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David Ward on Self-Driving Cars: ‘Don’t Put the Autonomous Cart Before the Horse’

Latest from Cityfix - Mon, 2018-12-10 14:13
We can’t help but be enticed by the concept of self-driving cars. What will they look like? How will they change our lives? How will they change our cities? David Ward, secretary general of the Global New Car Assessment Program, ...

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Achieving Clean Air in Cities

Latest from Cityfix - Fri, 2018-12-07 14:13
The original version of this text appeared in the International Finance Corporation analysis, “Climate Investment Opportunities in Cities.” Air pollution is the world’s fourth-leading fatal health risk and the top environmental health risk. One in nine deaths globally are attributed ...

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3 Issues to Watch at the COP24 Climate Summit

Latest from Cityfix - Wed, 2018-12-05 20:03
The UN climate summit in Katowice, Poland (COP24) is seen by many as the most important climate negotiation since 2015, when 196 countries created a vision for a zero-carbon future by adopting the landmark Paris Agreement. This year’s summit is the ...

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Stronger Than the Storm: 3 Lessons for Building Climate Resilience in Poor Urban Communities

Latest from Cityfix - Tue, 2018-12-04 20:36
Climate change affects poor and marginalized communities first and hardest. These effects are happening now – not in a far-fetched future. Particularly in cities, a lack of access to basic services, a long history of unsustainable urban development, and political ...

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Better Buildings Means a Brighter Future: 3 Technologies to Decrease Energy Use

Latest from Cityfix - Thu, 2018-11-29 14:13
Building efficiency is one of the most effective and affordable solutions for addressing climate change and capping carbon emissions. Yet it is so often drowned by discussions of electric vehicles and solar panels. Given that better buildings are a great ...

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Nature in the Urban Century: Cities Can Offer Solutions for Biodiversity Loss – If We Act Now

Latest from Cityfix - Tue, 2018-11-27 14:13
This century will be remembered as the urban century. Our generation will witness the most significant urban growth in human history. By 2050, there will be 2.4 billion more people in cities, a rate of urban growth that is the ...

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Here’s What Smoke from California’s Wildfires Looks Like from Space

Latest from Cityfix - Fri, 2018-11-23 19:27
Several wildfires are still burning through California. The Camp Fire in Northern California has killed at least 48 people and is now the deadliest ever recorded. The fire has burned 130,000 acres near Paradise, 80 miles north of Sacramento. Near Thousand Oaks, Woolsey Fire ...

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3 Reasons Raahgiri Has Become India’s Urban Movement

Latest from Cityfix - Wed, 2018-11-21 22:38
In too many cities today we see a stark dichotomy. On one side we have enclaves for the rich and powerful, full of luxuries and amenities, and access to the bounties of a globalized world. On the other, there are ...

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6 Ways to Move the Global Air Quality Movement Forward in Cities

Latest from Cityfix - Mon, 2018-11-19 14:13
Solving the world’s air pollution problems is not going to be easy. Ninety-eight percent of cities in low- and middle-income countries with more than 100,000 inhabitants do not meet World Health Organization air quality guidelines for PM2.5. In total, 95 ...

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Unlocking Climate Action: From Bogotá City Hall to the President’s Desk and Back Again

Latest from Cityfix - Fri, 2018-11-16 14:13
Because countries’ commitments are not enough, and cities, local governments and businesses can only do so much to keep climate impacts from reaching the most dangerous levels, we need to strengthen the mutually reinforcing relationship between national and subnational climate action ...

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Africa’s Urban Future: The Policy Agenda for National Governments

Latest from Cityfix - Wed, 2018-11-14 14:13
Sustainable economic development in sub-Saharan Africa will only be possible if towns and cities across the region thrive. This column highlights the critical role that national governments need to play in guiding the urban transition. National Urban Policies can help ...

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Advancing Innovations for More Efficient Buildings in Indian Cities

Latest from Cityfix - Mon, 2018-11-12 14:13
TheCityFix Labs India, launched in Hyderabad on October 8 in partnership with the Financing Sustainable Cities Initiative and Citi Foundation, is focused on finding innovative ways to connect India’s rapidly growing urban areas with basic services, like water, waste management and ...

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Can Paratransit Evolve Alongside African Cities?

Buses - Fri, 2018-11-09 14:13

Minibus-taxis await passengers outside a light rail station in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Photo by Celal Tolga Imamoglu/WRI Turkey Sustainable Cities

Dadalas, donfos, matatus, trotros, car rapides, minibus-taxis – whatever you call the on-demand minivan services that are so ubiquitous in many African cities, you can’t argue with their dominance. Such paratransit systems, as they are known in the transport world, account for 50-98 percent of all passenger trips in sub-Saharan African cities. The colorful vehicles provide affordable and accessible mobility for millions of riders and have become an integral part of African urban culture, from Accra to Addis Ababa.

