Cities around the world are already driving the sustainable transformation - and thereby also creating new business opportunities. This is the positive message from C40 Executive Director, Mark Watts.

We are losing the battle of climate change. After a three-year downward trend, fossil fuel emissions rose an estimated 2% in 2017, and continue to grow. These rising emissions are currently upending the Paris climate targets. Mark Watts, who as C40 Executive Director, leads the most influential group of city mayors driving climate action around the world, is sounding a serious alarm about this looming climate threat.

“There’s so much positivity about the shift to a low carbon world, lots of people think we’re winning – that the emissions are going down. Sadly they’re not!” he says.

Mark Watts believes that cities hold many of the answers to the growing climate threat. One very important part of this is that cities have to leverage the market to reverse this trend. According to the C40 Executive Director, cities have become market makers and create business incentives for a shift to clean solutions.

“Mayors are starting to realise that they’re market makers. They don’t have to wait and follow where the markets go. They can create opportunities for a green shift,” Mark Watts says. 

This is also the reason why C40 city mayors are currently writing new rules to create new clean business opportunities in the city network, which consists of over 90 cities representing 650 million people and a quarter of the global economy.

The new market: Electric buses and green buildings

At a global level, there are numerous examples of city administrations writing new laws to stimulate action against the main drivers of urban emissions – inefficient heating and cooling systems, traffic congestion and energy waste.

Watts sees big market opportunities in addressing two extreme needs – lack of affordable housing in the developed world, and quality homes for growing urban populations in developing countries.

“Places like London, which are highly desirable to live but professionals can no longer afford to buy… At the other end of the scale, Nairobi, in one of the big slums – the Makuru slum – 400,000 people are living in tin shacks, with no toilets and sanitation,” the C40 Executive Director points out.

Mark Watts is calling on businesses to invest in low-carbon solutions ahead of future government mandates.

“Legislators are just ready to start requiring that, and you are going to lose market share if you are not able to go with that trend,” he warns.

That trend is also driven by the C40 network’s long term vision for cities, where most trips will be by foot, bike or shared transportation by 2030. C40 targets include 100% electric buses, 95% ultra high efficiency buildings and 90% renewable energy power by 2030.

The 2020 deadline

Right now, Mark Watts is very focused on 2020 – the year when carbon emissions have to start a steep decline for the world to stay within a safe level. The renewed upward trend of global greenhouse gas is adding urgency to his network’s Deadline 2020 plan of action. The current C40 estimates predict a 35% rise in emissions by 2020, instead of remaining within the 5% limit needed to avoid dangerous climate change.

“I think 2020 is important because we want to get a sense of urgency, which there needs to be around the climate challenge – 2020 is the date by which global emissions have to peak and then come down very steeply if we have a real chance of staying within a safe carbon budget,” Mark Watts says.

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