Cities are a huge source of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that contribute to climate change, as well as an increasing majority of the world’s population. At the same time, their actions and policies could play a huge role in cutting emissions.
Yet in a new ranking just 7% – 43 out of 596 cities – receive a top ranking for their climate leadership and action to cut emissions. They include New York, Washington DC, San Francisco, Denver, Boston, Cleveland and Seattle in the US, along with global cities such as London, Paris, Barcelona, Melbourne, Cape Town and Hong Kong. Twenty one of them are in North America, nine in Europe, four in Australia, just one in Latin America (Buenos Aires) and Africa (Cape Town), and four in East Asia.
The ranking, compiled by CDP, a non-profit that drives companies and local and regional governments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, safeguard water resources and protect forests. Over 750 cities, states and regions disclosed data through CDP in 2018.
Five cities have set city-wide 100% renewable energy targets – including Paris, San Francisco and Canberra – while Reykjavik has already achieved this, thanks to Iceland’s plentiful geothermal energy resources. Thirteen cities plan to be climate or carbon neutral by 2050, including The Hague, Boston and Sydney.
“The need for action on climate change has never been more urgent, as the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned. Cities house more than half of the world’s population and are responsible for over 70% of the world’s energy-related carbon emissions, so they could make or break efforts to tackle climate change,” said Kyra Appleby, Global Director for Cities, States and Regions at CDP.
“Just 7% of cities who reported to CDP in 2018 received an A. We urge cities worldwide to step up their action, set targets in line with what the latest science says is needed to prevent dangerous climate change, and transparently share their progress.”
The cities that reported through CDP’s environmental disclosure platform in 2018 (Over 625 cities reported, but only 596 were scored) were awarded an ‘A’ to ‘D-’ score based on how effectively they are managing, measuring and tackling GHG and adapting to climate-related risks including water security.
An ‘A’ score, CDP says, “means a city demonstrates strong climate adaptation and mitigation strategies, and consistently tracks its emissions. Leading action looks different around the world, depending on the size of the city, the size of its emissions, and its susceptibility to extreme weather events.”
Examples of the actions that A List cities are taking include London’s ultra-low emissions zone, under which drivers of older, more polluting cars pay more to drive in the centre of the city, which has consistently breach European Union air quality limits. The Hague, in the Netherlands, has built, in a seaside resort within its boundaries, a kilometre-long dike underneath a new waterfront boulevard to add another layer of protection against the increased flooding that stronger, more frequent storms and sea level rise will bring.
Calgary, in Canada, is building a new light rail system that is set to cut emissions from the city’s traffic by 30,000 tonnes, while in Taipei, the Taiwanese capital, the city authorities have focused on fixing water leaks to tackle droughts. The initiative has saved more than 600,000 tonnes of water per year, since 2015.
CDP’s first classification of city efforts to tackle climate change is an attempt to drive up the ambition of municipal authorities in the face of the growing urgency of the climate change challenge.
This is the first time CDP has released a list of cities awarded an A in a bid to drive up ambition in the face of the growing urgency of the climate challenge. The latest climate science from the IPCC shows the global economy needs to halve global emissions by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2050 to have a good chance of keeping global temperatures within 1.5°C of warming.
Current national action plans are not on track for a 1.5°C pathway and would result in 3°C of warming, according to research by another non-profit, Carbon Tracker. “This means the contribution of cities is more important than ever,” CDP asserts.
“Across the world and the United States, cities are stepping up their ambition to reduce emissions, embrace renewables and adapt to risks exacerbated by climate change,” said Kelly Shultz, Director of the American Cities Climate Challenge at Bloomberg Philanthropies. “We are proud that six winners of Bloomberg’s American Cities Climate Challenge made CDP’s cities A List, demonstrating climate progress. The success of climate action relies on bold action from global cities and CDP’s cities A List highlights replicable actions already taking place in cities worldwide.”
The full list of A-rated cities can be found here