Mediaplanet: What are some of the challenges facing cities trying to reduce greenhouse emissions?

Naoko Ishii: To reduce GHGs emissions, cities face the following key challenges:

  • Infrastructure: Because of its long life-span, urban infrastructure typically locks in long-term GHG emissions.

  • Finance and jobs: Climate change adds additional pressures on city budgets to fund the necessary transition to low-carbon urban systems.

  • Governance and quality of life: Urban climate solutions require systematic and cross-sectoral collaboration, and climate priorities have to be integrated into every stage of the urban policy-making process.

MP: What steps can be taken to overcome these challenges?

NI: City leaders are aware of these challenges and increasingly recognize the importance of long term urban planning which integrates social and environmental sustainability.  

City governance is critical to reflect the business and citizen’s view to make cities attractive and sustainable places to live and work.  For example, cities can promote climate-friendly growth through many levers, including financial and tax incentives, creative use of procurement, and improved screening of investments in infrastructure. Furthermore, public-private partnerships have great potential to supplement limited local budgets and increase the efficiency of green investment.

"Business as usual is not an option. Bolder and more imaginative solutions are required to meet the challenges facing the global environment."

MP: What is currently being done by urban communities to improve environmental sustainability?

NI: It is extremely encouraging that city leaders are increasingly taking the lead to improve environmental sustainability. The US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, the C-40 Large Cities Climate Leadership Group, the Climate Alliance, ICLEI’s Cities for Climate Protection, are some of the urban coalitions leading in this area.  Our own flagship program on sustainable cities will mobilize U.S. $1.5 billion to work with 23 cities in developing countries to change their development trajectory towards sustainability.

MP: If you had one thing for readers to understand about the need to reduce carbon emissions, what would it be?

NI: Business as usual is not an option. The current way of managing the economy is undermining the very foundation of our prosperity. On an increasingly crowded planet, we need to find a way to prosper within the boundaries of Earth’s natural systems. Today, bolder and more imaginative solutions are required to meet the challenges facing the global environment, and many of these, like cutting carbon emissions, must start in the world’s rapidly growing cities.