Governments told to back cities in COVID response

Cities, which have been at the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic, have great potential to drive an economic recovery and accelerate the transition to a low carbon future, researchers have said.

On 14 September, the Coalition for Urban Transitions published a paper, The Economic Case for Greening the Global Recovery through Cities, where it said national governments have an “unprecedented opportunity for a green and inclusive recovery” by investing in cities. This could include backing energy efficient buildings, low carbon transport systems and renewables-based distributed energy systems. Such investments, the report said, have some of the highest potential to unleash new economic activity, create local jobs, increase public health outcomes and set cities on a path to sustainable, long-term development.

The report claimed investments across these areas could unlock a direct economic dividend worth at least $24tn (£18.6tn) while supporting the equivalent of at least 87mn jobs in 2030, mostly from building efficiency improvements, and 45mn in 2050.

It identified seven priority areas for investment from national governments, beginning with green construction and retrofits, noting that the carbon reduction potential of low or zero carbon construction and building energy efficiency retrofits is high. It also called for investment in renewable energy generation and electrification for low carbon cities, as well as clean mobility, with the transport sector capable of delivering a fifth of cities’ carbon reduction potential. Other areas earmarked for investment are active transport; nature-based solutions; waste and resources; and research and development for clean technologies.

Coalition for Urban Transitions