Cities and Climate Change

Climate change is a global phenomenon that largely impacts urban life. Rising global temperatures causes sea levels to rise, increases the number of extreme weather events such as floods, droughts and storms, and increases the spread of tropical diseases. All these have costly impacts on cities' basic services, infrastructure, housing, human livelihoods and health. At the same time, cities are a key contributor to climate change, as urban activities are major sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Estimates suggest that cities are responsible for 75 percent of global CO2 emissions, with transport and buildings being among the largest contributors.

Only with a coordinated approach and action at the global, regional, national and local levels, can success be achieved. It is essential, therefore, to make cities an integral part of the solution in fighting climate change. Many cities are already doing a lot by using renewable energy sources, cleaner production techniques and regulations or incentives to limit industrial emissions. Cutting emissions will also reduce local pollution from industries and transport, thus improving urban air quality and the health of city dwellers.

In cooperation with partners, UNEP assists national and local governments by raising awareness, organizing workshops and trainings, developing evaluation tools and involving cities in international meetings on climate change. One of these collaborations is a Joint Work Programme between UNEP, the World Bank, UN-Habitat, under the facilitating role of Cities Alliance to address cities and climate change. With a focus on developing countries, this partnership aims to support local and national governments in urban adaptation and mitigation processes. One of the main outputs of this cooperation is an online knowledge centre which provides information on cities and climate change (www.citiesandclimatechange.org).

As member of the Climate Neutral Network which brings together 19 partner cities and numerous organizations, UNEP provides its expertise on environmental issues. The network's objective is to make the shift to a low-emissions and eventually climate neutral society. Also the Environment and Climate Change Outlook (ECCO) project conducted by UNEP's Division of Early Warning and Assessment (DEWA) provides a global methodology which enables sub-regional and national level authorities to conduct vulnerability and impact assessments for adaptation to climate change.