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Carbon Competitive Cities

Climate Change Mitigation: A Strategic Approach for Cities

Cities are inextricably linked to climate change.  Not only do cities produce enormous amounts of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, but the density of people and infrastructure makes cities very vulnerable to the effects of climate change. 

The risks faced by cities of a changing climate are balanced by tremendous potential to build resilience to its effects and even rein in its causes.  The concentration of financial and human capital in urban areas promotes innovation and investment in projects that can help us manage climate risk.  These pro-active measures, be they technology development, policy or improvements to physical infrastructure, typically fall into two categories: mitigation or adaptation. 

Mitigation focuses on reducing the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere, whereas adaptation responds to the reality of an imbalanced carbon cycle, and encompasses activities that prepare us for the negative impacts of an inevitable degree of climate change.  Mitigation and adaptation are complementary concepts; unmitigated climate change will exceed our ability to adapt.  These channels need to be pursued simultaneously and coherently.

Municipalities are well positioned to implement policies and programs that have real impact on both mitigation and adaptation objectives.  The TRCA has numerous programs designed to enhance municipal climate change adaptation efforts (click HERE for more details).  Adaptation initiatives are combined with mitigation initiatives to form complete climate change plans. 

Getting to Carbon Neutral

In order to maximize their effectiveness at climate change mitigation, municipalities need tools to help them analyze their current situation and develop strategies to approach climate change.  Getting to Carbon Neutral: A Guide for Canadian Municipalities provides an overview of the major sources of municipal greenhouse gas emissions and incorporates a series of standardized equations and estimation guidelines that help a city understand strategically how to move toward substantive carbon dioxide reduction targets.  (Download a copy of the report HERE or the introductory companion piece HERE).

The climate change imperative is a global phenomenon. Countries around the world are grappling with how to succeed in these uncertain conditions and they are turning to this report for guidance. A recent book published by the World Bank, Energy Efficient Cities: Assessment Tools and Benchmarking Practices, includes a chapter based on the Getting to Carbon Neutral report. (This book can be viewed in digital form HERE).

Climate change is complex, and solutions must be multi-faceted and interactive.  Getting to Carbon Neutral has inspired an online application to facilitate this process, the Carbon Neutral City Planner.   Currently in development, this tool allows Canadian cities to build and compare different mitigation strategies.  For more information, click HERE.

The dynamic, healthy and sustainable cities of tomorrow require brave leadership and coherent strategies today.  Climate change management needs to become systemic in city planning, embedded in the decision-making process, and municipalities need to capitalize on their capacity for innovation and implementation to transform the risks of climate change into opportunities for growth and prosperity.  The TRCA is committed to assisting its member municipalities, and others, forge a new path that harmonizes environmental imperatives with economic goals and social values.

For more information, contact:

Bernie McIntyre
(416) 661-6600 ext. 5326
bmcintyre@trca.on.ca