Climate-smart cities could save the world US$17trn by 2050

8 Sep 2015

A new report from the New Climate Economy, an environmental research organisation, has found that if cities were to invest significantly in becoming climate smart, the world could save as much as US$17trn by 2050.

The concept of climate-smart cities is becoming less of a concept and more of a goal of late for many of the world’s cities, which are aiming to invest in low-energy efficient public transport, cleaner waste management and building efficiency.

Founded by the Global Commission on Climate Economy, the New Climate Economy is a grouping of former finance ministers from seven countries who have been looking into how smart cities could not only improve a city’s budget but the quality of life.

In the report entitled Accelerating Low-Carbon Development in the World’s Cities, they outline how cities would not only be able to save US$17trn, they would also be able to reduce CO2 emissions by 3.7 gigatonnes per year by 2030.

To put this into perspective, this equates to the annual emissions of one of the world’s largest industrial countries, India.

If further national policies such as reducing fossil fuel subsidies and supporting low-carbon innovation were initiated also, the current estimate of US$17trn could be raised to US$22trn.

Coalition of mayors

It goes on to add that for every US$1 invested in improving the creditworthiness of cities, more than US$100 can be leveraged through private finance for low-carbon urban infrastructure.

Continuing this apparent high rate of return, every US$1m invested in project preparation could potentially create US$20m to US$50m in capital support for future projects.

Other suggestions made by the report include the creation of a ‘Compact of Mayors’ that would create a coalition of mayors from cities across the world to reduce local greenhouse gas emissions, enhance resilience to climate change, and track their progress transparently.

So far, 130 cities’ mayors have signed up to the Compact of Mayors and will begin setting out ambitious targets for their cities.

“Developing country cities have a major opportunity to lead the low-carbon future”, said Parks Tau, Mayor of Johannesburg. “In Johannesburg, the Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transit and the highly competitive 1.5bn rand green bond both demonstrate a commitment to economic growth and investment rooted in resilient, sustainable urban development.”

Bustling city image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic