International Work on Role of Cities in Climate Change

Cities and climate change is of particular interest to me and I think a more organized or systematic approach to it is needed, especially when national governments (I won't name names) are providing so little leadership. Carbon reduction programs have been a bottom-up process for a while now. It's good to know that there are resources available that show how local efforts can influence national policy.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has released a report called "Cities, Climate Change and Multilevel Governance," (Jan 2010). It's an international scan of what various levels of government are doing and can do to to mitigate climate impacts of urban areas. It's a very long report filled with multi-level government arcana, and is strong on data, but it has a particular focus on local initiatives. A couple of paragraphs (out of 126 pages) that give some flavor:

p. 17, "Sprawling spatial patterns are partly responsible for higher emission intensity and emissions in urban areas, also generating greater capital costs and other forms of environmental stress. Research indicates automobile dependent development patterns have led to urban sprawl... which in turn has led to carbon-intensive communities (OECD, 2001). Empirical work on sprawl applied scenarios based on estimates of uncontrolled (sprawl) and controlled development (some sprawl allowed, but overall more compact, higher-density growth) for 15 economic areas in the United States (Burchell et al., 2002). The study found that sprawl would result in USD 227 billion in additional costs in the United States over a 25-year period compared to a high density option. Such a spatial structure in Cape Town, for instance, helped created an enormous 100km commuting radius and a large ecological footprint, requiring a land mass equal to the size of Greece to provide its inputs and to process its waste (OECD, 2008, Territorial Review of Cape Town)."

And an interesting finding:

p. 66, "One prerequisite is to establish a common set of metrics for comparison of progress across cities. Agreement on metrics, methods and reporting frameworks for cities can establish a common language for cities to speak to each other, to measure progress and assess performance (both ex ante and ex post policy implementation), to identify and share understanding of best practices in urban-scale mitigation activities."

A conclusion:

p. 86, "Second, there is significantly greater potential for experimentation at local scales, which in turn can be a testing ground for national governments. Where successful, such experiments can provide an essential evidence base to support development at broader scales of new forms of policy. At a minimum, it opens the possibilities for broader diffusion in other urban areas, but also possibly nationally or even internationally. Such experience may also shift the politics of climate change, by demonstrating what is possible and at what cost as well as by demarcating clearly who wins and who loses from the actions taken. As most national governments struggle to achieve ambitious mitigation targets and to put adaptation plans in place, such experience can inform and eventually lead to broader scale action. Thus, a key aim of national policy may usefully be to encourage, enable and possibly finance experimentation that goes above and beyond the parameters of nation-wide solutions. In this way urban policy can be a testing ground for broader scale efforts."

Given the purposes of NU and the now long track record of experiences, CNU may want to get involved with OECD. Not sure how, but it may be able to influence the international debate. With its history and LEED ND, I think they could play a crucial role.

Find the full report at:

For more info on Climate and Cities at OECD, you can check out this link:,3343,en_2649_34361_39760027_1_1_1_1,00...


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