REPORT – Everyone must prepare for a new reality

11 November, 2021

The world’s cities are currently responsible for around 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and their populations are set to grow to 70 percent of the world’s total within 50 years. Something dramatic has to change. 

Step forward the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) whose members are not in the blame game. They talk the language of collaboration and they are set to release a new set of weighty reports on global climate through next year. Already it is possible to determine the kind of action they will be recommending. 

It was the IPCC who in 2018 identified 1.5 degrees as a maximum temperature rise if life on our planet is to survive. This is now widely accepted as the absolute minimum target and equally widely doubted as realistic. ‘Remember, 1.5 is not a safe world,’ cautioned Debra Roberts, co-chair of the IPCC working group II. ‘Even 1.1 isn’t safe because that’s an average and there will be many places where it gets hotter.’

She is one of the authors of the 2018 report and was speaking at a COP26 Resilience Hub session to announce a new initiative, the Summary for Urban Policymakers that can help inform action at the city scale. The IPCC speakers were in broad agreement on several key areas: climate data is crucial if cities are to respond and adapt in time; where there is climate threat there can also be green opportunities for entrepreneurs and for finance, collaboration is key.

Cities and their populations would have to get used to transition, to changing their behaviour and their infrastructure. Calamity may be growling in the distance but it was not too late to prepare to stand up to it.

‘We’re at the beginning of a revolution’

Mayor Bill Peduto of Pittsburgh came across as exactly the kind of leader the situation required. He’s been in post since 2014 and while he doesn’t minimise the scale of the climate emergency he’s been building the city and the region’s preparations based on science. ‘We’re at the beginning of a revolution,’ he said. ‘We’re in the transition of everything and it’s going to affect the entire culture of this planet and have an effect on all of humanity.

He said Pittsburgh had risen from the dead. In the 1980s there was high unemployment, the steel industry was on its knees and the city was in debt, the economy was driven by fossil fuels. The city, which was among the first to introduce driverless cars, has encouraged clean technology to replace old industry and while there were still jobs that would go, there were more that would be created in the green economy. And Pittsburgh is playing a part in that by acting as a ‘research lab’ for science (specifically a cooperation between Carnegie Mellon University, Google and Uber) where ideas to improve the urban experience were being encouraged and tried out.

Commenting on launch of the Summary for Urban Policymakers, Sharon Thorne, chair of the global board of directors, Deloitte, said ‘As the world continues to experience disruption from the Covid-19 pandemic, how we shape our future investment in cities and their infrastructure, alongside recovery packages, will be critical for scaling up tangible action on climate change. 

‘This investment will be most effective if led by the science and designed by policymakers and business leaders who consciously put decarbonisation and the need to build resilience into every aspect of their plans and investment strategies.’

Picture: Cities are responsible for 40 percent of carbon emissions

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