Smarter Cities Will Help Fight Climate Change

U.S. cities are struggling with aging infrastructure. Ahead of the Paris climate talks, a new report calls on cities worldwide to develop urban development strategies focused on building efficiency, public transit, waste management, & renewable energy.

September 8, 2015
Cities in the United States are struggling with aging and failing infrastructure systems—ones that will likely be unable to withstand the severe impacts of climate change. We’ve seen this with Hurricane Sandy, and in Duluth, Minnesota, where the roads were washed away several years ago by the worst flood in Duluth’s history.
This problem is observed in today’s Star Tribune, with an editorial outlining what the mayors of two of the state’s major cities say is the biggest problem they have yet to fix: the cities’ aging infrastructure for street, sewer and related systems.
Building smarter cities will not only improve our infrastructure and make our cities more efficient, it can have a significant impact in the fight against climate change.
A new working paper from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate outlines the importance of building smarter cities as a strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In “Accelerating Low-Carbon Development in the World’s Cities,” the Commission says that two-thirds of the global population will live in urban areas by 2050, and recommends that cities “commit to developing and implementing low-carbon urban development strategies by 2020,” calling for an aid package of $1 billion to unleash $5-10 billion in private investment.
As reported by The Guardian:
“Putting cities on a course of smart growth – with expanded public transit, energy-saving buildings, and better waste management – could save as much as $22tn and avoid the equivalent in carbon pollution of India’s entire annual output of greenhouse gasses, according to leading economists.”
The report comes just a few months ahead of critical negotiations in Paris around a global agreement to fight climate change. The report’s contributors say that this strategy could help close the gap between currently committed reductions in greenhouse gases and that which is needed to limit the world’s global temperature increase to 2° C.
Building smarter cities seems like a no brainer. Building efficiency, transit, renewable energy and waste management are all strategies worth pursuing in cities in the United States and across the world.
But political will is needed to make these changes, both in Paris and here in the United States.