Why cities’ climate change strategies are good for businesses

Monday, 6 June 2011 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Cities’ climate change-related projects often have a ripple effect on businesses, whether towns are putting more renewable energy in the electrical grid, expanding recycling systems or adding bicycle lanes.

For those wanting to know how the biggest cities in the world are tackling climate change, a report from the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group looks at 4,700-plus actions being taken by 40 cities from New York to Moscow, Toronto to Johannesburg, Hong Kong to Amsterdam, and elsewhere in between.

While the report, Climate Action in Megacities, is mainly focused on actions that cities are taking in areas they directly control, some initiatives are geared toward businesses within their borders or can tie into companies’ own sustainability efforts.

To improve the performance of buildings, the C40 cities mainly provide financial incentives or disincentives related to energy efficiency, retrofits and on-site renewable energy. In the future, the most popular actions planned by cities include benchmarking commercial building performance, providing energy performance certification, setting building standards and offering tax incentives for retrofits.

For waste, though, cities have mainly focused on sharing information about reducing trash, and have expanded recycling and composting infrastructure and facilities. Future plans include more of the same, along with some cities planning e-waste collection and others readying packaging reduction efforts.

Coinciding with those efforts, some cities have adopted waste-to-energy technology to turn compostable trash or other materials into energy, since they have a large amount of control over waste collection and treatment.

When it comes to transit, bicycling infrastructure has gained the most attention among personal transportation and taxi programmes. Cities have undertaken 76 cycling infrastructure actions like cycle parking and dedicated bicycle lanes, programmes that can make it easier for employees that want to commute to work, and helping businesses that want to boost car-free travel among their ranks.

But while some city programmes can be a benefit to companies, others could act as hurdles. Berlin, London, Paris and Rome have set up low emissions zones to lower air pollution and carbon emissions. Such areas restrict where freight and other heavy goods vehicles can pass through.

The report also looks at what cities are doing to prepare for, or deal with, impacts from climate change, impacts that will also affect businesses in cities. In a separate survey, 90 percent of the C40 cities said they are at risk from climate change, and 79 percent said climate change could affect the ability of businesses to operate in them.

To prepare for changes like extreme weather, temperature fluctuations, intense rainfall and floods, cities are setting up crisis management strategies and other plans for dealing with impacts when they happen as well as trying to get ahead of weather-related issues by improving stormwater systems, planting trees and adding more green space.