Largest Cities Say Climate Change Threatens Local Businesses

79% of city governments believe the physical impacts of climate change directly or indirectly threaten the ability of local businesses to operate successfully.

That’s according to the first global cities report from the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) written by KPMG, which details how the world’s largest cities are tackling climate change.

The report looks at 58 core and affiliate cities of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40) who represent 8% of the world’s population. The report was released Monday in conjunction with the C40 Cities Mayors Summit in São Paulo, Brazil, where over 70 of the world’s largest cities are convening.

Over two thirds of these cities (72%) measured and reported to CDP on local government and community wide greenhouse gas  (GHG) emissions and the risks and opportunities from climate change.

"Cities are on the frontlines in addressing global climate changes," says New York City Mayor and C40 Chair, Michael  Bloomberg. "This ground-breaking study provides critical data that will enable cities to make powerful decisions and track progress as they continue to address the impact climate change is having on their environment, their economy and their citizens."

Climate Change Plans and Actions

With 62% of reporting cities establishing climate change action plans and 57% adopting GHG reduction targets, mayors are embracing and implementing initiatives that bolster green industries and create new environmental jobs, improve quality of life for citizens and reduce the physical risks from climate change.

Transport, buildings, energy savings, renewable energy, green spaces and waste are the most frequently mentioned areas of focus incorporated into cities’ master plans.

  • Seoul plans to retrofit 10,000 buildings by 2030.
  • Austin has a zero waste plan for 2040.
  • London aims to have 100,000 electric vehicles on the streets by 2020.
  • Buenos Aires is implementing a network of dedicated bus and taxi lanes to improve fuel efficiency.
  • Tokyo is introducing higher energy efficiency standards for large urban developments.
  • São Paulo’s goal is to reduce the use of fossil fuel on public transportation by 10% each year, aiming at 100% use of renewable by 2017.

At the same time, an emerging number of cities (26%) are beginning to see the benefits from incentives – providing monetary rewards, recognition or prizes to individuals or departments that achieve GHG goals. Rio de Janeiro, for example, rewards public workers financially for achieving their GHG emission reduction targets.

Climate Change Risks

Almost all cities (93%) recognize the significant physical risk from climate change.

43% of cities say they are already dealing with the effects of climate change. They point to temperature changes resulting in more hot days, increased frequency of heat waves, more intense rainfall, increased severity of storms and floods and rising sea levels.

This has serious implications for buildings, infrastructure, water supply, energy supply and human health.

  • When Jakarta was hit by floods in 2007 it cost $879 million and resulted in over 200,000 refugees.
  • In Rio de Janeiro, intense rainfall in 2010 damaged infrastructure, affected waste management, transportation and communications as well as creating a spread of disease in flooded areas.
  • New Orleans is still dealing with the impacts of Hurricane Katrina. It will also lose significant parts of the city from sea level rises should climate change continue on its current path.

Other key findings from the first CDP Cities report include:

  • C40 Cities report total city-wide GHG emissions of 1.2 billion metric tons CO2e – equal to Japan’s total emissions
  • Large city governments are keeping pace with major corporations (the Global 500) on GHG measurement and disclosure, with two of every three responding cities reporting GHG emissions data.
  • Greater financial planning is needed to safeguard the future of cities. Only six cities reported that they have calculated the financial investment required to meet community emission reductions. This is vital to ensure robust target setting and achievable reductions.
  • 69% of cities are incorporating climate change and its effects into urban planning and development.
  • Cities are less aware of opportunities than risks, with just over half of cities stating they expect some positive effects from climate change.
  • Cities would benefit from standard methodologies to calculate city emissions as current multiple methodologies make comparisons challenging.

CDP Cities Launches

In conjunction with the report, the Carbon Disclosure Project  launched its carbon reporting platform for cities, called CDP Cities.

The platform is adapted from CDP’s well established corporate reporting system for GHG emissions and other sustainability-related information.

However, C40 announced yesterday that it will work with ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability) to establish its own global standard for accounting and reporting community-scale GHG emissions.

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