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From Copenhagen To Paris, Cities And Mayors Are Leading The Way On Climate Action

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The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40) and research partner Arup released Climate Action in Megacities (CAM 3.0), a groundbreaking and definitive assessment of how the world’s leading mayors have taken on the urgent challenge of climate change.

Since the last major COP in Copenhagen, C40 cities have taken 10,000 climate actions – a doubling of actions in just six years – and have committed to reduce their CO2 emissions by 3 Gt CO2 by 2030, equivalent to the annual carbon output of India.

Furthermore, decisions taken by global cities to invest in low carbon development over the next 15 years have the potential to avoid locking in a total of 45 Gt of CO2, or eight times the total current annual emissions of the United States.

By working together, the world’s largest cities have forged a pathway to low carbon and climate resilient development. By showing what cities have already done, are currently doing, and have the potential to do, cities and mayors provide a positive message going into COP21 that nations, too, can agree upon and deliver ambitious climate action.

C40 cities understand what is at stake: 98% of C40 cities recognise the risks of climate change; while 70% report that they are already experiencing its impacts. As a result, cities have taken 10,000 actions including establishing incentives for building retrofits, installing energy-efficient LED streetlights, developing city-wide adaptation plans, building bus rapid transit lines and financing waste-to-energy projects – actions that not only reduce greenhouse gas emission but increase cities’ liveability. CAM 3.0 analysed actions taken by 66 cities across twelve sectors (e.g. adaptation, energy supply, finance, waste) and 50 action areas.

The urgency to act is greater than ever. Recent C40 research shows that global urban policy decisions before 2020 could determine up to a third of the remaining global carbon budget that is not already “locked-in” by past decisions.

“If cities can work together to tackle climate change, nations can too,” said C40 Chair and Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes. “By demonstrating the ambition, scale and impact of urban climate action, Climate Action in Megacities 3.0 should provide hope to the world and a backbone to the climate negotiators assembling in Paris this month to agree on a new, universal climate change accord.”

“We’re in better shape going into Paris than we were going into Copenhagen largely because of the progress cities have made, and C40 cities have helped lead the way. It’s a great example of the power of cooperation – a lesson told in this report that I hope will inspire world leaders at the U.N.’s climate change conference.” said Michael R. Bloomberg, UN Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, who launched the first edition of the Climate Action in Megacities during his tenure as C40 Chair as part of a strategic goal to empower cities with data.

“The Road to Paris is a road that leads to and through a C40 city deeply committed to climate action,” said Mayor Anne Hidalgo. “Paris is a concrete example of how actions taken locally – whether a bikeshare program, a building retrofit program or even hosting international climate talks – can have widespread global impacts. Parisians are extremely proud of the steps we are taking to tackle climate change and hope our efforts can inspire global leaders to strengthen their pledges as well.”

As the world’s most extensive quantitative study of city climate action, CAM 3.0 documents and analyses the nearly 10,000 actions taken by C40 cities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve climate resilience since the failed climate negotiations in Copenhagen in 2009. The report demonstrates the ability of mayors to share knowledge across geographic, political and economic boundaries: 30 percent of climate action measured was a result of city-to-city collaboration. This collaboration is also accelerating the rate at which cities are acting – more than half (51 percent) of climate action is happening today at a city-wide scale, up from just 15 percent in 2011.

“Our research shows that cities and their partners are working together to effectively mitigate and adapt to climate change. As cities initiate and increase their climate actions, they are making themselves more attractive for investment and partnerships with the private sector” said Arup Chairman Gregory Hodkinson. “There is both need and potential to do more, and as this knowledge and expertise spreads globally, we expect to see cities’ ambitions grow as we reach a critical stage in international climate change action.”

Among the report’s notable findings, all but one C40 city participating in the 2015 survey (65 out of 66) is introducing LED street lighting, a 250% increase from just 20 cities at the time of the Copenhagen climate talks. C40 cities have started an urban solar revolution – 46 out of 66 surveyed cities are now delivering solar power generation, a 280% increase since COP 15, and four times as many C40 cities (39 out of 66) are now employing building energy management systems to reduce energy consumption in municipal buildings.

Cities have a vested interest in securing a climate safe world. Nearly all (98 percent) of C40 cities responding to the CAM 3.0 survey recognize the risk of climate change, and half are already experiencing its impacts. C40 mayors are therefore setting ambitious climate targets and long-term strategies, and making strong, direct investments in climate action, the report shows. Cities report plans to expand nearly all (88 percent) actions currently underway, up from 30 percent in 2011. They are also financing 70 percent of city-wide action themselves and report a sizeable investment of USD $2.8bn in the mere 450 actions for which cost data was provided.

Climate Action in Megacities 3.0 is the third of C40’s definitive assessments of its member cities’ climate action, following earlier surveys in 2011 and 2013. For this report, “climate action” is defined as the measures and initiatives cities take to reduce the severity of climate change (mitigation), or their exposure to the effects of climate change (adaptation). Sectors of city climate action include: Adaptation, Buildings, Community-scale Development, Energy Supply, Finance, Food & Agriculture, Mass Transit, Outdoor Lighting, Private Transport, Waste and Water.

The research was supported by researchers at the City Leadership Initiative at University College London (UCL).

Economy

Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?

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self-driving cars for green environment
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/zapp2photo

Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?

But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?

The Big Picture

The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.

That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.

Driver Reduction?

One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.

As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.

Deadheading

Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.

Make and Model of Car

Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.

On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.

The Bottom Line

Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?

Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.

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Economy

New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035

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renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart / https://www.shutterstock.com/g/adrian825

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.

Sources: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/green-dream-risks-energy-security-as-kiwis-aim-for-zero-carbon

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-hydrocarbons/france-plans-to-end-oil-and-gas-production-by-2040-idUSKCN1BH1AQ

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