Cities and Climate Change
Climate change is a global phenomenon that is increasingly affecting urban environments. As the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has said, climate change is the major, overriding environmental issue of our time, and the single greatest challenge facing environmental regulators.
Urban areas are key contributors to climate change. The concentration of people and economic activities in cities are major sources of greenhouse gas emissions. While green house gasses are a natural phenomenon and are essential for the life on earth, an excessive concentration leads to unusually warm temperatures. There is much research that suggests a link between global warming and extreme weather events such as floods and droughts. Cities are particularly exposed to such events, because of their geographic location, often near coastlines, and because of the number of vulnerable people living in cities.
Only with a coordinated approach that includes actions at the global, regional, national and local levels, can successful mitigation and adaptation initiatives be realized. It is essential, therefore, to make cities an integral part of the solution in fighting climate change. Drawing on their leading role in innovation and economic production, many cities are already taking action, such as using renewable energy sources, cleaner production techniques and regulations to control industrial emissions. Energy-efficient housing, city planning measures that reduce traffic and vehicle emissions, and the promotion of non-motorized transport all contribute directly to the reduction of GHG emission. These efforts provide both global and local benefits by reducing emissions, as well as local air pollution (thus improving urban air quality and the health of city dwellers).