But despite high ridership, paratransit services often clash with more organized mass transit options and many view them as disorganized and antiquated. Paratransit is seemingly at a cross roads: either become more closely integrated into public transportation systems or become obsolete.

Trotros operating along a future bus rapid transit corridor in Ghana, Accra. Photo by Celal Tolga Imamoglu/WRI Turkey Sustainable Cities

Missed Connections

Paratransit and formal public transport systems are often duplicative and non-complementary, undermining one another’s operations and competing for passengers. During the last decade, a large number of mass transportation projects, including bus rapid transit (BRT) and light rail transit (LRT), have been built along popular paratransit routes. New BRT systems are the most common intervention, following their success in Latin American cities and because of their relative simplicity. But new public transit systems are not having the impact they might have if they were integrated more closely with paratransit.

For instance, before Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, implemented a new BRT system with one main trunk and two feeder lines, paratransit represented 97 percent of all transport trips in the city. Today 180,000 riders use the BRT daily, but riders still use the old paratransit systems too. BRT ridership represents just 43 percent of trips. While the city stopped investing in paratransit, in terms of route planning and integration with other modes, riders did not.

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, presents a similar situation. The city’s LRT system was completed in 2015, servicing approximately 50 million passengers in its first two years, according to the city. However, trains are on a 35-minute interval schedule, meaning that if a person misses one, they have a long wait. Crucially, paratransit operators are not integrated in anyway, leaving out a critical link to increased connectivity and ridership.

A matatu in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo by Vineet John/WRI

Defining a New Role for Paratransit

To ensure public transit and paratransit can coexist, cities are coming up with tailor-made solutions. The challenge is in distinguishing the role, functionality and niche of each mode: paratransit’s flexibility, demand-responsiveness, and low cost, and public transit’s ability to reduce travel times, lower traffic crash rates, and reduce pollution.

The lack of information readily available about paratransit services, the visibility of their services and their cash payments are all challenges to further integration. Despite the relatively low cost of rides, having to pay separately for each trip adds up, disproportionately affecting the poor traveling from the periphery of cities. Public transit can actually be cheaper and faster in these cases.

Vehicles are sometimes old and unsafe as well, putting passengers, drivers and others on the road at risk – this in the context of escalating road-related injuries and deaths across the region, as more vehicles take to the streets.

A car rapide in Dakar, Senegal. Photo by Celal Tolga Imamoglu/WRI Turkey Sustainable Cities

To address these issues, some cities are setting up concession contracts to bring multiple bus owners and operators together under formal companies. For instance, in 2003, the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority converted paratransit operators into a new BRT service.

Other cities are looking to technology-driven “new mobility” solutions. These include digital mapping to improve visibility of paratransit services, electronic ticketing, and online road safety courses. In Nairobi, a SMS-based ticketing platform is making it easier to pay while also reducing the amount of cash handled by matatu drivers and consequently making it harder for police offers to demand bribes.

Despite decades of paratransit service provision, more extensive public transportation systems are coming to more and more African cities. Paratransit services can and likely should still have a role in this transit future. Indeed, successful integration between the two modes may be key to more livable, sustainable, equitable cities for all.

Celal Tolga Imamoglu is a Transport and Road Safety Manager at WRI Turkey Sustainable Cities.

Can Paratransit Evolve Alongside African Cities?

Latest from Cityfix - Fri, 2018-11-09 14:13
Dadalas, donfos, matatus, trotros, car rapides, minibus-taxis – whatever you call the on-demand minivan services that are so ubiquitous in many African cities, you can’t argue with their dominance. Such paratransit systems, as they are known in the transport world, ...

Continue reading on TheCityFix.com.

Curbing Climate Change and Preventing Deaths from Air Pollution Go Hand-in-Hand

Health and environment - Wed, 2018-11-07 14:13

Curbing short-lived climate pollutants can also reduce air pollution-related deaths. Photo by Nicolò Lazzati/Global Panorama/Flickr

More than 7 million people die prematurely every year due to air pollution. That’s like the entire population of Hong Kong dropping dead due to a cause that’s ultimately avoidable.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is turning its attention to this issue this week at its first global conference to improve air quality, combat climate change and save lives. It’s time to gather all allies in the fight for clean air. As policy, community and scientific leaders look closely at the public health impacts and the case for clean air, the climate world also offers some important instruments that can drive broader action.

