Cities can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent

Feb 12, 2013

Cities around the world can significantly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by implementing aggressive but practical policy changes, says a new study by University of Toronto Civil Engineering Professor Chris Kennedy and World Bank climate change specialist Lorraine Sugar, one of Kennedy's former students.

Kennedy and Sugar make the claim in 'A low carbon infrastructure plan for Toronto, Canada,' published in the latest issue of The Canadian Journal of Civil Engineering. The paper aims to show how cities can make a positive difference using realistic, achievable steps. Their research shows that it is technically possible for cities to reduce their emissions by 70 per cent or more in the long-term.

"This is the sort of reduction the international community is calling for, so we can avoid the potentially serious consequences of ," said Professor Kennedy.

They note that more than half of the world's population lives in urban areas and over 70 per cent of global can be attributed to cities. "Cities are where people live, where economic activity flourishes," said Sugar. "Cities are where local actions can have global impact."

The study focuses on buildings, and transportation. Best practices as well as options and opportunities – for example, encouraging and increasing bicycling infrastructure – are detailed.

"It is possible for a Canadian city, in this case Toronto, to reduce its GHG emissions by the sort of magnitudes that the international scientific community have indicated are necessary globally to keep global temperature rise below 2 C," Kennedy and Sugar write.

"With current policies, especially cleaning of the , Toronto's per-capita GHG emissions could be reduced by 30 per cent over the next 20 years. To go further, however, reducing emissions in the order of 70 per cent, would require significant retrofitting of the building stock, utilization of renewable heating and cooling systems, and the complete proliferation of electric, or other low carbon, automobiles."

The biggest obstacle is the city's building stock, according to Kennedy. Buildings have a lifespan measured in decades, so it takes time to replace older buildings with more energy-efficient ones.

The study arose out of a handbook Kennedy and his students produced for the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority in 2010, Getting to Carbon Neutral: A Guide for Canadian Municipalities. In the current paper, he and Sugar wanted to demonstrate how cities could achieve measurable results by adopting the policies outlined in the guide.

Kennedy, author of The Evolution of Great World Cities: Urban Wealth and Economic Growth (2011), teaches a course on the design of infrastructure for sustainable cities. He has consulted for the World Bank, the United Nations and the OECD on urban environment issues.

Explore further: TransCanada seeks approvals for pipeline to Atlantic

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Predicting a low carbon future for Toronto

Feb 06, 2013

Cities are major players in the climate change game. More than half of the world's population lives in urban areas and over 70% of global GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions can be attributed to cities. A case study of Toronto ...

Urban metabolism for the urban century

Jan 24, 2013

Like organisms, cities need energy, water, and nutrients, and they need to dispose of wastes and byproducts in ways that are viable and sustainable over the long run. This notion of "urban metabolism" is a model for looking ...

Big cities are not always biggest polluters

Jan 26, 2011

Big cities like New York, London and Shanghai send less pollution into the atmosphere per capita than places like Denver and Rotterdam, said a study released Tuesday.

Recommended for you

Australia set to pay polluters to cut emissions

7 hours ago

Australia is set to approve measures giving polluters financial incentives to reduce emissions blamed for climate change, in a move critics described as ineffective environmental policy.

TransCanada seeks approvals for pipeline to Atlantic

18 hours ago

TransCanada on Thursday filed for regulatory approval of a proposed Can$12 billion (US$10.7 billion) pipeline to carry western Canadian oil to Atlantic coast refineries and terminals, for shipping overseas.

Does it help conservation to put a price on nature?

21 hours ago

Putting a price on the services which a particular ecosystem provides may encourage the adoption of greener policies, but it may come at the price of biodiversity conservation. Writing today in the journal ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.