Climate-smart urban planning saves money and grows the economy

By James Noble

September 17, 2015

A concerted effort by the world’s cities to develop and implement low-carbon growth strategies could save trillions of dollars and reduce annual greenhouse-gas emissions by more than the total emissions released each year in India, according to a new report.

The Global Commission on Economy and Climate, an independent initiative by former finance ministers and leading research institutions, found climate-smart cities could spur economic growth and a better quality of life by embracing policies which promote the reduction of carbon pollution.

If national governments also back those efforts, they would create a multiplier effect and the savings on transport, buildings, and waste disposal could reach up to US$16.6 trillion by 2050, the report found.

The goal of this climate-smart development is not only to contain urban sprawl, but to manage urban expansion in a way that promotes dense, transit-oriented and livable urban environments. The findings further suggest that real estate investment into more compact and connected urban cores can have a positive impact on long-term returns for private investors.

The evidence upends the notion that climate action is too expensive or that such efforts would make little difference.

Vancouver’s Greenest City 2020 Action Plan (GCAP) is one such effort taken by a city to address the harms of carbon pollution by embracing sustainability goals that also spur economic development.

Organized into 10 unique goals, the plan has three areas of focus: carbon, waste, and ecosystems. For example, increasing composting and urban gardening helps to boost the green economy, reduce waste, increase access to nature, and improve local food.

Vancouver’s economy has been growing at a rate of above 3 percent over the past five years and the green economy is a major reason. The green economy includes jobs in clean technology, green building design and construction, recycling and composting, green transportation and much more.



Photo Credit: Jeff Arsenault