The Case for City Disclosure: The business perspective
Better information for a better tomorrow
The cities of tomorrow are being shaped, built, and managed by the governments, businesses, and citizens of today. As our cities face the tremendous challenges of increased urbanization, aging and stressed infrastructure, and global climate change, they will also find opportunities for improvement. To create cities that support a better quality of life while minimizing the resulting impact on the environment, today’s designers need a clear picture of cities’ impact on and response to climate change.
In North America and parts of developed Asia, much of the power, water, and highway infrastructure was built more than fifty years ago with anticipated life spans of less than fifty years. In Europe, architecture and water infrastructure is often hundreds of years old. In the developing world the shortage of investment capital and experienced architects and engineers yields inadequate housing, transportation and utilities infrastructure. None of these systems were planned nor built to minimize greenhouse gas emissions or other adverse environmental impacts. The unrestrained growth of cities—expected to continue unabated throughout the 21st century with the explosion of the global middle class – will continue to cause critical problems for the environment and its inhabitants. City planners lack consistent monitoring and reporting of city-scale climate change data that would benchmark the sustainable performance of cities today and begin the process of responsible, urban-scale design and construction.
Society has a responsibility to invest in urban infrastructure and architecture that mitigates the physical and financial risks of global climate change. At Autodesk, our vision is to help people to imagine, design, and create a better world, and no effort is more important in this regard that the challenge of climate change. We realize that our customers require information and insight to make the vision of responsible environmental design possible. Using better tools that yield that insight into the impact of existing architecture and infrastructure on the environment, cities can make better informed decisions, prioritize improvements and be transparent and accountable to their citizens about their plans. Having a global status report on greenhouse gas emissions, such as the CDP Cities Project documented here, is a critical step that will help us shape our technology and culture for a more sustainable world tomorrow.
-- Phillip G. Bernstein, Architect, Autodesk AEC Solutions
CDP’s engagement, through emissions reporting has played a significant role in driving climate change awareness and action in the corporate sector over recent years. With both emissions and population densities centered in urban areas, expanding their programme to include cities is the natural next step.
Swiss Re has supported CDP since its first request for climate change information disclosure in 2003. With their new Cities initiative, we consider it particularly important that the scope of the information request being sent includes questions on physical adaptation measures. These measures are necessary to protect residents, their property and the infrastructure which allows a city to function. The arguments in favor of implementing a climate adaptation strategy are compelling. Even in today’s climate, there is a huge exposure to climate risk. The recent study “Shaping Climate-Resilient Development, a framework for decision-making” illustrated how locations could already expect to suffer financial impacts of severe weather equivalent to between 1-12% of their local GDP, annually. This situation will likely become exasperated in a more severe climate unless measures are taken to keep risks manageable. Beyond providing a methodology to design a locally appropriate climate adaptation strategy, it also identified, assessed and provided a cost benefit analysis of potential adaptation measures. It revealed that in all cases effective adaptation was not only possible, but largely cost effective.
Both the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions and taking adaptation measures to keep climate risk manageable are essential for our future. Climate change mitigation and adaptation are simply two sides of the same coin. The CDP Cities initiative will promote better risk transparency, increase our understanding of climate impacts in urban areas and support a best practice approach for tackling them.
-- Mark Way, SVP, Swiss Re