shield deems cooperation across the public sector as a crucial factor although he recognises that it can be challenging. The city councils in Canada have significantly less tax revenue than their Danish counterparts, so in order to generate big results, the City of Vancouver needs to cooperate with their neighbouring councils as well as the province of British Columbia and the national government in Ottawa.

Between 2010-2015 there was poor support from the province and between 2006-2015 the prime minister Stephen Harper’s governments hindered climate initiatives. However, the current government led by Justin Trudeau has been more supportive.

“A general lesson for everyone is the necessity of integrating the work of governments, provinces and cities”, says Malcolm Shield, who also considers the use of private funds from eg. pension funds as crucial for the transition to a more sustainable future. In Denmark pension funds are used for instance to fund offshore wind farms. “We have the necessary technological solutions but politics and finances are holding back the transition”, concludes Malcolm Shield.

Source: Danish Intelligent Energy Alliance