What generates 70 percent of the greenhouse gases emitted from cities like New York, Beijing, or New Delhi? Not long ago, I might have answered “cars.” But the real culprit is buildings – our homes, offices, schools, and hospitals. Many of which use electricity, water, and fuel extremely inefficiently because of the way they were initially designed.
In fact, about 40 percent of the world’s electricity is used to cool, light and ventilate buildings, even though much more efficient technology exists.
The longevity of buildings is why we need to think much more about them at the new construction phase. Decisions about building materials, insulation, and plumbing live on for decades or longer. That’s why IFC, the private sector-focused arm of the World Bank Group, is working to help builders and developers in emerging markets lock in climate-smart choices at the early design stage.
Our new certification tool EDGE, which stands for Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies, was designed specifically for emerging markets, where housing needs are set to grow exponentially as a result of urbanization pressures. It is Internet-based and easy to use, offering developers a range of inexpensive design choices that might otherwise be overlooked in the rush to build.
Buildings certified by EDGE use 20 percent less energy than their peers, offering long-term emissions savings and lower utility bills – a major benefit in affordable housing.
The more the world urbanizes – and we’re forecast to be 70 percent urban-dwellers by 2050 – the more critical clean, efficient, safe transportation becomes. Access to better jobs, schools, and clinics gives the poor a ladder out of poverty and towards greater prosperity.
But transport as we know it today, with roads clogged with cars and trucks and fumes, is also a threat. We have inefficient supply chains, inefficient fuels, and a growing car culture, with all the congestion, lost productivity, and deadly crashes that brings. Urban air pollution exacerbated by vehicle traffic is blamed for an estimated 3 million deaths a year, according to the Global Burden of Disease report, and the black carbon it contains is contributing to climate change. The transport sector contributes 20 percent of all energy-related CO2 emissions, with emissions growing at about 1.7 percent a year since 2000, contributing to the growing threats posed by climate change.
To sum it up, much of today’s transport is unhealthy for people and planet.
Transport drives development: It leads agricultural producers out of subsistence by linking them to markets, enables regions and nations to become more competitive, and makes cities more productive. But transport is also a big polluter, contributing 20 percent of global energy-related CO2 emissions. These emissions have grown by 1.7 percent annually since 2000, with 60 percent of the increase in non-OECD countries where economic growth has been accompanied by a surge in demand for individual motor vehicles.
Are attempts to change this trend bad for development? Recent historical experience tells us otherwise. Countries with the lowest emissions per passenger-km are the ‘development miracles’ of recent decades: Japan, Korea, Singapore, and Hong Kong are all champions in transport fuel-efficiency.
So what would a low-emission future look like? Some see rapid improvements in engine technology as the path to de-carbonization. (Source: IEA) The IPCC, however, finds that technical breakthroughs such as mass affordability of fuel cell cars are unlikely to arrive soon. If so, emission reductions will have to be achieved by a modal change, emphasizing mass transit, railways, and inland water transport rather than individual motorization and aviation.
Last week, I had the honor of speaking to the UN Security Council about an increasingly dangerous threat facing cities and countries around the world, a threat that, more and more, is influencing everything that they and we do: climate change.
World Bank President Jim Kim was in Russia talking with G20 finance ministers about the same thing – the need to combat climate change. Every day, we’re hearing growing concerns from leaders around the world about climate change and its impact.
If we needed any reminder of the immediacy and the urgency of the situation, Australia Foreign Minister Bob Carr and our good friend President Tong of Kiribati spoke by video of the security implication of climate effects on the Pacific region. Perhaps most moving of all, Minister Tony deBrum from the Marshall Islands recounted how, 35 years ago, he had come to New York as part of a Marshall Islands delegation requesting the Security Council’s support for their independence. Now, when not independence but survival is at stake, he is told that this is not the Security Council’s function. He pointed to their ambassador to the UN and noted that her island, part of the Marshall Islands, no longer exists. The room was silent.
I learned this week that Durban got its name in 1835 from Sir Benjamin d’Urban, the first governor of the Cape Colony. His name seemed particularly apt as COP17’s urban-in-Durban yielded important contributions. During the first weekend at Durban City Hall, just next to the COP17 venue, 114 local governments signed the Durban Adaptation Charter, committing signatory cities to accelerate local adaptation efforts, including conducting risk assessments and more city-to-city cooperation. An impressive complement to last year’s Mexico City Pact that calls for similar efforts to measure and promote mitigation in participating cities. More than 200 cities have now signed on to the Mexico City Pact.
