The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change released last week confirms that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have continued to rise across all major sectors.

Without significantly adjusting current emission trends the world will overshoot the 1.5°C target of the Paris Agreement and enter much more dangerous warming trajectories. To stay within 1.5°C pathways, current policies and pledges must rapidly become more ambitious followed by their comprehensive implementation, says the report.

“Time is of essence and the transition to Net Zero can only achieved with Cities. We will expedite our support to cities and Member States for more ambitious local mitigation Action,” says UN-Habitat’s Executive Director, Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif.

The IPCC report confirms that for such scenarios, countries must reduce still-rising greenhouse gas emissions as fast as possible. By 2030, annual emissions must already be reduced by 43 per cent, and Net Zero shall be reached by 2050. If this timeline is not achieved, 1.5°C warming pathways might no longer be possible, said the report. The role of infrastructure, transport, and technology in cities is paramount to achieving such targets.

The report states a set of opportunities in urban areas for resource efficiency and greenhouse gas emission reduction. Systemic transition of infrastructure and urban form offer great potential to increase efficiency and decarbonise at scale.

The main urban mitigation pathways for growing cities are reducing energy and material consumption, electrification, and enhancing carbon uptake and storage in urban environment, for example by utilising bio-based building materials, permeable surfaces, green roofs, trees, green spaces, and other nature-based solutions.

The report points out that there continues to be great inequality and differentiated responsibility for emissions in cities.

“Globally, the 10% of households with the highest per capita emissions contribute 34 – 45% of global consumption-based household GHG emissions, while the bottom 50% contribute 13 - 15% per cent,” says the report.

With over 880 million people living in informal settlements, there are opportunities to harness and enable informal practices and institutions in cities related to housing, waste, energy, water, and sanitation to reduce resource use, improve climate vulnerabilities, and mitigate climate change.

UN-Habitat estimates that an additional three billion people will require adequate and affordable housing by 2030 and that 75 per cent of the infrastructure that will exist in developing countries in 2050 is yet to be built. There is an urgency to recognise the centrality of housing and infrastructure to sustainable and low emission urban development.

Notwithstanding, the IPCC scientists indicate that low-emission technology is getting cheaper, policies and laws are improving, and thus, Net Zero is possible.

Innovation policy packages and tailored policies have helped “overcome distributional, environmental and social impacts potentially associated with global diffusion of low-emission technologies,” says the IPCC report.

In order to support local governments and basic services operators in the transition to climate smart urban basic services, UN-Habitat is strengthening knowledge and technical capacity; improving data collection and decision making; raising awareness; facilitating peer-to-peer support; bringing different stakeholders, including the informal sector, together; providing technical assistance; and supporting project development. 

In light of the outcomes of the IPCC Report, UN-Habitat will redouble its efforts in supporting national governments, cities, and urban stakeholders to implement ambitious but viable local mitigation action to achieve Net Zero in the energy, transport, waste, building and construction sectors.

UN-Habitat will support decision-makers to deploy urban Low-Emission Development Strategies and spur innovation globally and by providing direct support to cities through the climate smart cities challenge.