Cities are emerging as influential players on the world stage and were all over the news in 2016 with new initiatives to help tackle climate change and revive their economies.
Some 75 percent of us are expected to live in cities by 2050, solidifying them as the primary source for climate change causing greenhouse gas emissions.
But city governments, businesses and innovators around the world are already taking climate action by converting urban areas into smart, climate-friendly cities and work on upgrading infrastructure and protecting coastal areas.
Let’s look back at 2016 with a few of the stories that dominated climate action news around the world.
1. Largest-ever coalition of cities takes on climate change.
More than 7,100 cities around the world are set to fight climate change together following the merger of two key initiatives. The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy is the result of a merger between the EU’s Covenant of Mayors and the UN’s Compact of Mayors.
2. Paris, Madrid, Athens and Mexico city say they will ban diesel cars by 2025.
Four of the world’s biggest cities have vowed to ban diesel cars from their city centres by 2025 in order to improve air quality, City Metric reports.
3. Sustainable infrastructure: The huge $90 trillion investment opportunity.
Over the next 15 years, governments and finance institutions will need to shift investment towards sustainable infrastructure to meet climate change targets and kick-start economic growth, a major research project concluded in 2016. The world’s existing infrastructure – spanning sectors such as energy, public transport, buildings, water supply and sanitation – is estimated to be responsible for 60 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
4. The extraordinary acceleration of urbanisation captured in one short video.
It was not just visualisations of climate science that went viral in 2016. Some 75 per cent of the world’s population is expected to live in cities by 2030 and the rapid acceleration of this trend becomes especially apparent when it is visualised.
5. The cleantech industry is rebranding itself as “smart city” to attract venture capital.
Bloomberg reported that cleantech startups are rebranding themselves to capitalise on “the quest to build a smart city.” Cleantech companies, “whose missions are broadly linked to environmental improvement, are benefiting as municipalities around the world embrace smart cities – where internet-connected devices collect data that can be used to address challenges from energy efficiency to traffic, crime and public health,” according to Bloomberg, noting that the smart city market is expected to balloon to $1.57 trillion by 2020.
6. Thousands pulled climate action all-nighter in cities around the world.
Thousands of people in major cities across the world pulled all-nighters to respond to climate change on a global scale as part of the Climate-KIC Climathon. Some 60 cities across almost 40 countries on 6 continents set up a local climate change challenges for teams to respond to.
7. Here are 12 examples of how to enjoy car-free day anywhere in the world.
Every year on and around 22 September, people around the world ditch their cars in the name of climate action and healthier living. Some cities even take it a step further and organise multiple car-free days per year, or once a month. The Daily Planet listed a few examples of how people take climate action and celebrate car-free days around the world.
8. Cities have an unprecedented opportunity to shift to renewables.
In a report published this year, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimated energy use in 3,649 cities around the world and gave an indication of their potential to scale-up renewable energy by 2030. The report highlights that as energy use across cities and countries grows and declines there is a massive potential to cost-effectively boost renewable energy use in buildings, across transport networks and throughout regional energy grids.
9. Why invest in sustainable cities? Michael Bloomberg and Patricia de Lille explain for CNN.
CNN published an opinion piece by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and the mayor of Cape Town, Patricia de Lille. The pair explained that cities are growing at an unprecedented pace, and that “we need more buildings, more bridges, more public transport and more energy” to make it work.
10. These urban garden projects will blow your mind.
From secret rooftop gardens to smart trees that suck up air pollution, these urban garden projects are not to be missed. Urban areas are often huge contributors to climate change due to the high output of greenhouse gas emissions. So what are cities doing to solve this?
11. The EU is targeting North American cities with its new climate coalition.
The European Commission is setting up a North American chapter of its Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy. The new regional covenant will cover the United States, Canada and Mexico.
12. Climate action mayors to follow on twitter.
The new global coalition of more than 7000 mayors wants to implement the Paris climate accord together – get to know some of them via social media!
13. Cities are rushing to measure their climate footprints following the Paris Agreement on climate change.
The number of cities reporting on their efforts to tackle global warming has risen 70 per cent to 533 around the world since the adoption of the Paris climate change agreement in 2015, according to Reuters. More cities are doing an inventory of their greenhouse gas emissions, Reuters reports, as a first step to managing their climate impact.
14. Christiana Figueres is back: The former UN climate chief will help lead the coalition of 7000 mayors.
Her remarkable, optimistic leadership style has been credited with helping deliver the historic Paris climate accord. Now, Christiana Figueres helps lead the global coalition of mayors who want to see it implemented. The Costa Rican diplomat was announced as the vice chair of the new Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy.
15. The numbers prove “vegetarian cities” can bring down greenhouse gas emissions.
Many do not relate meat consumption to climate change, according to Newsweek. But once you do the math, there’s now way around it. Agriculture and food production currently account for about a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, a massive 80 per cent of which are livestock-related. Cities around the world have introduced Meatless Mondays – a global initiative to use a different protein source one day a week, and reduce personal meat consumption by 15 per cent, according to Newsweek.