Air pollution Is a Climate AND a Health Challenge

recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made the case for climate action more starkly than ever: The world is way off track for limiting global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F), the cap necessary for staving off the worst impacts of climate change. We need to change course rapidly to phase out coal, increase renewables, improve energy efficiency and revolutionize the way we produce food – all while growing sustainably, improving air quality and providing a better life for people.

This attention is a force for health as well as climate goals. A little-discussed fact is that the causes of air pollution and climate change overlap. In some cases, the chemicals are actually the same.

Short-lived climate pollutants, such as methane, black carbon, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and tropospheric ozone, have a powerful effect on global temperatures, and many are also damaging air pollutants. For example, methane is a potent greenhouse gas with a global warming impact 86 times higher than that of carbon dioxide over a 20-year time horizon. It is also the largest precursor to ground-level ozone, a major component of smog, which can worsen bronchitis and asthma and damage lung tissue. Tropospheric ozone exposure alone is responsible for an estimated one million premature deaths each year.

In other cases, health-damaging pollutants and climate-changing compounds are emitted at the same time. For example, when coal burns to provide energy, health-damaging fine particles, sometimes laced with toxic mercury, are released along with greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.

Strengthening Climate Commitments Will Improve Air Quality

The instruments for climate action could bring important new momentum to tackling air pollution and improving public health. We should use them.

For example, the international Paris Agreement asks countries to submit strengthened national climate plans, or “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs), by 2020. These are powerful instruments to direct finance and bend the global emissions trajectory. This is not only necessary for limiting warming to 1.5°C, it also makes good economic sense: Research from the New Climate Economy finds that bold climate action can result in a global economic gain of $26 trillion by 2030.

Situating short-lived climate pollutants centrally in strengthened NDCs could advance both climate and health goals. A recent study shows that curbing climate change can prevent air pollution-related deaths – benefits that far outweigh the costs of reducing emissions. In fact, the value of health co-benefits can sometimes be more than double the costs of mitigation efforts. For China and India, the costs of reducing greenhouse gas emissions can be compensated with the health benefits alone.

A new WRI/Oxfam working paper presents options for how countries can incorporate targets, policies and actions on short-lived climate pollutants and key related sectors into new or updated NDCs. This will allow countries to reap immediate climate and health benefits while ensuring that those least responsible for our changing climate aren’t left to deal with its increasingly severe impacts.

Tackling Short-Lived Climate Pollutants

It’s important to note that curbing climate change and reducing air pollution-related risks aren’t exactly the same thing. Exposure, the intersection between people and pollutants, is the key determinant of health, while ambient air quality, the concentration of pollutants in the air regardless of whether people are breathing them, is the key focus for climate change. But aligning health action with climate action could bring several new and innovative strategies to bear. Tackling short-lived climate pollutants offers an important avenue to address air pollution and curb runaway climate change.

This blog was originally published on WRI’s Insights. 

Katherine Ross is an Associate with WRI’s Climate Program.

Jessica Seddon is the Director of Integrated Urban Strategy at WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.

Curbing Climate Change and Preventing Deaths from Air Pollution Go Hand-in-Hand

Latest from Cityfix - Wed, 2018-11-07 14:13
More than 7 million people die prematurely every year due to air pollution. That’s like the entire population of Hong Kong dropping dead due to a cause that’s ultimately avoidable. The World Health Organization (WHO) is turning its attention to ...

Continue reading on TheCityFix.com.

Bridging the Gap Between Climate Adaptation and Equity: TheCityFix Labs Mexico

Latest from Cityfix - Mon, 2018-11-05 14:13
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report on the prospects for staying under 1.5 degrees of warming is a call to action and a warning. The world is not on track to limit dangerous temperature rise and its follow-on ...

Continue reading on TheCityFix.com.

IPCC 1.5 Report: Cities Are the Best Chance to Get Climate Right

Active Transport - Wed, 2018-10-31 20:30

To keep warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius, cities have a major role to play. Photo by Nicolas Mirguet/Flickr

Amid the barrage of news about climate-related natural disasters and climate change summits, it’s important to recognize real inflection points—when there is truly cause to sit up and take note. The IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC, released last month, is a genuine wake up call.

We are already at one degree Celsius warming beyond pre-industrial averages. Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit)—beyond which scientists expect more significant damage to global ecosystems—requires “rapid and far-reaching transitions” in energy systems, land use, industry and urban infrastructure, concludes the special report.

In short, we need to live and build differently.

Those of us focused on cities know this is true. The trajectory for major trends needs to change significantly in urban areas to reach the targets agreed to by the world’s governments in the Paris Agreement, Sustainable Development Goals and New Urban Agenda. We need not just nudges and tweaks, but transformation on a massive scale, starting now.

