ENVIRONMENT

Hundreds of cities ill prepared for climate hazards, report warns

Vehicles on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in the United States.
Vehicles on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in the United States. AP - Ben Margot

Hundreds of cities around the world lack plans to address climate change and keep their populations safe from known threats including extreme weather and pollution, a report published Wednesday warned. Paris, however, was among dozens of cities to emerge as a climate leader.

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Of the 812 cities that disclosed their environmental data to global risk-assessment group CDP last year, 43 percent did not have a strategy in place for dealing with climate challenges.

Accounting for 70 percent of global emissions, cities are critical in the race to carbon neutrality by 2050 – a target that scientists say needs to be met in order to limit global warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius as per the Paris Agreement.

The EU is hoping to make Europe the world’s first continent to reach net zero, and has pledged to cut greenhouses gases by 55 percent this decade.

In order to achieve this, European cities must be a “driving force”, the study said, citing research that shows Europe has the world’s highest mortality rate from heatwaves, while 1 in 8 deaths is linked to pollution.

“Three quarters of Europe's population lives in cities, which leaves a huge amount of people vulnerable,” CDP’s policy director for Europe, Mirjam Wolfrum, told RFI.

“CDP data shows that top five hazards faced by cities are flash and surface flooding, heatwaves, rainstorms, extreme hot days and droughts.”

Paris a global leader

On the positive side, transparency in reporting environmental data had increased by 17 times over the past decade, the CDP study said. 

Paris was among the 33 “A list” cities in Europe seen to be taking leading action on climate – with the French capital reducing its carbon emissions by a third over the past 15 years.

“Paris is renovating the city's most energy-intensive municipal buildings, including 600 primary schools, 15 swimming pools and 50,000 housing units,” Wolfrum said. 

“Paris also has a plan for zero diesel by 2024…and zero petrol by 2030.”

Other measures included “cool islands” to cope with heatwaves, storm water reservoirs to manage floods, shelters to protect against severe wind, and plans to run Paris on 100 percent renewable energy.

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