Low-carbon cities promise cleaner air, more jobs and less inequality

A new report from the Coalition for Urban Transitions shows major benefits for governments that direct city infrastructure investments into sustainable projects.

The paper The Economic and Social Benefits of Low-Carbon Cities: A Systematic Review of the Evidence found that directing investments into low carbon projects in cities delivers faster and bigger returns than conventional infrastructure in three key areas: improving public health, creating green jobs and reducing inequality.

For instance, initiatives that improve clean public transport and vehicle efficiency could create up to 23 million additional jobs per year and reduce by up to 80 per cent the 1.3 million deaths and 78 million transport-related injuries worldwide each year.

Improving energy efficiency in new and existing buildings could create up to 16 million additional jobs per year worldwide, lower rates of illness, save on health bills and make workers more productive.

Importantly, these initiatives would benefit the poor the most, according to the report’s authors. Low-income groups are more likely to live in poorly insulated buildings and neighbourhoods with chronic air pollution. They also tend to depend on public transport. As such, measures that improve air quality, living conditions and public transport would help achieve more equal cities.

“We already knew that low-carbon investment makes good economic sense. As the evidence mounted up, we were struck by the fact that the cities we want – cleaner, healthier, richer – are made possible through climate action.

“Whether high-quality public transport or segregated cycling lanes, energy-efficient buildings or better waste management, the dollars, lives and hours saved are impressive,” said lead author Professor Andy Gouldson of the University of Leeds in a statement.

The research team assessed over 700 studies for their paper. It builds on earlier work, which showed that low-carbon investments in the world’s cities could generate energy savings worth over 17 trillion by mid-century.

Image credit: Andreas Wecker via Flickr

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