Climate change will soon expose a crippling problem embedded in the nation’s infrastructure. In fire-ravaged California, it already has.
The beginning of a ski run on the roof of Copenhagen’s new trash incinerator, which will help heat buildings in the city. Photograph by Charlotte de la Fuente
COPENHAGEN — Can a city cancel out its greenhouse gas emissions?
Copenhagen intends to, and fast. By 2025, this once-grimy industrial city aims to be net carbon neutral, meaning it plans to generate more renewable energy than the dirty energy it consumes.
Here’s why it matters to the rest of the world: Half of humanity now lives in cities, and the vast share of planet-warming gases come from cities. The big fixes for climate change need to come from cities too. They are both a problem and a potential source of solutions.
The experience of Copenhagen, home to 624,000 people, can show what’s possible, and what’s tough, for other urban governments on a warming planet.
The mayor, Frank Jensen, said cities “can change the way we behave, the way we are living, and go more green.” His city has some advantages. It is small, it is rich and its people care a lot about climate change.
Mr. Jensen said mayors, more than national politicians, felt the pressure to take action. “We are directly responsible for our cities and our citizens, and they expect us to act,” he said.
In the case of Copenhagen, that means changing how people get around, how they heat their homes, and what they do with their trash. The city has already cut its emissions by 42 percent from 2005 levels, mainly by moving away from fossil fuels to generate heat and electricity. MORE
Supporters of a Green New Deal gathered late last year in Washington.CreditCreditJim Lo Scalzo/European Pressphoto Agency, via Shutterstock
Everyone is lining up to endorse the Green New Deal — or to mock it. Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand have all endorsed the resolution sponsored by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts.
Conservative critics predictably call it “a shocking document” and “a call for enviro-socialism in America,” but liberal condescension has cut deeper. The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, essentially dismissed it as branding, saying, “The green dream, or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is, but they’re for it, right?” Others have criticized it for leaving out any mention of a carbon tax, a cornerstone of mainstream climate-policy proposals, while embracing a left-populist agenda that includes universal health care, stronger labor rights and a jobs guarantee.
What do these goals have to do with stabilizing atmospheric carbon levels before climate change makes large parts of the world uninhabitable? What has taken liberal critics aback is that the Green New Deal strays so far from the traditional environmental emphasis on controlling pollution, which the carbon tax aims to do, and tries to solve the problems of economic inequality, poverty and even corporate concentration (there’s an antimonopoly clause).
But this everything-and-the-carbon-sink strategy is actually a feature of the approach, not a bug, and not only for reasons of ideological branding. MORE
Photo: Shutterstock/by Randy Hergenrether
Public infrastructure – airports, bridges, transmission lines, wastewater systems – is everywhere, which makes it an obvious target for cutting emissions. The sheer amount of ground it covers means we could make a real dent in Canada’s carbon footprint by changing the way governments make infrastructure spending decisions. And yet it’s an opportunity seldom discussed.
The Government of Canada plans to invest $180 billion in public infrastructure over the next decade. It’s a key opportunity to get our public infrastructure spending right. If we don’t, we risk being locked in to the wrong path for decades – with expensive retrofits being our only option to later cut pollution and ensure our buildings and bridges can stand up to increasingly severe weather events.
The advantages of smart infrastructure spending are detailed in a new report from Clean Energy Canada, which draws on expertise from professionals and stakeholders.
Here is why we should target public infrastructure in our climate-change efforts, and push governments to spend dollars differently:
The Government of Canada has prioritized increasing infrastructure investment and cutting pollution across the country. The 2016 federal budget saw the launch of the Investing in Canada Plan, the federal government’s long-term infrastructure strategy. This plan marks a historic new investment of $180 billion over the next 12 years in five key priority areas: public transit, green and social infrastructure, trade and transportation, and rural and remote communities.
This policy primer will make the case for why we should look to public infrastructure to build the clean growth economy. It will also provide advice to government on how to do that. MORE
Oslo’s waterfront was once a mass of shipping containers and a vast intersection jammed with cars pumping out fumes.
Today, traffic is diverted through an underwater tunnel, and much of it is made up of electric or hybrid cars. Above, the scene is becoming dominated by a new Edvard Munch art museum and central library — both due to open in 2020.
The new development has impressive environmental as well as cultural credentials, with all new buildings meeting energy efficiency standards for low energy use, explains Anita Lindahl Trosdahl, project manager for Oslo’s Green Capital year. MORE