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Despite efforts and measures taken, pollution remains very important in large cities. In addition to the pollution generated by our means of transport and our industry, our daily consumption is an important part of the cities’ carbon dioxide production. This was revealed in a report made by the C40 Cities, which is a network of worldwide megacities fighting against climate change.

C40 Cities report points out “urban pollution” or “consumption pollution”. Unknown phenomenon in which we evolve day after day, this pollution is also responsible for greenhouse gas emissions.

A non-considered pollution

Nowadays, many cities rely mainly on direct combustion’s emissions, like electricity consumption or waste treatment, which is easy to quantify for assessing their pollution. But what about our daily consumption pollution?

A new study made by C40 Cities examines the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the goods and services consumed by urban dwellers such as food, clothing, electronics, air travel, truck deliveries and constructions. In 20 years (or since the signing of the international Kyoto agreement to reduce global pollution), carbon emissions have increased by 60%.

This report, entitled “GHG emissions related to the consumption of C40 cities”, reveals that 70% of global carbon dioxide is emitted by cities, without taking into account one important detail: consumption’s emissions. A detail that could change it all, as it raises the rate of greenhouse gas emissions in big cities.

Today, 80 % of cities (63 out of 79 in C40) have higher GHG emissions because of dwellers’ consumption rather than industrial activity. The report also shows a significant variation in individual consumption from one city to another.

For example, cities in Europe, North America and Oceania generate between 10 and 25 tonnes of carbon dioxide per capita, versus 5 tonnes for people from cities in Asia and Africa.

According to C40 Cities general manager Mark Watt, “we continue to go in the wrong direction concerning climate change. It will not be enough to use more renewable energy nor public transport to reverse the trend. We must reduce our consumption.”

What action can we take?

To reduce our daily environmental impact, several approaches are easy to implement and adopt. Emphasize local purchases, prefer public transport, reduce our consumption of single-use plastics and overall reduce our waste, etc. These actions are more and more put forward and could contribute, if the big cities help promote them, to reduce their daily environmental impact.

C40 Cities ask to create greenhouse gas emissions inventories based on consumption in parallel with those already existing (electricity consumption, waste treatment …) in order to obtain a global vision of pollution and consider more suitable solutions.

The city of Paris, for example, through its Climate Plan, wants to lead Parisians towards a low carbon diet that would respect better the environment, particularly by reducing the consumption of meat, which is an industry that emits too much GHG emissions. In addition, tourist promotions highlight countries you get to by train instead of plane, because it is a major source of CO2 emissions.

Another European capital, Stockholm, asks its promoters to indicate on their construction sites the emissions related to each building materials and by doing so, promote the “greenest”.

While cities cannot act directly on the amount of energy used in the manufacturing process of an imported product, they can act as consumers and centers of innovation and change. People have the opportunity to transform their urban lifestyles in more sustainable behavior.