Skip navigation
SEI working paper

Advancing climate ambition: How city-scale actions can contribute to global climate goals

This paper, which complements a brief by UN Special Envoy Michael Bloomberg, quantifies the potential contributions of urban areas to global climate change mitigation, with a focus on sectors over which city leaders have particular influence.

Peter Erickson, Kevin Tempest / Published on 30 September 2014

Erickson, P., and K. Tempest (2014). Advancing climate ambition: How city-scale actions can contribute to global climate goals. SEI Working Paper No. 2014-06.

New and continued efforts are needed to strengthen and extend the ambition of current national pledges to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and to close the gap between the current global emissions pathway and a trajectory consistent with a 2°C target. This paper argues that cities have an important role to play in deepening the ambition of global climate targets.

Cities have unique and strong influence over several policy levers – from urban planning to public transportation – that make them critical actors in reducing GHG emissions, avoiding further carbon lock-in, and decreasing the cost of future abatement. The authors find that urban actions could decrease global GHG emissions by 3.7 Gt CO2e in 2030, compared with a reference scenario, and by 8.0 Gt CO2e in 2050. The greatest reductions arise from deep improvements in residential building energy efficiency and from a transition to efficient public transport for personal urban mobility.

Realizing the full potential of these actions would involve bold and swift action by the world’s cities, and would likely need to be aided by new sources of finance and national policy support. At the same time, because few of the actions considered here are explicitly included in current national pledges, pursuit of this abatement could help raise the ambition of those pledges, or help nations deepen new commitments currently under consideration.

Even greater reductions could be possible if cities were to demonstrate low-carbon lifestyles for categories of consumption not covered by this analysis, such as product purchasing and food consumption.

Download the paper (PDF, 2.1MB)

About SEI Working Papers:
The SEI working paper series aims to expand and accelerate the availability of our research, stimulate discussion, and elicit feedback. SEI working papers are work in progress and typically contain preliminary research, analysis, findings, and recommendations.
Many SEI working papers are drafts that will be subsequently revised for a refereed journal or book. Other papers share timely and innovative knowledge that we consider valuable and policy-relevant, but which may not be intended for later publication.

SEI authors

Peter Erickson

SEI Affiliated Researcher


Related centres

Design and development by Soapbox.