- Seoul, South Korea; Guangzhou, China; and New York City have the three highest carbon footprints of cities worldwide, according to a new report from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Los Angeles (5) and Chicago (8) were also listed in the top 10 highest emitting cities.
- The study, which measured the carbon footprints of 13,000 cities, found that 100 cities were responsible for 18% of the world’s carbon emissions.
- Many of the world’s wealthiest cities and suburbs had the highest carbon footprints, even in countries that have relatively low emissions — a sign of how the concentration of population and wealth can contribute to a carbon footprint.
With President Trump pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord, attention has turned domestically to what cities and states can do to fill the gap and reduce emissions (more than 200 mayors have pledged to meet the goals of the accord). The findings that carbon emissions are concentrated in large cities, then, can be seen as good news; study author Daniel Moran said in a release that “this means concerted action by a small number of local mayors and governments can significantly reduce national total carbon footprints.”
To that end, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has laid out a goal to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 80% below 2005 levels by 2050, reducing transportation emissions, requiring energy efficiency on buildings and aiming for carbon neutrality. Last month, de Blasio also announced that cars would be banned from Central Park as part of the effort.
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Cologne, Manchester, and Montreal rarely make the list of the world’s megacities. Yet they are all in the top 100 worldwide in terms of their carbon footprint. A new study says it is these cities, as much as the Jakartas and New Delhis of the world, that drive the global carbon footprint.
Only about a third of the average individual’s carbon footprint is under their control (unless that person lives in a cave in the woods). The majority of our footprint is determined by the buildings we use, our daily commutes, and the energy we use – in other words, things directly under the influence of local governments.
“The fact that carbon footprints are highly concentrated in affluent cities means that targeted measures in a few places and by selected coalitions can have a large effect covering important consumption hotspots,” Moran said.
Mayors and citizens may also be willing to take more radical steps, such as switching the whole city over to green electricity, restricting private cars in the city center, or aggressively rewarding vehicle electrification, the researchers said.
Compared to countries, cities and local governments are often more nimble and can target the most effective solutions in different districts and demographic segments, Moran said.