State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School


Cities Are Moving Ahead

This is the thirty-third of a continuing series of essays and interviews from Earth Institute scientists on the prospects for a global climate-change treaty. Check with us daily for news and perspectives, and to make comments, as events unfold throughout the Copenhagen meetings.

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Although critics have given harsh assessments of from the international summit at the Bella Center in Copenhagen, most probably would have concurred with the positive message flowing out of Copenhagen City Hall, the site of the Climate Summit for Mayors. The mayors’ summit emphasized local action to address climate change.

The mayors delivered their message of action to the national government delegations, each reporting on their cities’ greenhouse-gas reduction plans. Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York reported on a goal to reduce emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. Toronto’s mayor, David Miller—head of the C40, a group of the largest cities pledged to address climate change–brought forward a targeted 6% reduction by 2012, ramping up to 80% by 2050. Mayor Marcelo Ebrard of Mexico City–the first city in the developing world to commit to targets–is promising to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 12 per cent by 2012. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles announced that 14 cities had banded together to create the C40 Electric Vehicle Network, working with electric car manufacturers to coordinate consumer incentives for vehicle purchases, expand the number of vehicles in city fleets, and streamline the permitting process for electric charging equipment.

At the meeting, as the work of the Urban Climate Change Research Network (UCCRN) was profiled, we announced the results of our own project, the first Assessment Report on Climate Change in Cities (ARC3), which we co-edited with William Solecki of the City University of New York. Initiated at Columbia University’s Earth Institute with about 80 authors from about 50 cities in developed and developing countries, the ARC3 explores how climate change will affect cities around the world, and what cities are doing to both mitigate and adapt to climate change. The report was well received, with the mayors of Vancouver, Melbourne and Copenhagen agreeing that the results would prove helpful to their own future planning efforts.

Robert Doyle, Lord Mayor of Melbourne, specifically focused on the report’s conclusion that climate change considerations must be better integrated into existing operations and future planning efforts. Doyle noted that Melbourne has done just that in the wake of the devastating February 2009 bush fires that killed 173 people in the Melbourne region. The extreme dry conditions that helped bring on this fire are indicative of what Australia could expect with climate change. Thus Melbourne is tracking both heat and wind patterns to be better prepared to protect citizens in the future.

We hope to see the full report published by Cambridge University Press in early 2010.

Stephen Hammer is head of the Urban Energy Program at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs.

Cynthia Rosenzweig is a senior scientist at Columbia University’s Center for Climate Systems Research and Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

Shagun Mehrotra is a faculty fellow at Columbia University.

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Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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14 years ago

re: “C40 Electric Vehicle Network”

And, New York Times article: “Meaningful Numbers of Plug-In Hybrids Are Decades Away” at

“The mass-introduction of the plug-in hybrid electric car is still a few decades away, according to new analysis by the National Research Council . . . , the study suggested that a “more realistic” scenario is closer to 13 million cars. That would represent 4 percent of the estimated 300 million cars that would be on the road by then.”

Which is correct?

If it will take a few decades, is this much different than proposing a hydrogen economy?

Rob of Car Sale Dallas
12 years ago

What a great thread. I have been involved in the motor trade for over 20 years and find this subject fascinating.

I have implemented a “green” policy at work where all my staff either have to walk, cycle or run into work. For those living further afield we have implemented a car sharing scheme and not one of my employees travels alone. At work we are just as conscientious with energy saving light bulbs and lights automatically switching themselves off when there is no movement detected in rooms. Its not alot – but at least we are trying our best to help our childrens futute existence

I have my own blog and would very much like to open a new topic on this very subject. Keep up the great work guys.