C40 is delighted to publish this pioneering piece of thought leadership, The Future of Urban Consumption in a 1.5°C World. The report demonstrates that mayors have an even bigger role and opportunity to help avert climate emergency than previously thought.
But to grasp that opportunity, city leaders need to be even more entrepreneurial, creating and shaping markets and engaging in sectors that may not previously have been considered within the domain of city government, and working out how to support their citizens and businesses in achieving a radical, and rapid, shift in consumption patterns.
Cities drive the global economy, and urban decisions have an impact well beyond city
boundaries. In this case, the impact we are considering is the greenhouse gas (GHG)
emissions resulting from urban consumption of building materials, food, clothing & textiles,
private transport, electronics & household appliances, as well as private aviation travel.
What is the true scope and scale of urban impacts on the environment? What is the role of mayors and other urban stakeholders in addressing them?
How can we fairly and equitably address consumption-based emissions if many citizens in C40 cities still do not meet their basic needs? Is it possible to avert climate breakdown given that the current rules of the global economy encourage ever-increasing consumption?
The work also shows that there are huge health and cost benefits in doing so. A world with low-impact consumption will be more prosperous and happy than the over-consuming, polluted alternative that we are currently heading for.
C40 recognizes that the full environmental consequences of twenty-first century consumption are only beginning to be understood and that the findings of this report will make uncomfortable reading for many mayors, businesses and citizens.
As a result, C40 cities will need time to develop the partnerships, strategies and actions that can deliver the necessary changes. C40 is committed to supporting that process.
US Cities are leading on tackling climate breakdown by setting ambitious targets and taking impactful action to reduce their local emissions.
This work has mostly focused on transport, buildings, energy and waste, which reduces GHG emissions that are emitted within the city, or production-based emissions. Production based emissions have already peaked in 27 C40 cities.
New information shows that fast-growing urban consumption is a key driver of climate change. When a product or service is bought by an urban consumer in a C40 city, resource
extraction, manufacturing and transportation have already generated emissions along every
link of a global supply chain.
Together these consumption-based emissions add up to a total climate impact that is approximately 60% higher than production-based emissions.
Consumption-based emissions account for the total climate impact accumulated around the world of a good or service, allocated to the place where an end-product is used or consumed. Take a pair of jeans, for example.
Its climate impact includes the GHG emissions that resulted from growing and harvesting the cotton used for the fabric, the CO2e emitted by the factory where it was stitched together, and the emissions from ships, trucks or planes that transported it to the store.
Its impact also includes the emissions from heating, cooling or lighting the store the jeans were bought in and the CO 2e emitted by the end-consumer washing and drying it over its lifetime.
C40’s 94 member cities can therefore influence roughly 10% of global emissions. By contrast, the total production-based emissions of C40 cities in 2017 are estimated to be 2.9 GtCO 2e.
When considering C40 cities’ consumption-based emissions, mayors, businesses and urban residents can influence an approximately 60% larger share of global GHG emissions than previously thought.
Cities and urban consumers have a huge impact on emissions beyond their own borders since 85% of the emissions associated with goods and services consumed in C40 cities are generated outside the city; 60% in their own country and 25% from abroad.
These developments must initiate sweeping decreases in the carbon-intensity of industrial
processes such as the making of steel, cement and petrochemicals.
If cities then develop additional bespoke consumption interventions, for a wider set of diverse goods and service categories that have not been the focus of this report, C40 cities could close their full consumption-based emissions gap by 2050.
The C40 network represents 25% of the global economy, and vast amounts of goods and
services are produced around the world in order to meet consumer demands in C40 cities.
Mayors and city governments are well-positioned to bring together urban residents, businesses, civil society groups and national governments to collaborate on the delivery of transformative climate solutions.
However, this research is evolving. This report is based on the best currently available evidence, but more and better data will become available over time, allowing the goals and approaches to be refined.
