The attention of global forces representing cities and its representatives is keener to know how the planet earth will be shaped for the future. The COP21, aclimate change conference held in Paris in 2015, had set a target of keeping the rise in global temperature to less than 2 degrees centigrade, which is the maximum safe limit beyond which the climate changes can have disastrous consequences; and to achieve this target, countries all over the world will have to play a significant role in reducing their carbon footprint.
Historically, the first world countries or the developed capitalist nations have taken the largest carbon space through massive production, leading to a change in the lifestyles of its people. Presently, the per capita carbon emission footprint of US and Canada is 16.4 nd 13.5 respectively, outnumbering the carbon emission of developing countries like India and China whose per capita carbon emission footprint stand respectively at 1.6 and 7.6. Hence, there is a common but differential responsibility which is to be shared in the same manner.
The developed nations, guided by their ruling class interests, have developed an unsustainable model of development over a period of time. Take for example, the US and Canada; they have developed their roads and highways across the continent because the two major giants- the automobile capital and the oil capital wanted its consumption to be absorbed. A family of 4, in these two big countries, will not have less than four cars. But this is not a sustainable model of development.
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The first world also has a greater responsibility to not only reduce its own carbon footprint, but also to ensure the transfer of green technologies to the developing countries, thereby helping them climb the ladder of development.
However, Trump’s stark announcement to withdraw from the climate deal puts the entire process of joint interventions in a squander. Although an opposition onto his whimsical orders is quite evident within the US itself, Trump’s decision will not only affect the strategic interventions by the largest polluter on earth (US), it will affect other parts of the globe as well.. The governor of Californian and a former movie star Arnold were also critical of his coal strategy. A Mayor from a city in Colorado region accused Trump of being inconsistent with his words and described him as a president who does not know where he is going to lead the country. Nevertheless, he was optimistic that the people and the cities will shape their futures themselves.
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The cities are growing and so is the number of people living in them. By 2030 more than 60 percent of the population will live in cities that are considered to be the engines of growth. However, the cities are also responsible for 75 percent of the total energy consumption and 65 percent of the carbon emissions. Hence the cities have a greater role to play in controlling the emission of carbon gases. But, can the cities discharge what they are supposed to do? Are the cities sovereign from their federal government to work in tangent to them? We know they don’t and cannot, decide their futures delinked from their federal and provincial counterparts. But that does not mean that the cities cannot build alternatives for people’s development that are also low on carbon emissions.
More than 1000 delegates from the urban spectrum, gathered in Montreal for the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) world congress to discuss their stories of success and failures in order to achieve the goals of sustainable development.
The Montreal commitment and Strategic Vision, adopted by the cities through its representatives, orients their path towards urban transformation and sets a course for delivering on the global sustainable development agenda. This can happen through initiatives, partnerships, and projects all over the world, for low carbon emissions.
This is supposedly a new vision which aligns with the global frameworks. “It is critical to have global consensus around sustainable development so that political will, systems, as well as resources are oriented in the same direction”, quoted the vision document.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a universal and collective vision, with SDG 11 as the central lever to attain all other goals. The Paris Climate Agreement is the prerequisite to safeguard all SDGs and pioneer the transformation towards a new model of a climate-safe human civilisation. The New Urban Agenda is a compendium of good practices and policies for urban development, including the right-to-the-city, multilevel governance and urban planning.
The roadmap for the delivery of these goals and aspirations was also discussed. The vision defines low emission, nature-based, circular, resilient and equitable Development with five interconnected pathways towards sustainability, supported by policy approaches on governance, innovation, and finance.
The action plan is to get into partnership with the local and regional governments across the spectrum, to accelerate sustainable and integrated urban and territorial development, as a means to support and complement national contributions and global sustainability goals.
The highlights have been to promote an action plan for 100 percent renewable energy; develop urban low emission, climate resilient, mobility friendly development strategies, and monitor their implementation; lead the transition to a green economy through leading sustainable public procurement networks; connect climate action to urban development and engage local and regional governments in making Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) fit for the Paris Agreement; support island communities at the front line of climate challenges and address land-based ocean pollution; and lead the implementation of global biodiversity targets at the city and regional levels.
Hell is a city much like London --
A populous and a smoky city;
There are all sorts of people undone,
And there is little or no fun done;
Small justice shown, and still less pity.
This narrative of cities, depicted by none other than the famous poet, PB Shelley, two centuries ago, still holds true for a large number of cities in the world. The need, however, is to change this narrative.
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