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ENVIRONMENT | Cleaner air

27 major cities cut back on greenhouse gas emissions


Dr. Mario Picazo
Meteorologist, PhD

Thursday, September 20, 2018, 1:31 PM - Twenty-seven major cities around the world, with a total population of 54 million and a GDP of $6 trillion, have reached peak greenhouse gas emissions but are continuing to reduce their values.

During the World Climate Action Summit in San Francisco this September, data from the "C40 Cities" -- a network of the world's megacities taking action on climate change -- has been presented. 

RELATED: Study finds plastic exposed to the sun emits greenhouse gases

C40 supports cities so they can collaborate effectively, share knowledge and drive meaningful, measurable and sustainable action on climate change.

The promising results show how the 27 participating selecting cities have seen their fossil fuel emissions drop over the last 5 years, bringing them about 10 per cent below their past peak values. City Halls around the world have achieved this crucial milestone, whilst population numbers have increased and city economies have grown. The group of cities has continued to reduce emissions by an average of 2 per cent per year since they reached their peak. Meanwhile their populations have grown 1.4 per cent per year, and their economies by 3 per cent per year on average.

C40 CITIES

The cities are:

  • Barcelona
  • Basel
  • Berlin
  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Copenhagen
  • Heidelberg
  • London
  • Los Angeles
  • Madrid
  • Melbourne
  • Milan 
  • Montréal
  • New Orleans
  • New York City
  • Oslo
  • Paris
  • Philadelphia
  • Portland
  • Rome
  • San Francisco
  • Stockholm
  • Sydney
  • Toronto
  • Vancouver
  • Warsaw
  • Washington D.C.


The world's leading research institutions have calculated that global greenhouse gas emissions need to peak no later than 2020 and then decrease rapidly in order to keep the global temperature increase close to 1.5oC. This is why it is so important that the world´s major cities start reverting the trend of greenhouse gas emissions, showing how a low carbon world is possible.

Michael Bloomberg, UN Secretary-General´s Special Envoy for Climate Action and President of the C40 Board, stated during the Climate Summit that "to prevent the worst impacts of climate change, we have to cut greenhouse gas emissions even as population grows." He also pointed out that "cities are showing it can be done – and that the same steps they are taking to reduce their carbon footprint are also strengthening their local economies, creating jobs and improving public health."

(RELATED: Greenhouse gases made an unprecedented leap in 2016)

The main drivers for cities to reach their peak greenhouse gas emissions included: decarnbonisation of the electric grid, optimizing energy use in buildings, providing cleaner, affordable alternatives to private cars, reducing waste and increasing recycling rates.

Among the list of cities, San Francisco continues to lead the way in the fight against climate change. Greenhouse gas emissions in the Golden City peaked in 2000, since then, they have been successfully reduced by 30% compared to 1990 levels. During this period, the city´s economy has grown 111 per cent while population has grown by 20 per cent.

Future commitments include reducing landfill disposal by 50 per cent in 2030, and ensuring all buildings are net-zero emissions by 2050.

In Canada, Toronto has been able to reduce emissions by 24 per cent and hopes to increase that to 65 per cent by 2030. Other major cities following this path include Montreal, Chicago, New York, Milan, Madrid, Barcelona, Sydney and Basel.

The list is long and action taken by these cities is being followed by many others around the globe. The initiative shows that local governments are leading the way in confronting the biggest challenge of our time.

All graphs courtesy of C40 cities.

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