Urban sprawl highlighted in climate report

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Addressing urban sprawl and a lack of coordinated city planning should be a priority for reducing CO2 emissions, as well as tackling air pollution and road injuries, according to a major report on climate change.

‘Better Growth, Better Climate: The New Climate Economy Report’, from the Global Commission on the Economy & Climate, highlights urban sprawl as a major policy and market failure, a significant cause of greenhouse gas emissions from traffic, as well as spurring higher levels of road traffic injury, congestion and air pollution.

“At the heart of sprawl are a range of interlocking market failures, such as the failure to account for the higher costs of providing public infrastructure in sprawling cities; the failure to price the significant and rising costs of traffic congestion, vehicle-related accidents, carbon emissions and air pollution; and the failure to take into account the public infrastructure costs generated by more dispersed developments.”

The report warns that urban and transportation planning decisions taken now will influence how we live and move for decades, and calls for action to deliver more compact city design, reducing the need for motorized mobility and improving local access to a wide range of services: “The stakes for growth, quality of life and carbon emissions could not be higher. The structures we build now, including roads and buildings, could last for a century or more, setting the trajectory for greenhouse gas emissions, in the near and medium term, at a critical time to reining these in.”

The FIA Foundation’s Director General, Saul Billingsley, today spoke on a panel at the SloCaT ‘On Track for Clean & Green Transport’ side event of the UN Climate Summit alongside the report’s lead coordinator, Andrew Steer of the World Resources Institute, and welcomed the focus on tackling sprawl. “The number of cars on the world’s roads is forecast to double over the coming decade. Urban sprawl will be a big driver of this unsustainable car use. Instead we need to tackle car dependency by redesigning city space, services and mobility to encourage and enable localised travel patterns that can be made by walking and cycling, and by providing reliable mass transit connectivity”.

Read the report’s chapter on cities >