Report: European cities aren't following the EU's lead on climate change

Wed, 2013-12-11 06:00 -- Liz Enbysk

The European Union has been a leader in the effort to limit global warming – yet new research suggests a number of cities in Europe aren't onboard. And as the report points out, cities account for between 31% and 80% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. We find this noteworthy coming on the heels of a recent UN initiative to promote the critical role information and communications technology (ICT) can play in tackling climate change. As you'll read below, ICT can have a significant impact – but city policymakers need to be onboard and advocating for ambitious urban targets.

The research by Diana Reckien of Columbia University in the U.S. and colleagues in Europe involved detailed analysis of strategic policies and planning documents from 200 urban areas in 11 European countries. As reported in the journal Climatic Change, the researchers determined that:

  • 35% of European cities studied have no dedicated climate change mitigation plan

  • 72% have no climate change adaptation plan

  • 25% have both an adaptation and a mitigation plan and set quantitative GHG reduction targets, but those vary extensively in scope and ambition

The researchers indicate that even if the planned actions within cities were nationally representative, they would fall short of the EU's goals for reducing GHG emissions.

As Tim Radford of the Climate News Network notes in an article on the research, cities are at liberty to decide what if any action they want to take on climate change. And as the researchers point out, "an ambitious national target is no guarantee of an ambitious urban target. Every country analyzed that has a nationally agreed target has cities without a GHG emission reduction target."

This research comes on the heels of a recent initiative by the UN Climate Change Secretariat and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) to highlight the critical role information and communications technology (ICT) plays in getting the world on a low-carbon path.

According to a recent GeSI report, ICT can cut global greenhouse gas emissions by more than 16% through a variety of methods, including:

  • Increasing energy efficiency of telecommunications networks and data centres

  • Enabling smart grids, including enabling renewables to connect with the utility grid

  • Reducing travel and transportation by substituting and optimizing existing travel and transportation systems

  • Using virtualization initiatives such as cloud computing and video conferencing

  • Making efficiency gains through the use of variable speed motors in manufacturing

  • Creating intelligent building management systems and optimization of logistics networks

  • Using smart farming techniques, including weather monitoring and livestock management


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