Cities and Climate Change

Cities are the principal drivers of climate change and at the same time are the most vulnerable to its impacts. Cities are the engines of economic growth, generating 80 percent of global GDP. The concentration of people and economic activity in cities explains why they use about two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for about 75 percent of GHG emissions. Cities are especially vulnerable to the effects of rising sea levels, more powerful and frequent storms, and extreme heat events.

 

Kenmore MBTA station. Credit: user Pi.1415926535/Wikimedia Commons
Kenmore MBTA station. Credit: user Pi.1415926535/Wikimedia Commons

The characteristics of urban life and jurisdictional realities present important opportunities for cities to lead efforts to mitigate GHG emissions. Cities can coordinate the efforts of households, businesses, government, and civil society faster and more effectively compared to national governments. Urban emissions stem from a common set of sources, such as buildings and vehicles, which enable cities to form knowledge networks that share data and best practices.  While federal and state policies and funding remain extremely important, cities often have very large short- and long-term impacts on emissions through their planning, land use, building and zoning approvals; authority over transportation systems and infrastructure; and influence or outright control over infrastructure and utilities.

The City of Boston is a leader in regional, national, and international networks of cities that share data and best practices related to climate planning and action. The City is a member of the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance (CNCA), a project of the Urban Sustainability Directors Network. CNCA  is a collaboration of international cities committed to achieving aggressive long-term carbon reduction goals. Mayor Walsh represents the City on the Steering Committee of C40, a network of the world’s megacities that supports collaboration and knowledge-sharing to drive meaningful, measurable and sustainable action on climate change. The City is an active member of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, an international alliance of cities and local governments with a shared long-term vision of promoting and supporting voluntary action to combat climate change and move to a low emission, resilient society. Closer to home, the City is a member of the Metropolitan Mayors Coalition (MMC), a collaborative, problem-solving group of 14 municipal leaders facilitated by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), the regional planning agency for Greater Boston. In May 2015, the MMC adopted the Metro Boston Climate Preparedness Commitment that committed its members to net zero/carbon-free status by 2050.