Cities Can Save $17 Trillion by Preventing Urban Sprawl

by Catlyne Haddaoui – November 15, 2018


The world is vastly underestimating the benefits of acting on climate change. Recent research from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate finds that bold climate action could deliver at least $26 trillion in economic benefits through 2030. This ground-breaking research, produced by the Global Commission and more than 200 experts, highlights proof points of the global shift to a low-carbon economy, and identifies ways to accelerate action in five sectors: energy, cities, food and land use, water and industry. Our blog series, The $26 Trillion Opportunity, explores these economic opportunities in greater detail.

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New York City
New York City. Photo by Phil Dolby/Flickr

Cities are experiencing explosive growth. More than half the world’s population currently lives in urban areas, and nearly 70 percent of us will call cities home by 2050. To ensure that cities reap the economic benefits of this population boom, though, research shows they need to grow up, not out.

The New Climate Economy finds that compact growth, as opposed to urban sprawl, can generate $17 trillion in economic savings between now and 2050. In fact, bold climate action overall—including low-carbon growth in cities—can yield at least $26 trillion in economic benefits between now and 2030.

Why Compact Growth?

Higher compactness correlates with lower carbon emissions. The New Climate Economy’s report, Unlocking the Inclusive Growth Strategy of the 21st Century, shows a negative relationship between number of people per square kilometer and CO2 emissions per capita.

Compact cities produce fewer emissions because they tend to offer better access to public transit and cycling and walking paths, have greater energy efficiency, have lower environmental costs for infrastructure, and allow for more green spaces.

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