Cities could lead out of carbon path

Research shows low carbon is more profitable and makes more sense for cities to invest accordingly
Published : 4 Dec 2011, 08:14 AM
Updated : 4 Dec 2011, 08:14 AM
Sayed Talat Kamal
From Durban, South Africa
Durban, Dec 04(—Gone are the days when only expanding greenery or increasing reforestation were considered major solutions to controlling greenhouse gas emissions, cooling the planet and reversing climate change.
A recent study by two leading British universities, presented at the UN Climate Summit in Durban, has found that cities can take a leading role in guiding the world to a more climate-friendly future.
Scientists behind the report, dubbed the "City-scale Mini Stern Review," claim that change could be brought in "a relatively short period and at practically no extra cost."
The research had been conducted by a team from the University of Leeds and the University of York over 18 months, and states that investing two percent of a modern city's gross domestic product (GDP) in low-carbon and energy-efficient operations over the next 10 years would reduce a city's carbon emission levels by 40 percent at no net cost.
Andy Gouldson of Leed's School of Earth and Environment, who was heading the research team, explained that the project focused on decarbonising cities as a strategy to tackle global warming.
A statement issued on the findings suggests that the fractional GDP investment stipulated would "generate direct annual savings of 2.2 percent per year."
Furthermore, according to the report, every £1 billion of investment in low-carbon solutions would generate £220 million in savings from energy costs each year from reduced energy bills for households, firms and the public sector — such that it would be possible to recoup investment in just over four years.
Jon Price, director of the Centre for Low-Carbon Futures, the organisation that commissioned the report, applauded the research and argued "finding financially viable solutions to decarbonise our cities should be central to our global climate change strategy."
Pointing out that cities generate more than half of the economic output of a country, home to almost half the global population, and responsible for 40-70 percent of all man-made greenhouse emissions, Price adds "this research demonstrates that investing in low-carbon solutions now is not only financially possible, but also makes absolute economic sense."
In its research, the team evaluated the cost and carbon-effectiveness of a wide range of low-carbon options that could be applied to households, industry, commerce, and transport at the city-scale. While the plan appeared feasible both financially and for implementation, as well as promising a commercially attractive return on investment, Professor Gouldson adds, "It won't be possible with financial capital alone; we need political and social buy-in to make it happen."
Climate change is a result of greenhouse gases trapping the sun's heat in the earth's atmosphere. This raises global temperatures, which in turn triggers changes in weather conditions, leading to stronger and more frequent cyclones and floods, rising seas, drought, erosion and increased salinity.
It is widely accepted that a rise of global temperatures over 2 degrees Celsius would cause irreversible climate change. Global studies, endorsed by the UN and the scientific community indicate that in order to arrest the temperature rise within 1.5 degrees, global emissions must reduced to 40 percent of what they were in 1990 by the year 2020 and to 95 percent of 1990-levels by 2050. Furthermore emissions must not peak after 2015.