Shuaib Lwasa contributes to the historic IPCC Working Group 3 Report on Mitigation of Climate Change released on 4th April 2022

Key highlights for cities in developing countries

While Global net anthropogenic GHG emissions increased in 2019 by 12% since 2010, the global share of emissions that can be attributed to urban areas is increasing. Urban emissions estimated to be 29 GtCO2-.15 eq (67-72% of the global share) in 2020, these urban emissions drivers are complex and include population size, income, state of urbanization and urban form.

There are regional, and national variations in per capita emissions which partly reflect different development stages, but they also vary widely at similar income levels. With 10% of global households with the highest per capita emissions contributing a disproportionately large share of global household GHG emissions, it is clear what the role of global cities is in mitigating GHG emissions to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees.

While developed regions have to aggressively transition to low-emission technologies such as solar energy, wind energy and lithium-ion batteries for large scale deployment, innovation has lagged in developing countries due to weaker enabling conditions. For cities in developing countries , the transition can be an opportunity to plan, develop and operate city infrastructure differently and avoiding of emissions that would otherwise have occurred in the pursuit of building up infrastructure and emerging cities. Investment in low-GHG technologies and infrastructure will be key.

All cities but importantly in developing countries can create opportunities to increase resource efficiency and significantly reduce GHG emissions through the systemic transition of infrastructure and urban form towards net-zero emissions, while improving quality of life. This would require equitable ambitious mitigation efforts for established, rapidly growing and emerging cities to; 1) reducing or changing energy and material consumption, 2) electrification, and 3) enhancing carbon uptake and storage in the urban environment. Cities can achieve net-zero emissions.

For cities in developing countries, rapidly growing or emerging, can seize mitigation opportunities with co-benefits for example supporting non-motorized (e.g., walking, bicycling) and public transport, co-locating employment and housing to achieve compact urban form, and by leapfrogging or transitioning to low-emissions technologies. New and emerging cities will have significant infrastructure development needs to achieve a good quality of life, which can be met through energy efficient infrastructures and services, and people-centered urban design. A near-term suite of mitigations actions can involve, enhancing carbon uptake and storage in the urban environment, for example through bio-based building materials, Nature-based Solutions (permeable surfaces, green roofs, trees, green spaces, rivers, ponds and lakes). Urban planning and infrastructure design including green roofs and facades, networks of parks and open spaces, management of urban forests and wetlands, urban agriculture, and water-sensitive design can deliver both mitigation and adaptation benefits in settlement. The implementation of these packages as well as technological-based solutions at multiple city-scale can have cascading effects across sectors and reduce GHG emissions both within and outside a city’s administrative boundaries. The effectiveness of these strategies depends on cooperation and coordination with national and sub-national governments, industry, and civil society, and whether cities have adequate capacity to plan and implement mitigation strategies.

With many cities setting climate targets, including net-zero GHG targets, the full potential for reducing consumption-based urban emissions to net-zero GHG can be met only when emissions beyond cities’ administrative boundaries are also addressed. Accelerated and equitable climate action in mitigating, and adapting to, climate change impacts is critical to sustainable development. Climate change actions can also result in some trade-offs which need to be minimized. Climate governance in and for cities is most effective when it integrates across multiple policy domains, helps realize synergies and minimize tradeoffs, and connects national and sub-national policy-making levels.

Financial flows fall short of the levels needed to achieve mitigation goals across all sectors and regions. The challenge of closing gaps is largest in developing countries as a whole. Therefore, scaling up mitigation financial flows can be supported by clear policy choices and signals from governments and the international community.