In this article, Naini Jayaseelan, former Secretary, Environment, Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi, contends that mega cities in South and South-East Asia offer huge opportunities for climate change mitigation via improvements in efficiency in power, transport, and water and sanitation infrastructure.
The entire focus of the world’s response to climate change has so far been on nation States. Until the Paris Accord and the recently concluded Kigali Agreement, the inability of nation States in brokering
Cities and climate change
Cities cover less than 2% of the earth’s surface, but they consume 78% of the world’s energy. The International Energy Agency (IEA, 2008) estimates urban areas currently account for over 71% of energy-related Global Greenhouse Gases (GHGs), particularly Carbon Dioxide (CO₂) and other non-CO₂ GHG emissions, mainly through concentrated and increased resource consumption of energy by transport, industry, and biomass use. This percentage is expected to rise to 76% by 2030. Thus, there is
In addition, rising sea levels and extreme climate events as a consequence of global warming will also impact agriculture, water resources, and fisheries, which in turn will impact cities. Cities will have to bear the brunt of not only physical catastrophes in the form of stressed water resources and sewage systems but also
Asia’s mega cities
Of the world’s 31 mega cities as many as 18 are in Asia; China alone is home to six
Moreover, among the fastest growing cities, as many as 40 are located in Asia (20 in China alone) having an average rate of growth as high as 6%. During the next decade, several of the biggest cities in South Asia including Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai in India; Dhaka in Bangladesh; and Karachi in Pakistan will rank amongst the largest in the world. Asian
Both climate change and urbanisation, the two most important phenomena of the 21st century are inextricably linked, but even now issues of climate change and urbanisation have rarely been linked to issues of public health.
Power, transport, water and sanitation
In cities, the power and transport sectors are the major generators of GHG emissions, particularly CO₂. In many South Asian cities, dependence on thermal power plants using coal with a high ash and sulphur content has made them the largest emitters of CO₂. Public transport is inadequate and has virtually no first- and last-mile connectivity. Hence, the dependence on private vehicles has been rising, making the transport sector a major CO₂ emitter in
Water and sanitation sectors also generate a large amount of non-CO₂ GHGs emissions like methane which is classified as Short-lived climate pollutant (SLCP). Enough empirical evidence also exists to prove that methane is 25 times more potent than CO₂ as a GHG. Methane from sewage treatment plants (STPs) and landfills is usually flared but has rarely been considered as an energy resource.
Cities in South and South-East Asia, which are emerging as
It is absolutely clear that unless and until each city begins to worry obsessively about climate change and improves efficiency in the power, transport and water and sanitation sectors, it may not be able to save the very resources of its sustenance, that is, its own rivers, water supply, quality of air, and green cover. Arguably, the biggest challenge in cities is also the biggest opportunity in forging links with global climate change. The immense opportunities for stabilisation of GHG emissions can have an immediate impact on mitigating climate change. Climate change is hence, a reason to promote a sustainable urbanisation pattern and transform the transport, power, and water and sanitation sectors.
However, the entire focus on nation States and not
- There is a peculiar phenomenon of Asian
mega citiesexpanding in a metropolitan region forming huge mega urbanregions. A case in point is the National Capital Region, which includes Delhi and 18 districts of three adjoining states, namely, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Rajasthan. Similarly, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region is far greater than the area controlled by the Mumbai Municipal Corporation. If populations of these mega urbanregions are taken into account, then they would probably be beating even the Tokyo Metropolitan Region which is the largest urban agglomeration in the world.
- International Energy Agency (2008), ‘World Energy Outlook 2008’.
- Javeed, Shayan and Anupam Manuhaar (2013), “Climate change and its impact on
productivityof Indian agriculture”, Journal of Economic & Social Development, Vol. IX, No. 1: 146-151.
- United Nations (2016), ‘The World’s Cities in 2016’, Data Booklet.