The findings presented in this report constitute the first step of an ongoing process of measurement and prioritization that C40 will lead over the next few years to better understand what cities can do to reduce their consumption-based emissions in line with a 1.5°C scenario.
We have published the evidence, methods and assumptions within an accompanying method report, and welcome suggestions for improvements. An overview of the research approach is shown on the next page.
Two target levels were established for each intervention. The progressive target level is based on research that identifies the threshold of resource efficiency and behavioral change potential, as defined by current technology and progressive changes in consumer
The clothing and textile industry plays a significant part in the global economy. The industry is undergoing a transformation as growth rates are increasingly driven by expanding markets in rapidly developing nations.
Emissions from clothing and textiles made up 4% of C40 cities consumption-based emissions in 2017. If all C40 cities make the changes set out in table 4, the emissions of the clothing and textiles category could be cut by 47% between 2017 and 2050.
The adoption of ambitious targets would enable a further 19% emissions reduction. It is notable that the impact of reducing the number of new clothing and textile items people buy significantly exceeds the impact of cutting supply chain waste.
In the ambitious scenario, the limited number of items being produced means that there are lower savings to be made through supply chain waste reductions.
Emissions associated with aviation in C40 cities make up 2% of total consumption-based
emissions in 2017.
This may seem relatively marginal compared to other sectors examined in this report, but air travel is one of the most carbon-intensive activities that individuals can personally undertake and the aviation industry is experiencing rapid growth.
If all residents of C40 cities fly less38 and airlines increase the proportion of sustainable aviation fuel they use as outlined in the progressive target, a cumulative 43% emissions saving can be achieved (Figure 25).
Given the current global disparity in flying, it is important to note that C40 cities can, on average, actually increase flight trips by 43% compared to 2017 levels, if the target is one short-haul flight every two years per person.
However, 46% of C40 cities’ residents would need to reduce the number of trips, compared to their 2017 levels.
The relative contributions of the two consumption interventions are similar, though it should be noted that the adoption of sustainable bio-fuel is dependent on also limiting the number of flights to avoid potentially negative consequences on other systems.
Such as land and water required for producing feed-stocks, and potential competition with other land uses such as food production or the chopping down of the rain forests in Brazil and Africa.
The use of electronics and household appliances has grown substantially over the last few
decades. Emissions from electronics and household appliances in C40 cities made up 3% of total consumption-based emissions in 2017.
By keeping electronic goods and household appliances for longer and optimizing their lifespan, a total emissions reduction of 33% can be achieved by 2050.
In 2017, the total consumption-based emissions associated with the use and manufacturing of private vehicles in C40 cities represented 8% of total emissions.
A third of the emissions from private transport are related to the materials and processes used to make vehicles and motorbikes.
For this consumption category, there is a clear overlap with Deadline 2020 commitments given that reductions in the use of private transport could catalyze a reduction in ownership and vice versa.
In 2017, emissions associated with food were estimated to account for 13% of total consumption based emissions across C40 cities.
Roughly three quarters of these emissions stem from consumption of animal based foods, with the remaining 25% from consumption of plant based foods.
In 2017, C40 cities’ emissions associated with construction and refurbishment of buildings and infrastructure accounted for 0.45 GtCO2e, representing 11% of emissions in that year.
These emissions are not only associated with construction within C40 cities; city residents are also beneficiaries of buildings and infrastructure across their host country, such as public and commercial buildings, railways, bridges, highways, water and sewerage infrastructure.
Emissions from construction of such national infrastructure is included within C40 cities’
To avoid climate breakdown across the world, including in C40 cities, major industries such as energy generation, transportation, agriculture, construction, electronics, and clothing and textiles, will have to undergo significant structural changes.
Evolving consumer demands will both require new, sustainable products and services, and that existing consumer goods are made in a more resource-efficient and sustainable way.
These changes in consumer demands and production will affect businesses and workers throughout supply chains across the world, leading to a completely new economic takeover.
Expose News.com / ABC Flash Point News 2023.