Everything, from the industrial sector manufacturing the tools we use every day to the car you drive during your daily commute, generates carbon emissions. The planet becomes warmer as more CO2 escapes into the atmosphere. Earth is already 1.1°C warmer than it was in the 1800s. We need to limit global warming to 1.5°C higher than preindustrial levels to prevent a climate crisis that will put all life at risk.
The human race needs to reduce its CO2 emissions by 45% by 2030 to achieve this, with the ultimate goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. Countries can make plans, but when it comes down to brass tacks, it will be up to the cities and states to make the significant changes necessary to prevent this climate crisis.
What cities are already pledging to reach net-zero, and what steps are they taking to achieve this goal?
Joining the cities race to zero campaign
The United Nations started the Cities Race to Zero campaign in 2021. Mayors from all over the world, including 130 U.S. cities, are working together to reduce their respective municipalities’ carbon footprints to reach that 45% CO2 reduction goal by 2030. According to research by the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), most communities in the United States can reach or exceed that milestone by 2030. Many could achieve a 60% reduction or higher.
More than half the world’s population lives in cities. By 2050, that number will climb to 68%. Many of these already sprawling urban areas are pledging to become carbon-neutral by 2050. This list includes massive metropolises like New York, Paris, Mexico City, London and Buenos Aires, to name a few.
London plans to introduce and then expand Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZ), which will reduce the number of high-emissions vehicles in the city center. Paris is creating a massive network of bicycle paths to encourage people to abandon cars altogether. Bogota, Columbia, is banning cars from 75 miles of street. California’s Gov. Newsom signed an executive order in 2020 to deploy zero-emission forklifts in the state.
The plans sound great on paper, but pledges are only as good as the plans they create.
Ambitous pledges falling short
It’s easy to say you will make all the necessary changes to reduce carbon emissions enough to prevent a climate crisis. Still, an ambitious pledge is useless without some follow-through. The problem with many of these plans is they don’t have science-based targets or realistic funding. Most of these cities have massive data detailing everything from the average temperature of any given block for the year to how much CO2 was generated on one warm July afternoon in 2020. How can this information be used for positive change?
The problem lies in the fact that they don’t have the tools or programs necessary to sort through that data and turn it into actionable suggestions. Machine learning systems could help bridge the gap here, but the essential technology and the software and programmers to support it can get expensive. All these extravagant pledges need something to back them up or these cities are wasting valuable time — time we don’t have if we hope to prevent a climate crisis that will threaten life as we know it.
Moving toward a greener future
Reducing global CO2 emissions is no longer optional. It is an essential step in preventing a climate crisis and preserving our planet and its inhabitants — human, plant and animal — for future generations to enjoy. The deadline is looming, and we need to start making changes now if we hope to have an enjoyable future.
See more posts from Jane Marsh at environment.co
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