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Cities Are World’s Biggest Source of Carbon Emissions

“Cities must unlock the full potential of low carbon technologies,” Tsang said at the opening of a two-day climate-change forum. Photographer: Nelson Ching/Bloomberg
“Cities must unlock the full potential of low carbon technologies,” Tsang said at the opening of a two-day climate-change forum. Photographer: Nelson Ching/Bloomberg

Nov. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Cities are the world’s biggest source of carbon emissions and must embrace technology to clean the air and counter global warming, Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang said.

“Cities must unlock the full potential of low carbon technologies,” Tsang said at the opening of a two-day climate-change forum that includes the mayors of Toronto, New York City and Johannesburg. A woman unfurled a Greenpeace banner with an anti-nuclear slogan during Tsang’s speech and was led away without struggle by security.

Hong Kong wants to cut emissions by as much as 33 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels and may tap solar, wind and nuclear energy to slash output. The city’s government is consulting the public on a strategy to reduce greenhouse-gas production, including proposals to increase use of atomic power, Secretary of the Environment Edward Yau said at a media briefing today.

Delegates from more than 30 cities will discuss ways of developing electric-powered forms of transport and greater energy efficiency in buildings to help tackle climate change. The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group forum comes ahead of United Nations-organized talks in Cancun, Mexico, later this month to help try to reach an international agreement on curbing greenhouse gases.

“It’s absolutely clear to me that cities are leading the way in the fight against climate change,” Toronto Mayor David Miller said today. “We have removed millions of tons of carbon among C40 cities.”

Buildings represent an average of 60 percent of total global emissions, while there are more than 20 million vehicles in 19 cities in the C40, the group said in a statement today.

Global Treaty

The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group was set up in 2005 to share ideas and experiences on tackling climate change among cities around the world. Members include London, Beijing, Hong Kong and Houston. The next meeting at Basel in Switzerland in January will focus on funding environmentally sustainable infrastructure projects.

Talks in China aimed at reaching an international accord to mitigate climate change ended last month with little sign the world’s biggest polluters are resolving their differences.

The U.S. wants China and some larger developing countries to accept international scrutiny of their measures to reduce emissions. China said at the Tianjin meeting that richer nations should pledge deeper emissions cuts before developing nations are asked to do more.

Negotiators failed to reach a binding deal on greenhouse gas emission cuts at a U.N. summit in Copenhagen last year. The U.N. Framework Convention estimates that current emissions reduction commitments amount to a cut of between 12 percent and 19 percent from 1990 levels, short of the range of 25 percent to 40 percent it says is needed.

Chinese Polluters

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he’s impressed that Chinese mayors are participating in the Hong Kong forum.

“Job creation and economic development have always been modern-day China’s No. 1 priority, but for the first time there is an understanding in China that the environment is something that you cannot walk away from,” Bloomberg said at the briefing. “You have to do something, and they are doing something.”

China, which burns coal at 80 percent of its power plants as fuel, has been shutting mines and factories to help meet its goal of cutting energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product by 20 percent in the five years ending 2010. The economy grew 9.6 percent in the third quarter, the smallest increase in a year.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg formally takes over as chairman of the C40 Cities group from Toronto’s Miller tomorrow. Bloomberg is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

To contact the reporter on this story: John Duce in Hong Kong at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Amit Prakash at

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