The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) has released a report - Seven Climate Change Lessons from the Cities of Europe -analysing the responses from the 22 European cities that replied to its global information request. The report concludes that European cities have had an impact on global climate change efforts. One reason is that the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, an organisation of cities dedicated to reducing GHG emissions, currently counts 17 member cities in Europe, more than in any other region of the world.
The commitments of European cities have translated into action. Of the European cities that reported to CDP in 2012, 82% have set a city-wide emissions reduction target, compared to the global average of 70% across all cities, and two thirds engage with their suppliers on climate change, compared to 47% across all cities worldwide. In fact European cities outperform other regions in a number of categories, according to the CDP.
The consequence is that European cities are squeezing more wealth out of every tonne of GHG emitted. The CDP data shows that cities in Europe manage to produce $9,200 (€7,247) worth of economic activity per tonne of GHG, while North American cities report just over half that amount.
This leadership is attributed to the fact that Europe is a highly developed region, where the European Union has been aggressive in pushing for climate change action. It was the first region to establish an emissions trading scheme for high-emitting facilities which, together with a range of supporting legislation, has led to declining emissions. The EU is on target to meet its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol.
This report looks at seven specific actions that European cities are taking to manage climate change:
1. Measuring and reporting emissions annually: 50% of European cities are measuring their city-wide emissions annually.
2. Setting targets: 82% of reporting cities say that they are setting greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets.
3. Reducing GHG emissions: Two European cities show GHG reductions from their last CDP response — London and Copenhagen.
4. Completing risk assessments: 77% of cities have completed, or are in the process of completing, risk assessments to understand the impact of climate change.
5. Developing an adaptation plan: 64% of reporting cities say they have an adaptation plan, with two more developing plans.
6. Using sustainability to drive competitiveness: Thirteen cities (59%) anticipate that addressing climate change will lead to development of new business industries in their cities.
7. Extending the city’s reach through voluntary agreements: A few leading cities are using voluntary agreements with local businesses to further the city’s climate protection goals.
This report is a follow up to the CDP’s recent Measurement for Management: CDP Cities 2012 Global Report , in which 82% of the 73 cities worldwide that responded to the CDP identified the potential for economic growth as a result of climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Better energy efficiency and security were important factors, but job creation and industry growth are by far the most prominently cited opportunities. In all, 55% of cities anticipated the creation of green jobs and 53% predicted new business from clean tech industries or the development of new low-carbon economy technologies.
The report also identified a ‘network effect’ among the C40 Cities with the percentage reporting city-wide emissions jumping from 67% to 78% and those setting emissions reduction targets up from 62% in 2011 to 71%.
But it’s not for altruistic reasons. A total of 84% of the C40 Cities expect economic benefits as a result of their actions. For example, London anticipates that to deliver its 60% carbon reduction target will result in the creation of 200,000 green jobs by 2025 from opportunities such as those arising from its energy retrofitting, waste and decentralising energy aspirations.
There must be a thesis or two on the reasons why cities seem much more inclined to address climate change than governments are to set national strategies and agree global actions. I guess it’s because cities are working within defined limits and fixed restrictions – they see manageable opportunities and threats within the broader national picture. By contrast, national governments seem to be dazzled into inaction by the headlights of oncoming global warming, unable to comprehend or address the implications.
Let’s hope the cities can influence governments to come together to develop a more global approach. Meanwhile, IBM can get a lot of reassurance about its smart cities strategy – particularly in Europe - from these CDP reports.