The IPCC special report, a synthesis of the latest climate research collected by 91 authors, reinforces this message comprehensively. From reducing emissions to expanding economic opportunities for all, cities are key to a sustainable future.

Building Differently

Big changes to the built environment are needed to stay under 1.5 degrees. We must build smarter and retrofit faster. Emissions from buildings must be reduced 80-90 percent by mid-century, and all new construction must be “fossil-free and near-zero energy” in just two years.

These changes need to happen everywhere. In the developed world, we need to see optimization and decarbonization of existing services. In the developing world, we need to provide new services—including roads, water, sanitation and electricity—to the underserved, and cities need to build these services differently from those of the past. New solutions need to be adopted quickly since the infrastructure being constructed today will last decades. This is a challenge, but also a significant opportunity to reshape cities—some 75 percent of the infrastructure expected to be in place by 2050 has yet to be built.

Reaching the 1.5 degree target will require a 40 percent reduction in final energy use in transportation by mid-century, according to the report. Individual choices can make a dent here, but better urban planning can go even further. The authors note that “effective urban planning can reduce GHG emissions from urban transport between 20 percent and 50 percent.”

Cities Under Siege

At two degrees of warming by 2040, more than 70 percent of coastlines will see sea level rise greater than 0.2 meters (8 inches). Among the places hardest hit by flooding will be dense urban areas, including at least 136 “megacities” (defined as “port cities with a population greater than one million in 2005”). That doesn’t include new cities that will enter this category due to population growth in the next few decades.

Heat is already a major concern for many cities, and the report notes that the challenge will be much greater if nothing is done. “At 1.5°C, twice as many megacities (such as Lagos, Nigeria and Shanghai, China) could become heat-stressed, exposing more than 350 million more people to deadly heat by 2050 under mid-range population growth.”

At two degrees, without changes to the built environment like cooler roofs and greener urban design, cities like Karachi and Kolkata can expect deadly heatwaves like the ones in 2015 that killed thousands.

Living Differently

It’s not just the physical changes of a warming world that are alarming; it’s the social and economic implications. Climate change is a “poverty-multiplier that makes poor people poorer and increases the poverty head count,” the report says.

“Unmitigated warming could reshape the global economy later in the century by reducing average global incomes and widening global income inequality,” it says. “Most severe impacts are projected for urban areas and some rural regions in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.”

Cities are especially vulnerable to these trends in part because the number of people living in “informal” settlements—areas often beyond the scope of basic services and municipal assistance—is expected to triple to 3 billion by 2050. The risk for cities already struggling with the effects of inequality is that reaching these populations becomes even more difficult, not only putting millions of people at risk of destitution and literal drowning but dragging down urban and national economies writ large.

A much larger emphasis on governance, equity and “broad participation” will need to be considered to reduce urban risks. Even well-intentioned adaptation efforts can backfire if they end up further marginalizing or displacing poor citizens.

Our World Resources Report, “Towards a More Equal City,” suggests ways to build cities for all by outlining equity challenges sector by sector as well as exploring practical approaches that are already working in cities around the world.

Cities for All

The IPCC report is a call for transformation on a massive scale—not just in energy or climate policy but how we live and build generally. Though it’s easy to focus on the potential costs of such a change, the benefits could be significant, too.

The authors note urban “green economies” are emerging from the informal sector, helping to meet demand for clean water, for example, and improve recycling. And cities in Africa and Asia have the potential to leapfrog traditional ways of generating electricity, bringing cleaner energy to more citizens and improving adaptive capacity at the same time (here, the report cites WRI’s own work on powering cities in the global south).

Estimates of the net value of low-carbon investments in cities are as high as $16.6 trillion by 2050, according to the Coalition for Urban Transitions.

The furious pace of urbanization gives us an opportunity to make rapid changes. A window for transformation is opening, and it’s up to us to seize it. Cities are the best chance we have to get this right.

This blog originally appeared on WRI’s Insights.

Ani Dasgupta is Global Director of WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities

Catlyne Haddaoui contributed to this article.

IPCC 1.5 Report: Cities Are the Best Chance to Get Climate Right

Latest from Cityfix - Wed, 2018-10-31 20:30
Amid the barrage of news about climate-related natural disasters and climate change summits, it’s important to recognize real inflection points—when there is truly cause to sit up and take note. The IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC, released ...

Continue reading on TheCityFix.com.

Putting the Poor First to Improve Sanitation in Kampala

Latest from Cityfix - Wed, 2018-10-31 18:30
For decades, Kampala has raced to keep up with its own rapid growth. Set alongside Lake Victoria, the Ugandan capital more than quadrupled in physical footprint between 1991 and 2012 as population doubled to 1.5 million people. One of Kampala’s ...

Continue reading on TheCityFix.com.

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