What can cities do about climate change? A lot. (Part 1)

Why would municipalities want to take action on climate change? Most coastal cities will be impacted, and some more than others (like New York). In 2017 it was predicted that a 3 degree rise would lead to many cites being drowned, however, more recent information shows that considerably less warming could do the same thing. We’re currently at about 1 degree warming and Greenland ice sheets are already melting four times faster than they were, and we’ve possibly already reached a tipping point on their loss.  This is fuelling a risk of serious sea level rise in just the next twenty years – up to 5 meters even if we stay below 2 degrees..

And sea level rise flooding isn’t the only risk, other towns and cities may burn to the ground, such as Paradise, California, Fort McMurray, Alberta, or simply run out of water, such as Cape Town, South Africa.

Considering the risks, and the fact that federal and provincial/state governments that seem to be stuck in 1972, municipalities may wish to do something about it. It’s also a way that individuals can take effective climate action – by running for local municipal office and getting your municipality to take action. Or convincing your municipality to take action.

There are quite a few things towns and cities can do about climate change. Here are a few:

1. Make public transportation free

Making public transportation free doesn’t just cut down on people’s expenses, it is a strong incentive to use public transit instead of your own vehicle. That can represent a huge reduction in emissions. Luxembourg has done so, as a way to deal with climate change.

2. Buy electric buses 

Every five weeks China is building enough electric buses to be London’s fleet. A few years ago this was viewed as a joke, but now is taken much more seriously. Of course it would be most effective to combine this with the point above – by making your electric buses free to the public.

3. Buy electric vehicles and install charging stations.

The IPCC report  has called the transition to electric vehicles a “powerful measure to decarbonize short-distance vehicles.” Austin, Texas, is planning to change their 330-car fleet to electric over the next three years. Pittsburgh is doing the same, and also installing solar-powered charging stations.

Many cities have charging stations, but Kingston Ontario may be leading the way in Canada with a commitment to the electrification of transportation in the city.

4. Go renewable and set goal of being carbon-neutral

On this front a republican mayor in Texas has led the charge, and gotten a lot of attention, for running completely on renewables, wind and solar. Dale Ross, the mayor, says, “[i]n Georgetown, we make our decisions based on the facts.” The decision to go with renewables was made purely on the basis of economic reasoning.

Bristol and Manchester, UK, have set goals of being carbon neutral in 2030, and 2038, respectively. London has set a similar goal as part of their climate emergency declaration. This follows similar steps by several US cities.

Another great way to reduce a city’s carbon footprint, from Portland OR, is to generate its own power through city water pipes. This may also take the prize for innovation.

5. Divest

Divestment from fossil fuel investments is a powerful tool that many cities have used to some degree. A group called C40 Cities has brought cities together to deal with climate change, and many of those listed in this article are part of it. As part of that C40 Cities has sought to accelerate fossil fuel divestment.

New York and London Mayors have put out a public call for divestment, and many cities have answered that call. As part of that London has committed to divesting pension funds from fossil fuels.

More to come in Part 2..

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