Spot the Differences: Cities Lead the Climate Fight - Or Do They?

I hate spot the difference games.  The changes are always so arbitrary.  "Look, the cat on the right lost its tail!"  Impressive.

But I came across two headlines recently where the differences - if a bit easier to spot - are also a lot more significant. First, from the Guardian:

"Cities lead the way in action to halt climate change." 
Second, from Digital Journal:
"Climate change not a priority for US cities, survey finds."   
So, how about it --  can you spot the differences?

The Guardian piece is a familiar good news story focusing on seven inspiring projects from cities around the States.
Santa Monica, for example, is aiming to be a net zero energy city by 2020 - that's stunning!  The survey on the other hand looks at responses from 2176 American local governments.  Their results?  14% of cities have established GHG emissions limits for local government.  Programs to reduce community energy consumption are being carried out by 0.8% to 11% of cities (depending on the type of program).    Those are less than inspiring findings.

Apart from being picked up by USAToday, the survey, conducted by the US International City/County Management Association (ICMA), has received no mainstream media coverage.  A four page summary of the results is available here.  What they show, is that while we have gotten used to hearing about cities as "climate leaders" -- and there great examples of cites that truly are pushing ahead -- it's not clear how many cities are following.

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I'm a strong advocate for the role cities can play in climate proofing our collective futures.  But I'm also an advocate tackling reality, not fantasy.  While I love to hear about innovative projects cities are putting in place, I think we need to take a good look at why more cities aren't out in front on this issue. 


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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.

You can expect occasional updates, but not with the same frequency as in the past.

You can also find my writing on urban redesign and sustainability in ReNew Canada, The Mark, Sustainable Cities Canada, WorldChanging, and other more specialized academic publications.

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