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Cities lead for climate solutions

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A solar power plant being run by the power utility in New Delhi, India. (C)Ashley Cooper/WWFA solar power plant being run by the power utility in New Delhi, India. (C)Ashley Cooper/WWF

                                                                                     By Aarti Khosla, WWF.

Climate change has been blazing away at us -whether it’s the super typhoon Haiyan – the strongest storm ever to hit the earth, or the polar vortex, or even the more recent flooding in the UK, the writing on the wall only gets bolder each passing day. None of them are directly equal to climate change happening, yet cumulatively, each of them point to a more rapid change in the climate system. And when 97% of the scientific community agrees and points out that climate change is here, and is happening now, there is much else apart from solutions that we should indeed be looking at!

Several governments, organizations, institutions and even individuals have already realized the value of doing as much as we can today, to reduce the carbon emissions which are afterall, the main cause of anthropogenic or human induced climate change.

Cities are virtually living on the edge as they deal with multiple pressures of development as well as climate change. (Aerial view of Manila, Philippines)(c) Aarti Khosla/WWFCities are virtually living on the edge as they deal with multiple pressures of development as well as climate change. (Aerial view of Manila, Philippines)(c) Aarti Khosla/WWF

Talking of solutions, over half the world’s population are now urban dwellers whose lifestyles generate more than 70% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. But cities can also be hotbeds for the development of new solutions to climate change. That’s why WWF created the Earth Hour City Challenge. The challenge aims to mobilize action and support from cities in the global transition towards a resilient, one-planet future. Cities are invited to submit inspiring and credible urban development plans that dramatically increase the city’s use of renewable energy.

33 finalists from 14 participating countries have been selected from among the 163 entrants in this year’s Earth Hour City Challenge. One of these cities will ultimately be awarded the title Global Earth Hour Capital 2014 for outstanding sustainability efforts at an award ceremony in Vancouver, Canada on March 27’2014. Their solutions are inspiring!

In Canada, the 2012 Global Earth Hour City Challenge winner Vancouver is already developing renewable energy based neighbourhood heating and cooling, improved electric vehicle infrastructure and also a fossil fuel divestment plan!

In the US, a number of cities have made the decision to generate their power from renewable sources. In many cases this involves an innovative method known as Community Choice Aggregation. In short, this means groups of buyers or energy users joining together to find an alternative to private utility companies – many of which hold fossil fuel-based monopolies in the areas they serve – by going through an open market renewable energy supplier.

Other excellent examples are to be found in the global South, where a number of cities are implementing climate action or low-carbon strategies. In India, more than 48 cities have been ear-marked as Solar Cities, as part of India’s national Solar Mission. Being a Solar City involves securing major investment in solar energy infrastructure for streetlights, cookers, water heaters and traffic lights. In Johannesburg, South Africa, the Climate Proofing for Urban Communities initiative is providing low-income households with low pressure solar water heating systems.

The low-carbon solutions that are being pioneered and implemented at city level are likely the key to unlocking the answers we need globally. The leading cities are already inspiring positive discussion about what is being done, and can be done in cities, particularly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – even though cities are hampered by a severe lack of funding and investment in renewable energies.

This month and the next, WWF is inviting people all over the world to join in the global celebration of these loveable cities. Visit www.welovecities.org and join us by showing your support for the impressive efforts our 33 finalists are making towards sustainability. Seize Your Power!  

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