Action by city governments is essential for achieving deep reductions in global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. While many cities are already engaged in pioneering efforts to achieve such reductions, greater support from national governments could help realize urban mitigation potential more fully, quickly, and cost effectively. With greater policy coordination, cities could focus on roles and actions for which they are highly capable and best positioned.

The authors find that under a coordinated approach designed to achieve deep GHG reductions, for roughly 20% of urban GHG abatement potential, cities’ ideal role is to be policy leaders and architects. The greatest opportunities here are in the passenger transport sector, and include improved spatial planning, promotion of walking and bicycling, enhanced transit system development, and more efficient transportation management.

For another 40% of urban abatement potential, the ideal role for cities is to be critical implementers of nationally applied policies. Opportunities here are greatest in the residential and commercial buildings sectors.

For the remaining 40% of urban abatement, cities can be strategic partners, taking crucial independent actions to enhance the effectiveness of policies enacted at higher levels of government. For these diverse opportunities, cities could enhance national efforts through incentives, education, permitting, and infrastructure development. A vital role for national governments will be to help coordinate and enable effective action by cities in all of these capacities.

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Read the country briefing papers that underpin this analysis:

Kahn, S., and Brandão, I. (2015). The contribution of low-carbon cities to Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals: Briefing on urban energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), November 2015.
Download paper (PDF, 2.72MB)

Torrie, R. (2015). Low carbon futures in Canada – the role of urban climate change mitigation: Briefing on urban energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. Torrie Smith Associates, September 2015.
Download paper (PDF, 3.97MB)

Ohshita, S., Price, L., Zhou, N., Khanna, N., Fridley, D., and Liu, X. (2015). The role of Chinese cities in greenhouse gas emission reduction: Briefing on urban energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. China Energy Group, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, September 2015.
Download paper (PDF, 1.42MB)

Wolpe, P., and Reddy, Y. (2015). The contribution of low-carbon cities to South Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals: Briefing on urban energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. Sustainable Energy Africa, November 2015.
Download paper (PDF, 3.76MB)

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