Climate Change Policies Implemented by Cities in U.S. and Around the World Could Save $17 Trillion over 35 Years

Thursday, September 10, 2015
(photo: Getty Images)

Helping reduce emissions that cause climate change could also save trillions of dollars, a new study shows.


The New Climate Economy says in its report (pdf) that efforts by cities in the U.S. and around the world to cut down on carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere could produce savings of at least $17 trillion over the next 35 years. These changes would include making buildings more efficient, investing in public transportation, deploying high-efficiency lighting and installing solar panels on buildings.


“There is now increasing evidence that emissions can decrease while economies continue to grow,” Seth Schultz, a researcher for the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, a group of major cities committed to fighting climate change, told The Guardian. “Becoming more sustainable and putting the world — specifically cities — on a low carbon trajectory is actually feasible and good economics.”


Employing green policies, the New Climate Economy says, could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3.7 metric gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent—an amount greater than what India emits every year.


The $17 trillion figure could turn out to be even more if indirect savings are considered, according to Nick Godfrey, head of policy and urban development at the New Climate Economy. “$17 trillion in savings is actually a very conservative estimate, because it only looks at direct energy savings generated from investment, which are a small proportion of the wider social, economic, and environmental benefits of these investments,” he said. Items such as decreased infrastructure costs for roads when public transit use increases are among the benefits not accounted for in the $17 trillion.


The report recommends that money be made available to developing countries to help them implement some of the changes.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Cities Could Save $17 Trillion Just By Reducing Their Greenhouse Gas Emissions (by Katie Valentine, ThinkProgress)

Accelerating Low-Carbon Development in the World’s Cities (by Andy Gouldson, Sarah Colenbrander, Andrew Sudmant, Nick Godfrey, Joel Millward-Hopkins, Wanli Fang and Xiao Zhao, New Climate Economy) (pdf)

Why Municipalities Are the Key to Fighting Climate Change (by Michael Bloomberg, Foreign Affairs)

Citibank Study Finds Huge Financial Benefits to Acting on Climate Change (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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