Cities Are More Environmentally Friendly

Get out of the suburbs and into the city! Especially if you care about the environment.

The cities are where all the good policy around climate change is being enacted. While international agreements are not much more than show cities around the world are fighting hard to ensure that their locales are liveable and sustainable.

Cities have a unique power to drive immediate change involving issues such as public transportation, but they also can help influence prosaic long-term land use planning (think about all those interminable city council meetings) to realize truly sustainable cities. No futuristic visions of cities are needed. For now, the reality is more mundane: asphalt recycling and better insulation in buildings, timers for coffee makers and telecommuting, light sensors, and water conservation.

Local governments are tackling GHG emissions in any way they can: Boston, for instance, has mandated the nation’s first green building code for private projects. In Gainesville, Fla., the city utility pays a premium for solar power from peoples’ homes fed back into the grid. In Babylon, N.Y., homeowners are eligible for loans to make their homes more efficient, and those loans are entirely repaid through cost savings in their power bills.

But to create low- or zero-emission cities — among the only ways to avoid dangerous climate change if the objective is to cut GHG emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, the target set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — more revolutionary changes are needed.

At least 1,000 cities in the U.S. and around the world are adopting targets and taking action, says ICLEI. Cities are cooperating internationally, offering financial incentive programs for clean power plants and home retrofits, and planning growth and emission cuts as much as half-a-century down the road.

Cities lead the way in action to halt climate change at The Guardian.

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