Despite green reputations, EU cities’ climate plans fall short Despite green reputations, EU cities’ climate plans fall short
Europe is widely regarded as being more committed to climate action than, say, the US or Australia. It not only has specific regional goals... Despite green reputations, EU cities’ climate plans fall short

Europe is widely regarded as being more committed to climate action than, say, the US or Australia. It not only has specific regional goals (for example, a 20 percent cut in greenhouse gases by 2020), but also has binding legislation that requires each individual country to meet specific targets.

Some parts of the continent have become virtually synonymous with specific sustainability measure: Copenhagen and bikes; Germany and massive solar power; Santander, Spain, and smart sensors for everything.

Still, all those worthwhile efforts might not be enough to prepare Europe for a hotter, more unpredictable and energy-constrained future.

A first-ever analysis of climate action plans by EU cities show that key regions are falling far short of what’s needed.

Cities are considered to be critical to global sustainability and climate goals. For the first time in human history, more people today now live in cities than in rural areas. By 2050, 69 percent of the world’s population — 6.2 billion people in  all — are expected to live in cities.

What’s more, cities are not only increasingly crowded, but increasingly energy-hungry. The World Bank has estimated that urban areas consume nearly 80 percent of the world’s energy … and emit more than 70 percent of the globe’s man-made greenhouse gases.

While many European cities might be regarded as “green,” they’re not nearly green enough, according to a team of researchers from across Europe and the US. The team recently analyzed the climate change adaptation and mitigation plans of 200 large and medium-sized cities across the EU, and found those plans leave much to be desired.

A full 72 percent of the cities studied have no climate adaptation plan, according to the research, published in the journal Climatic Change. And only 25 percent have both adaptation and mitigation plans with specific targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Planning also varies widely from one country to another, the research team found. Ninety-three percent of the studied cities in the UK have climate mitigation plans, while only 42 percent of those in Belgium do. The most ambitious cities are, perhaps not surprisingly, in the low-lying and flood-prone Netherlands; the urban areas studied there aim to be carbon-, climate- or energy-neutral by or before 2050.

If all 200 of the cities studied are representative of national actions, their current strategies would translate to an EU-wide reduction in greenhouse gases of 27 percent by 2050. That’s nowhere near the 80 percent reduction that experts believe is needed to prevent global temperatures from reaching dangerous levels and rising by more than 2 degrees C.

Improving on what cities in Europe are currently doing requires more coordination and information sharing on a global basis, notes lead author Diana Reckien of the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions at Columbia University.

“To better understand the global climate change response and emissions reduction actions, we recommend the establishment of an international database of mitigation and adaptation options that builds upon this European study,” writes Reckien.

Europe is widely regarded as

being more committed to climate

action than, say, the US or

Australia. It not only has specific

regional goals (for example, a 20

percent cut in greenhouse gases

by 2020)

(http://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/

package/), but also has binding

legislation that requires each

individual country to meet specific

targets.

Some parts of the continent have

become virtually synonymous with

specific sustainability measure:

Copenhagen and bikes; Germany

and massive solar power;

Santander, Spain,

(http://www.smartsantander.eu/)

and smart sensors for everything.

Still, all those worthwhile efforts

might not be enough to prepare

Europe for a hotter, more

unpredictable and energy-

constrained future.

A first-ever analysis of climate

action plans by EU cities show that

key regions are falling far short of

what’s needed.

(http://link.springer.com/article/10.1

007/s10584-013-0989-8)

Cities are considered to be critical

to global sustainability and climate

goals. For the first time in human

history, more people today now live

in cities than in rural areas. By

2050, 69 percent of the world’s

population — 6.2 billion people in

all — are expected to live in cities.

What’s more, cities are not only

increasingly crowded, but

increasingly energy-hungry. The

World Bank has estimated that

urban areas consume nearly 80

percent of the world’s energy …

and emit more than 70 percent of

the globe’s man-made greenhouse

gases.

While many European cities might

be regarded as “green,” they’re not

nearly green enough, according to

a team of researchers from across

Europe and the US. The team

recently analyzed the climate

change adaptation and mitigation

plans of 200 large and medium-

sized cities across the EU, and

found those plans leave much to be

desired.

(http://www.alphagalileo.org/ViewIt

em.aspx?

ItemId=136759&CultureCode=en)

A full 72 percent of the cities

studied have no climate adaptation

plan, according to the research,

published in the journal Climatic

Change. And only 25 percent have

both adaptation and mitigation

plans with specific targets for

reducing greenhouse gas

emissions.

Planning also varies widely from

one country to another, the

research team found. Ninety-three

percent of the studied cities in the

UK have climate mitigation plans,

while only 42 percent of those in

Belgium do. The most ambitious

cities are, perhaps not surprisingly,

in the low-lying and flood-prone

Netherlands; the urban areas

studied there aim to be carbon-,

climate- or energy-neutral by or

before 2050.

If all 200 of the cities studied are

representative of national actions,

their current strategies would

translate to an EU-wide reduction

in greenhouse gases of 27 percent

by 2050. That’s nowhere near the

80 percent reduction that experts

believe is needed to prevent global

temperatures from reaching

dangerous levels and rising by

more than 2 degrees C.

Improving on what cities in Europe

are currently doing requires more

coordination and information

sharing on a global basis, notes

lead author Diana Reckien of the

Center for Research on

Environmental Decisions at

Columbia University.

“To better understand the global

climate change response and

emissions reduction actions, we

recommend the establishment of

an international database of

mitigation and adaptation options

that builds upon this European

study,” writes Reckien.

Shirley Siluk