Cities Can’t Combat Climate Change Alone
By 2050, 70 percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas. Cities consume over two-thirds of the world’s energy and are responsible for 70 percent of global CO2 emissions. It will be cities, not individual states or governments, who will need to employ effective urban planning, implement eco-friendly ordinances, reduce emissions, and plan for the coming effects of climate change. In Life in the Big City: Unlocking Smart Development (SXSW Eco), the discussion centered around the premise that cities, centers of global economic activity and innovation, have the greatest power to impact climate change. But can they do it alone?
Melanie Nutter, Director of the San Francisco Department of Environment, described C40, an international cities climate leadership group started in 2005, and Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) Cities as two vital tools cities are using to educate themselves on the impact of climate change, take their own measure, and make a plan for reduction. 57 percent of CDP reporting cities are adopting greenhouse gas emission reduction targets and 62 have established action plans to deal with climate change.
Nutter herself projects that by 2050, San Francisco is looking at a 15-inch sea level rise, climbing to a 55-inch rise by 2100. This would put the airport and 99 miles of roads under water, resulting in $48 billion in infrastructure damage. Nutter and the city planners have aggressively set measures in place to combat this coming change, including achieving zero waste by 2020 — currently SF recycles, composts or reuses 77 percent of its waste, the nation’s highest diversion rate.
Nutter reeled off impressive statistics, followed by more achievements and even more accomplishments. San Francisco is clearly a city that is making an impact, but what about everyone else?
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