Intermediate cities: a green and transformative post-COVID-19 recovery?

By Dražen Kučan, Sector Lead / Senior Urban and Energy Efficiency Specialist, Green Climate Fund

Guilty as charged: cities and urban populations are among the core drivers of anthropogenic climate change. Cities produce between 71% and 75% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions1. There needs to be a ‘paradigm shift towards low emission and climate-resilient development pathways’. A shift that can happen in developing countries by supporting and investing in high impact climate mitigation as well as resilience and adaptation initiatives.

While the paradigm shift is defined by the ‘degree to which the proposed activity can catalyse impact beyond one-off project or programme investment’, the reality is not so straightforward in the context of the urban sector. Urban areas are complex, multi-stakeholder environments that require holistic, structurally sound, sustainable solutions. They need transformative investments in energy efficient buildings; decarbonising urban energy systems; compact and resilient urban development (including investment in mass transit and non-motorised transit systems and vehicle electrification); grey to green urban infrastructure upgrading; the circular economy; and methane and emissions-free integrated waste management.     

Demand pressure on developing new urban infrastructure is high: new homes and infrastructure will have to be built at great speed for the approximately 2.5 billion new city dwellers expected by 2050. About 85% of new housing demand is projected to be in fast emerging economies (such as China) and in the majority of developing countries. Furthermore, of the 70 million new residents expected to move to pre-existing urban areas each year, the vast majority will live in intermediary cities, mostly in Africa and Asia. This adds to climate pressures, both in terms of accelerated emissions and enhanced vulnerabilities. 

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The Global South’s contribution to the climate crisis – and its potential solutions

By Harald Fuhr, Professor of International Politics at the University of Potsdam, Germany

DEVELOPMENT-MATTERS-emissionsGlobal CO2 emissions in 2017 totalled some 36.2 gigatonnes (Gt), of which the Global South1 emitted some 21 Gt CO2 or 58%. In the same year, the Global North (including Russia) emitted some 13.7 Gt and contributed to some 38% of global emissions. The remaining 4% are mostly emissions from shipping and aviation (international bunkers).

CO2 emissions in the Global South are heavily concentrated. The top 10 countries of the South contribute some 78% of the group’s emissions (see Table 1). With some 9.8 Gt CO2, China is by far the world’s biggest emitter. In 2017, it emitted more than the US (5.3 Gt CO2) and the EU-28 (3.5 Gt CO2) combined. Just two countries, China and India, are responsible for almost 60% of the Global South’s emissions, followed by other countries in the range of only 2-3% each. In 2017, 56 upper middle-income countries contributed to 46% of global emissions, while 34 low-income countries, most of them in Sub-Sahara Africa, contributed to only 1% of the total. Despite the fact that the latter group hardly contributes to global warming, its countries are likely to be the ones most severely affected by extreme weather events.
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