Why Cities Must Lead The Climate Battle

News: Glasgow Climate Pact makes no explicit mention of the critical role of urban areas in finding solutions to the climate problem. Once again, the challenges of cities have taken a backseat in global negotiations on climate change.

Why towns and cities will play a critical role in the fight against climate change?

More people now live in towns and cities than in rural areas.

– Towns and cities are responsible for producing over three-quarters of the world’s carbon emissions that cause the climate to change.

– Additionally, urban areas are disproportionately located along coasts and rivers, highly exposed to climate-induced disasters such as floods and sea level rise.

– With over one in three urban residents living in slums and one in four earning less than $2 a day, cities also contain vast numbers of people who lack the capacity to withstand the impacts of a changing climate.

What are some potential negative implications of climate change on the urban population?

Climate disasters faced by Indian cities: From past few years, Indian cities have faced the brunt of the climate change.

– Floods in Chennai (this month and in 2015)

– Heatwaves (such as the one in Ahmedabad in 2010)

– Water scarcity (such as in Maharashtra in 2016 when the water had to be shipped in on trains

Deteriorating health of urban residents due to changing disease patterns

An increase in violence due to extreme heat

As a result of all of the above, the overall reduced wellbeing of city dwellers and an impact on the economic productivity of urban areas that currently account for over 80% of the world’s GDP.

What is the way forward?

Consultations with city residents: Comprehensive climate action plans need to be produced through genuine consultation with a wide cross-section of urban residents. For instance,

– Odisha: Innovative public-private partnerships between municipal bodies in Odisha and research institutions. This has led to an improved understanding of practical steps that can be taken to reduce emissions and build resilience in cities.

Role of state govt: The role of state governments is critical. They must ensure that all departments work together to make urban climate action a reality. A good example of this is Maharashtra’s recent commitment to ensure that 43 cities in the state systematically reduce emissions.

Addressing problems of the urban poor: Our cities are fueled by those living in slums and working in the informal economy. Unfortunately, they are the ones disproportionately affected by a changing climate. Therefore, any move to help cities deal with climate change must have their interests at its core.

Climate finance: A key component of equipping cities to deal with climate change is the provision of finance. Time and time again, including this year’s COP has proved that international climate finance is not a certainty. Hence, our state governments must enable cities to generate their own streams of finance for tackling climate change. This can be done via:

– issuing municipal green bonds: These have been used by cities such as Cape Town to raise large amounts of money to deal with crippling water scarcity. Cities such as Pune have issued bonds in the past, but there is a lack of understanding and most cities also lack the basic financial systems for issuing these. The international community must share lessons in such innovative climate finance approaches.

Source: This post is based on the article “Why Cities Must Lead The Climate Battle” published in TOI on 23rd Nov 2021.

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