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25 C40 Cities Commit to Become Carbon Neutral by 2050

Image credit: Thomas Habr

Just weeks after 12 C40 mayors signed the C40 Fossil-Fuel-Free Streets Declaration in an effort to curb air pollution and improve the quality of life for urban dwellers while tackling climate change, the mayors of 25 pioneering cities have pledged to develop and begin implementing more ambitious climate action plans by 2020 to deliver emissions-neutral and climate-resilient cities by 2050. The plans will ensure the cities deliver on their share of emissions reductions required to realize the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Developed with the support of C40 Cities, these climate action plans will help the world’s largest cities reach net-zero emissions by 2050. The plans will also demonstrate how each city will adapt and improve its resilience to climate-related crises and extreme weather events. Additionally, they will detail the wider social, environmental and economic benefits of taking climate action.

The C40 member cities that have made the pledge are: Austin, Accra, Barcelona, Boston, Buenos Aires, Cape Town, Caracas, Copenhagen, Durban, London, Los Angeles, Melbourne, Mexico City, Milan, New York City, Oslo, Paris, Philadelphia, Portland, Quito, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Santiago, Stockholm and Vancouver.

In delivering the deadline 2020 program, C40 will be working in collaboration with other leading city initiatives, such as The Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, to achieve long-term emission reduction goals across more cities.

C40 Cities will also provide direct support to nine African megacities in developing robust and evidence-based long-term climate action plans that align with the goals of the Paris Agreement. Dubbed Cities Matter: Capacity building in sub-Saharan African megacities for transformational climate change mitigation, the project is part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI). The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) supports the initiative on the basis of a decision adopted by the German Bundestag.

The cities to be supported through the initiative are: Accra, Cape Town, Addis Ababa, Dar es Salaam, Durban, Johannesburg, Lagos, Nairobi and Tshwane.

“The Paris Agreement is very clear on what needs to happen to take courageous climate action,” said Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris and C40 Chair.

“Mayors of the world’s great cities are shaping the century ahead and paving the way for a better, healthier and greener future. Mayors do what they must do, not what they can, and these plans and policies are an excellent example of our state of mind. With the support of key partners, like BMUB and C40, African cities are playing a leading and decisive role in delivering on the ambition of the Paris Agreement.”

A new report by C40 and the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment details the biggest opportunities for emissions reduction, making it easier for cities to identify the actions that could deliver the greatest emissions reductions by 2030.

Focused Acceleration: A Strategic Approach to Climate Action in Cities to 2030 highlights 12 opportunities across four action areas that have the greatest potential in most global cities to curb emissions and put cities on a track to help limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C — decarbonizing the grid, optimizing energy efficiency in buildings, enabling next-generation mobility and improving waste management.

The research builds on C40’s Deadline 2020 targets, which defined the emissions reductions that cities need to achieve to deliver on the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C goals. The report recommends that cities pursue a strategy of ‘focused acceleration’ in specific carbon opportunities that will deliver the greatest progress in the shortest amount of time in order to reach net-zero carbon by 2050.

“The task is formidable, but with focused acceleration cities have a real opportunity to dramatically cut their emissions by 2030,” said Stefan Knupfer, Senior Partner at McKinsey & Company. “Focusing on the highest impact opportunities will also help cities develop the skill sets and expertise to achieve the reductions needed to reach a zero-carbon future by 2050.”

The study suggests that by being focused in their approach, cities can achieve 90 to 100 percent of required emissions reductions. But as no single solution can apply for all cities worldwide, the report also includes sample roadmaps for six illustrative city types. For example, a large, sprawling low-income city such as Mumbai or Jakarta might focus on enhancing mass-transit, walking and cycling infrastructure, while a denser, high-income city with good existing mass transit infrastructure such as Copenhagen might focus more on enabling adoption of shared, connected, electric vehicles.

“C40’s Deadline 2020 research showed that by 2030 C40 cities need to have delivered massive pollution reductions, reducing average emissions per person by two thirds,” said Mark Watts, Executive Director of C40. “This report will provide invaluable insight for mayors as they decide on where to focus their effort and resources to meet these targets and deliver a prosperous, low-carbon future for their citizens.”

The investment required to achieve 2030 emissions targets is significant: roughly $50 to $200 per metric ton of carbon. However, all opportunities presented in the report provide a positive return on investment in the mid to long term, whether through direct cash flow for investors or broader boosts to economic activity in the city. For many opportunities, up-front investments are paid back within five to ten years.


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