The following Monday at the COP venue, an important partnership was announced. All five multi-lateral development banks (MDBs) launched an unprecedented partnership committing all of the world’s development banks to particularly cooperate on cities and climate change efforts. The MDBs – that provide about $8.4 billion of basic services support to cities annually – will work toward common tools and metrics for GHG emissions and urban risk.
During COP17 itself, cities that were leading this effort shared their experiences: Rio de Janeiro presented their revised GHG emissions inventory, an important leadership contribution; Tokyo outlined the impressive first year operation of its first-ever city-based emissions trading system; Mexico City issued the first Annual Report of the Mexico City Pact; Mayor Parks Tau of Johannesburg chaired a well attended C40 event. By my count, in just seven days, there were at least 100 events highlighting the critical role for cities to lead the world’s mitigation efforts, and better prepare to adapt to changing climate.
On Thursday I had the honor and privilege to make a presentation on issues of sustainable urbanization and urban poverty at a small summit organized by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore in New York City. Vice President Gore is writing a book about drivers of global change that will cover a range of topics including population and demographics, which was the focus of the meeting.
His team identified about 12 experts from a range of disciplines—a sociologist; demographer; geographer; researchers working on issues of family, aging, and gender; a writer; and an economist to explore patterns, trends, and current research. I was on a panel along with Saskia Sassen of Columbia University and David Owen of the New Yorker magazine. We all sat in a small room for 9 hours, presenting different perspectives on demographic change, each contributing from our own disciplines.
Driving through Sao Paulo yesterday, I was struck by the power of cities. While cities are part of the climate change problem, they need to be part of the solution too. They are bigger and more energized than any individual or organization. Cities push and cajole; and cities act. Cities are where it all comes together.
Even more so when former President Bill Clinton, World Bank President Robert Zoellick, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined forces in Sao Paulo. The accomplished gentlemen born less than a dozen years and 1,500 miles apart spoke and fielded questions with a worldly and gracious informality. The pleasant exchanges sat in contrast to the underlying gravity of their mission. Together they have determined to access their considerable resources to tackle one of the biggest challenges they’ve ever faced: climate change.
The location for the partnership launch is telling. With Mayor Kassab of Sao Paulo hosting this week’s C40 Large Cities Summit everyone reinforced the need for cities to be in this fight. C40 is a group of mayors of major cities of the world responsible for 12% of global emissions. It is not hard to imagine that the battle for sustainable development will be won or lost in our cities.
On behalf of the World Bank, President Zoellick and Mayor Bloomberg, representing the world’s most influential cities as Chair of C40, signed a Partnership MOU outlining how the two organizations will work more closely together and provide focused support to cities. The MOU outlines common tools and metrics, city- tailored finance, and enhanced city-to-city learning.
We all know that the quality of the air we breathe has an immense impact on the health of the people and the economies of developing countries. Poor air quality can also threaten the economic competiveness of cities. Increasingly global companies consciously chose to locate in livable cities. We’re already seeing that in Asia. A 2006 survey by the Hong Kong’s Chambers of Commerce showed that worsening air quality was beginning to affect investment decisions of corporations.
I spent two days last week at the Suntec Center in Singapore attending the Better Air Quality conference. This year’s theme was Air Quality in a Changing Climate. The link between the two – improved air quality and reducing climate change is sometimes not so apparent and I am glad the conference was making the link clearer. Climate change impacts all countries but the World Development Report 2010 estimates that some 75-80 percent of the damages caused by a changing climate will be borne by developing countries. If we are to limit global warming to about 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level, we will all need to invest massively in energy efficiency, renewable energy sources, and more efficient transportation.
Combating air pollution is one area where it is possible to capture important co-benefits with respect to climate change. By taking specific measures, we can simultaneously achieve local health and welfare benefits (including related to air quality) while also reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. While it is important to strive for a global deal on climate change, there are a number of things that cities can do in the interim to simultaneously reduce local environmental impacts and reduce carbon emissions. And by demonstrating on the ground some things that can work in this regard, cities can position themselves to access any global carbon financing that might become available as part of a global deal.
The literature on climate change and water is dominated by precipitation, glacier melt and groundwater. Because urban water is responsible for such a small share of overall water use worldwide, we often think that urban water services won't be affected. Yet the floods, droughts, and extreme rainfall expected as a result of the world’s changing climate will threaten the quality and availability of water resources, and damage water infrastructure, including storm water and wastewater facilities. These events may also affect the population and settlement patterns of cities and thus the basic layout of the water systems that serve the communities.