80% ?

It's been on the lips of mayors from New York to Sydney and quoted in numerous reports: cities are responsible for 80% of ghg emissions. I haven't managed to track that figure back to a reliable study, and now it seems like better minds than mine have taken a closer look. A new report in the journal Environment and Urbanization is claiming that the figure is closer to 40%. The details are still unclear: I haven't been able to get a copy of the report yet, and because the journal is predominantly focused on Africa the story hasn't had any coverage in the western media.

That said, I am guessing that the discrepancy comes from where you draw the boundaries of responsibility. I've talked a bit about that before in terms of inventories and targets. It's important to remember that inventories are as much political as scientific; how to count has to be based on a solid methodology, but what you count (and where you stop counting) often has to do with political decisions both good and bad. The interconnectedness of our economic and environmental systems means that disagreements over boundary drawing are inevitable. Interestingly, the new report points the finger at the 80% figure for blocking effective urban climate change action. On the flip side mayors, particularly those in the C40, have used exactly that figure as a tool to push for stronger action.

Expect a follow-up once I have a copy of the report.  See part II here.


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This is a blog for news and views on the future of sustainable cites. A major revamp is in the works. Until then I am keeping this version up as an archive of my past writing.

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