Cutting emissions and improving lives in cities around the world

Low emission zone sign in London

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Cities play a crucial part in tackling climate change and research is helping them plan.

United Nations forecasts suggest the world’s urban population will reach 68% by 2050.

Already more than half the world’s people live in urban areas and cities account for nearly three-quarters of global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions.

This means that the decisions, or in many cases, non-decisions, taken about urban development in the next few years will be crucial for:

  • how far we can limit global temperature rise
  • how well cities can adapt to a changing climate.

Geography, economics and politics

City development is driven not only by geography but also by economics and politics.

Any approach to tackling climate change must be thought about in these terms and recognise these realities to succeed.

With this in mind, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funds researchers at the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy (CCCEP).

The researchers have been helping cities address their future.

Finding low-carbon development paths

CCCEP supports action on climate change through innovative research into the political and economic factors at play.

It brings together some of the world’s leading researchers in these fields, from many different disciplines.

In recent years a CCCEP team led by Professor Andy Gouldson at the University of Leeds has developed new approaches to helping cities:

  • understand their emissions
  • understand how they can switch to low-carbon development paths
  • make the economic case for change.

The team has estimated that the potential savings through investments in low-carbon development in the world’s cities, up to 2050, would be more than US$16 trillion at today’s prices. This is at a global level. On top of this, there would also be many social benefits.

Building the environment into planning

The team’s work has already helped develop low-carbon strategies that are being implemented in a number of cities around the world, including:

  • Recife in Brazil
  • Lima in Peru
  • Kolkata in India.

In all these cities, presenting an economic case for action on climate change has helped to ensure that the issue is not left to under-resourced ‘environment’ departments. Instead it features centrally in economic development and urban regeneration.

Using this effective model, CCCEP’s mission to integrate climate action and urban development policies in cities worldwide continues.

Last updated: 23 September 2021

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