New York, which hosted this week’s UN climate summit, has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
Worldwide, cities are making similar pledges, with six Chinese cities currently running pilot cap-and-trade programs to reduce their carbon emissions. The country (now ranked as the top polluting nation in the world) plans to have a nationwide cap-and-trade program in place by 2016.
Melbourne, Australia says it will reach zero net emissions by 2020.
Copenhagen, Denmark is aiming for 2025 to become the world’s first carbon-neutral capital city (the Danish island of Samso has already done so).
Paris mayor Ann Hidalgo says that cities are on the “frontlines of this war,” and that is as true in Europe as it is in the U.S.
Despite Florida governor Rick Scott’s refusal to admit to man-made climate change, four counties in the southmost part of his state are joining forces to protect themselves from its worst effects. Florida is often labeled as “ground zero” for American climate change impacts, something its coastal residents would not dispute.
Cities are small enough that initiatives can be introduced and implemented faster than their state and federal counterparts. And with a pro-active mayor in charge, cities can change their infrastructure and policies in a matter of years. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg began a program of cutting urban pollution that has seen a 19 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions since 2005. This program is continuing under Mayor de Blasio, who hopes to take it even further.
Three-quarters of New York City’s emissions are due to construction-related issues. De Blasio hopes to change that by refurbishing old buildings to make them cleaner and more energy efficient.
“The failure to reach that goal dooms us all,” says de Blasio says. “If we don’t get it right now, at some point it will be too late.”