Report: Cities worldwide taking action on climate change

Not so long ago, the view of the political right (and even many centrists) was that a focus on the environment and climate change would hurt jobs and the economy in general. 

According to a recent report from the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), more and more cities worldwide are turning that line of thinking on its head by tapping into the potential for growth offered by climate change adaptation. But here’s the bad news: that trend could change soon, without outside funding.

Measurement for Management: CDP Cities 2012 Global Report presents a global snapshot of the activities, challenges and opportunities facing cities as a result of climate change. 

Among its key findings is the fact 82 percent of 73 cities around the world are tapping into the potential for growth as a result of climate change adaptation, with more than half of them looking to create green jobs and new business initiatives in this way.  That momentum may be slowing, however, as cities look to new sources of up-front cash to keep forging ahead.

This report was released (not coincidentally, we think) just in time for the kick-off of the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, the largest confluence of global leaders focused on promoting an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable future for the planet. 

According to the CDP, the trends presented in this report make the case that economics act as compelling drivers for city action on climate change, and should be used to advance the discussion on how to increase cities’ access to external sources of capital in an effort to accelerate emissions reductions in the world’s metropolitan hotspots.

One of the avenues the CDP suggests might help to fill the financial gap for cities to move forward in preparing and/or adapting to climate change is funding from the World Bank, which has, in fact, expressed interest in increasing access to funding for cities. Currently, however, less than 1 percent of city-wide emissions reduction activities reported by municipalities are financed by world development banks.

Still, in a country where at least one state has actually passed legislation outlawing sustainable development (thanks, Alabama) — due to fears concerning the “Trojan Horse of a one-world government” some conservatives believe is represented by U.N.’s sustainable development agenda — it can be difficult to imagine all U.S. cities getting on board, even in the name of economics.

The report is based on the carbon and water strategies and steps disclosed to the CDP by 73 cities spanning every inhabited continent. It includes a special focus on the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40), a network of the world’s largest cities actively working to reduce urban carbon emissions and accelerate climate change adaptation, and finds that all of these C40 cities — as well as 81 percent of the total 73 disclosing cities — are responding to the threat of climate change by implementing a range of carbon emissions reductions activities, from education programs to waste management. 

Currently, 64 percent of these programs are being funded through general municipal funds, without significant external support.

The Carbon Disclosure Project is a U.K.-based nonprofit that works to disclose, analyze and encourage the reduction of carbon emissions of major corporations (and was recently named the winner of the 2012 Zayed Future Energy Prize.) More on the organization and its most recent report is available online.

Susan DeFreitas, EarthTechling