GLASGOW — Mayors from 1049 cities around the world committed to slashing greenhouse gas emissions in half by the end of this decade on Tuesday, indicating an increased sense of urgency for urban centers on the front lines of the climate crisis.
The latest commitments to cut emissions in half within 10 years and reach net-zero emissions by 2050 cover cities with a combined global population of 730 million people.
The targets, if fulfilled, would be the equivalent of removing 1.5 gigatons of carbon from the atmosphere, according to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
"If we're going to make a difference, changing things in cities is a huge difference for everybody in the world,” Garcetti, who chairs the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, an organization of mayors focused on climate action and mitigating climate risks within their cities, told Yahoo Finance. “I think there's a recognition that while nations are struggling to meet their Paris climate goals, cities are succeeding. Two thirds of our C40 cities, which are the 97 largest cities of the world, have met or exceeded on time or early our Paris commitments. Contrast that with just one country, Gambia.”
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With 4 billion people — roughly half the world’s population — crowded in cities today, the risk of climate inaction has been elevated for mayors tackling extreme flooding, wildfires, and record heat brought on by global warming. The list of cities who have pledged to reduce their carbon footprint span the globe from Osaka to Bogota to Kansas City.
The risks are expected to increase dramatically by the end of the century, with 85 percent of the world’s population forecast to live in urban centers, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
This year alone, major cities like Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland have faced a record number of heat related deaths while rising waters trapped commuters inside flooded trains in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou, ultimately killing more than 200 people.
The structure of urban centers, with more concrete and less greenery, make global warming especially pronounced. Average summer temperatures are expected to increase by 1.9 degrees to 4.4 degrees celsius, according to research by the University of Illinois.
Garcetti said the devastating impact of those weather events, combined with the challenges brought on by the pandemic, have turned C40 into a lab of sorts to exchange ideas on how best to tackle the climate crisis.
“I think mayors are very on edge coming out of COVID looking at climate change,” Garcetti said. “I think that mayors get inspired by each other because we're very competitive in a good way. The old saying is, good mayors borrow, great mayor's steal. So, we're here to steal ideas from one another.”
Garcetti has set some of the most aggressive targets among U.S. cities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Los Angeles’ Green New Deal calls for all new buildings to be carbon neutral by 2030, with all of the city’s operations reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. The city also developed a roadmap to ensure 80 percent of all new cars sold in Los Angeles are electric by 2028, just in time to host the Summer Olympic games.
Long among the most polluted cities in the U.S., Los Angeles has been riddled by wildfires that have grown in intensity and frequency each year. Last month, California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a statewide drought emergency, with the state experiencing its worst drought since the late1880s.
“I think Los Angeles is the tale of two cities: The best and the worst of times," Garcetti said. “The worst because we're parched and we're burning. But on the other hand, we're showing incredible progress. Cities can't afford to wait. They're doing more than anybody else. But if you want to be honest, even cities aren't doing enough yet.”
Akiko Fujita is an anchor and reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @AkikoFujita
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