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Study urges broader look at cities and climate change

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January 27, 2011 Hohoe (V/R), Jan 27, GNA - A forthcoming study in peer-reviewed journal "Environment and Urbanisation" has entreated policymakers to take a fresh look at the differences between greenhouse gas emissions from different cities to identify new opportunities to mitigate climate change.

The study provides greenhouse gas emissions for over 100 cities in 33 countries and suggests policy tools that city governments could use as guide to facilitate action on climate change.

It was published by Sage Publications and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and circulated to the Ghana News Agency.

Mr Daniel Hoornweg, Lead Urban Specialist on Cities and Climate Change at the World Bank and Lead Author, said "cities worldwide are blamed for most greenhouse gas emissions but many cities have very low emissions, compared with many city dwellers in even the most industrialised countries.

"Differences in production and consumption patterns between cities and citizens mean that it is not helpful to attribute emissions to cities as a whole. Policymakers need a better understanding of the sources of emissions if they are to develop real solutions," he said.

Mr Hoornweg and supporting researchers have demonstrated that emissions per person per year vary from 15-30 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in some cities in industrialised countries to less than half a tonne per person per year in various cities in South Asia.

He noted that there were, however, variations within countries and even within cities stating that in the United States for instance, the emissions per person in Denver were double those of people in New York, which has a greater population density and much lower reliance on private vehicles for commutation.

Mr Hoornweg again said in Toronto, residential emissions per person in a dense, inner city neighbourhood with a high quality public transport system are just 1.3 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, compared to 13 tonnes in a sprawling distant suburb.

The study, however, identified some surprising differences between cities in different parts of the world including many European cities, which have less than half the emissions per person of many cities in North America.

Some successful and wealthy cities in Brazil have lower emissions per person than poorer cities in Asia and Africa with emissions per person in London being lower than those in Cape Town, South Africa

The paper shows that emissions vary greatly depending on whether they are calculated according to what a city (or a citizen) produces or instead of what they consume.

"Lifestyles and consumption patterns are key drivers of greenhouse gas emissions in far off cities, as in the case of Western consumer demand for Chinese goods," says Mr Hoornweg.

He said: "From the production perspective Shanghai has high emissions but from the consumption perspective its emissions are much lower."

Equally, a wealthy city where many inhabitants have a high-consumption lifestyle could have low per capita emissions from a production perspective, but very high emissions from a consumption perspective.

Dr David Satterthwaite, Editor of Environment and Urbanization and a Senior Fellow at the IIED, said: "The paper reminds researchers and policy makers that the world's wealthiest cities and their wealthiest inhabitants contribute to unsustainable levels of greenhouse gas emissions but not cities in general.

"Most cities in Africa, Asia and Latin America have low emissions per person. The challenge for them is to keep these emissions low even as their wealth grows," he said.

The paper provides the greenhouse-gas emissions per person in more than 100 cities in Argentina; Australia; Bangladesh; Belgium; Bhutan; Brazil; Canada; China; Czech Republic; Finland; France; Germany; Greece; India; Italy; Japan; Jordan; Mexico; Nepal; The Netherlands; Norway; Portugal; Republic of Korea; Singapore; Slovenia; South Africa; Spain; Sri Lanka; Sweden; Switzerland; Thailand; United Kingdom; and United States.


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