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When It Comes to Cutting Carbon, Cities May Be More Powerful Than National Governments

When It Comes to Cutting Carbon, Cities May Be More Powerful Than National Governments
Reuters

When it comes to leadership on climate change issues, don’t bother looking to the top. National governments have made little headway in developing plans and policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Kyoto protocol was the start of an international conversation, but one with a limited impact. The COP 15 Climate Change Conference in 2009 resulted in little, as did its follow-up meetings in 2010 and 2011. Delegates at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development are hoping those talks will continue to develop, but recent history suggests leadership at the national level is far off.

At the local level, though, progress has been made. As we've previously reported, cities across the planet are crafting and implementing plans to adapt to and even reduce the impacts of global climate change. And according to a coalition of the world's largest cities, progress continues. The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group says its 58 member cities are on a track to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 248 million tons by 2020 – about 0.8 percent of global emissions.

Not a huge bite, but at least its something. C40 notes that many of these city-level efforts have been enacted without the support of national governments.

The Carbon Disclosure Project's 2012 global cities report [PDF] also asserts that mayors have direct control of over 75 percent of urban emissions sources, from municipal fleets to residential waste management to outdoor lighting to urban planning. This is a pretty striking figure.

And according to the report, city governments are responsible for 77 percent of the actions being taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

So while it might be nice and useful to see some leadership on climate change and greenhouse gas emissions at the national level, down at the city level there is power, funding and inclination to take action.

Photo credit: Sergio Moraes / Reuters

Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for The Atlantic Cities. He lives in Los Angeles. All posts »

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