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30 Sep 2008 05:09:29

Cities 'not biggest carbon emitters'

Cities 'not biggest carbon emitters'
Carbon emissions from cities are not as high as is often assumed and urban areas could actually help combat climate change, according to a new study.

The International Institute for Environmental Development (IIED) has published a paper claiming that cities are responsible for 40 per cent of global emissions, compared to between 70 and 80 per cent sometimes cited.

Former US President Bill Clinton, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and even some United Nations (UN) agencies have cited the higher number, but using the data from the UN's own Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, paper author David Satterthwaite proved just 40 per cent of CO2 was generated in cities.

And the errors in attribution have meant that the potential of cities to contribute to the solution is overlooked.

"Blaming cities for greenhouse gas emissions misses the point that cities are a large part of the solution," said Mr Satterthwaite, a senior fellow at the IIED. "Well planned, well governed cities can provide high living standards that do not require high consumption levels and high greenhouse gas emissions."

The paper also claims that it is a mistake to allocate emissions according to where they are generated and that instead, they should be attributed to consumers who use the goods and services which cause emissions.

"Consumer demand drives the production of goods and services, and therefore the emission of greenhouse gases," said Mr Satterthwaite. "Allocating emissions to consumers rather than producers shows that the problem is not cities but a minority of the world's population with high-consumption lifestyles. A large proportion of these consumers live not in cities but in small towns and rural areas."

According to a paper published by the University of Illinois at Chicago, in 2003, Japan was the largest city by population, with 32,450,000. Karachi, which had a population of 11,800,000 had the highest density, with 10,727 people per square kilometre.



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