The carbon footprint of some of the world’s biggest cities is 60 percent larger than previously estimated when all the products and services a city consumes are included, according to a new analysis.
Wealthy “consumer cities” such as London, Paris, New York, Toronto, or Sydney that no longer have large industrial sectors have significantly reduced their local emissions. However, when the emissions associated with their consumption of goods and services are included, these cities’ emissions have grown substantially and are among the highest in the world on a per person basis, the report says. Meanwhile, “producer” cities in India, Pakistan, or Bangladesh generate lots of industrial pollution and carbon emissions in the manufacture of products that will be sold and consumed in Europe and North America.
We’re still going in the wrong direction on climate change,” said Mark Watts, executive director of C40 Cities. Global carbon emissions have increased 60 percent since the international 1997 Kyoto agreement to reduce emissions. “Using more renewable energy and mass transit won’t be enough to reverse this,” said Watts. “We have to reduce our consumption.” Matt Gray, the chief of sustainability at the city of Cleveland, Ohio, says he welcomes this new approach. By the old method of accounting, manufacturing cities like Cleveland often rank poorly in current measures of sustainability, he notes. Yet cities with service-based economies that consume the things Cleveland makes rank better. Resource consumption was not a factor in last year’s U.S. Cities Sustainable Development Goals Index, which put Cleveland at the bottom. Yet the fact that Cleveland is widely considered a national leader in local food production wasn’t a factor in the index, Gray said.
In working on this new accounting of consumption emissions, the city of Paris is targeting its tourist promotions to countries where travelers can visit by train, in an effort to reduce emissions from air travel. It’s also encouraging residents to change their diets from carbon-emission-heavy meats to vegetarian fare. Stockholm has asked all of its developers to estimate their embodied emissions in construction materi