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Cities are global focus for greenhouse gas emissions and targeted climate action

Centre news

Two reports involving University of Leeds researchers on carbon emissions in cities have been presented this week in Canada, along with a keynote speech to the IPCC Cities and Climate Change Science Conference in Edmonton.

Andy Gouldson, who leads the Climate Smart Cities programme and is Professor of Environmental Policy, presented the address for the plenary on day 3 of the conference, focusing on themes and issues for transformative action in cities.

Prof Gouldson, who is Director of the Leeds Climate Commission,  also talked about integrated approaches to governance, referencing the Leeds public-private-civic partnership approach to city-scale emissions reduction that was launched with Leeds City Council in 2017.

The Leeds initiative grew out of a “Mini Stern” report for the city first published in 2012, which paved the way for many more individual reports on cities around the world. The latest in a now lengthy list of publications is The Economics for Low Carbon Development for Calgary, Canada, published 8 March 2018, which Andy Gouldson and researcher Andrew Sudmant are both authors on.

The report, produced with researchers from the University of Calgary, examines the economics of the city switching to a more energy efficient, low-carbon development path with an evidence base to provide policymakers, businesses and individuals in Calgary with reliable, locally relevant information to make informed decisions about how best to make the transition.

Another report, on Consumption Based Greenhouse Gas Emissions by C40 Cities, which was presented at the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) conference, involved Leeds academics Prof John Barrett, Director of the Centre for Industrial Materials, Energy and Products (CIE-MAP) and research fellow Dr Anne Owen. It reveals that greenhouse gases from major cities could be 60 per cent higher than current estimates when trade in goods and services are factored in.

Published on Tuesday 6 March, the study examined the emissions associated with goods and services consumed by residents of 79 cities around the world but not produced by them (two thirds of consumption emissions came from imports outside the city boundaries).

Emissions from city supply chains for food, clothing, electronic equipment, air travel, delivery trucks and construction vehicles are not represented in regular, sector-based city greenhouse gas inventories. The evidence base provided by the report enables a much more comprehensive picture of emissions attributable to cities to be viewed, giving a focus for targeted action by city leaders, businesses and citizens.

Researchers from the University of New South Wales in Australia and consultants from Arup were also involved in the report, which was carried out by the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group.