Tuesday, October 07, 2008

cities are good for the planet

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". . . blaming cities for greenhouse gas emissions misses the point that well-planned and governed cities are central to delinking high living standards/quality of life from high consumption/ greenhouse gas emissions. This can be seen in part in the very large differentials between wealthy cities in gasoline use per person;(20) most US cities have three to five times the gasoline use per person of most European cities – and it is difficult to see that Detroit has five times the quality of life of Copenhagen or Amsterdam. Singapore has one-fifth of the automobile ownership per person of most cities in other high-income nations, yet also has a higher income per person.(21) It is also evident in the fact that many cities in high-income nations have greenhouse gas emissions per person that are far below their national averages.(22)

Many of the most desirable (and expensive) residential areas in the world’s wealthiest cities have high densities and building forms that can minimize the need for space heating and cooling – much more so than housing in suburban or rural areas. Most European cities have high density centres where walking and bicycling are preferred by much of the population, especially where good provision is made for pedestrians and bicyclists. Many European cities also have high-quality public transport that keeps down private automobile ownership and use. Cities also concentrate so much of what contributes to a very high quality of life that need not imply high material consumption levels (and thus high greenhouse gas emissions) – theatre, music, museums, libraries, the visual arts, dance and the enjoyment of historic buildings and districts. Cities have also long been places of social, economic and political innovation; indeed, in high-income nations, city politicians often demonstrate a greater commitment to greenhouse gas emissions reduction than do national politicians. Achieving the needed reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions depends on seeing this potential of cities to combine high quality of life with low greenhouse gas emissions and acting on it."
- Satterthwaite (2008). Cities' contribution to global warming: notes on the allocation of greenhouse gas emissions. Environment and Urbanization, Vol. 20, No. 2, 539-549 (2008)

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