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Are cities the key to curbing climate change?

For several decades, the focus of climate campaigning has been on securing international deals such as the recent Paris Agreement.  To achieve this, campaigners within each country expend a lot of energy trying to push reluctant national governments into honouring and extending agreed international action plans.

But are national governments and international agreements the best way of securing change?  Not necessarily, according to Alister Doyle at Reuters:

“Cities from Oslo to Sydney are setting goals to curb climate change that exceed national targets, causing tensions with central governments about who controls policy over green energy and transport and construction.

“More than 2,500 cities have issued plans to cut carbon emissions to the United Nations since late 2014, setting an example to almost 200 nations that reached a Paris Agreement in December 2015 to fight global warming.”

According to Doyle, cities around the world are finding themselves in conflict with national governments because the carbon reduction initiatives favoured at a local level – such as curbs on (particularly diesel) car use – are often far more ambitious than those set out at the national level:

“In a sign of city power, a 2016 study projected that climate plans by cities and regions could cut an extra 500 million tonnes of annual greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 – equivalent to the emissions of France – beyond cuts pledged by governments.”

This suggests that campaigning for practical changes at a city level – such as improved walking and cycling routes, better (electric) public transport, municipal green energy generation and improved recycling facilities – can be much more productive than wringing half-hearted carbon reduction targets out of national governments that have little intention of meeting them.

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