The argument that embracing a low-carbon future is a road map to economic ruin is bunk, say a band of economists who argue that investing in more efficient transportation, buildings, and waste management could save cities worldwide at least $17 trillion. One way to unlock that savings is to promote bikes and buses. The savings come from stimulating economic activity, decreasing health care costs, reducing poverty, and cutting the costs associated with urban sprawl, like time and productivity lost to traffic congestion. That’s according to a report, Accelerating Low‐Carbon Development in the World’s Cities, released today by New Climate Economy, a group of economists formed to examine the costs and benefits of addressing climate change.
“For too long, there’s been the same old argument used to prevent bold action on climate change, which is there’s some sort of tradeoff between economic prosperity and climate action,” says Nick Godfrey, an author of the report and the organization’s head of policy and urban development. “In cities, that is a false choice. Actually, there is a significant confluence between promoting economic growth and prosperity and climate action.”
Transportation comprises as much as one-third of the emission reductions the report says cities can “unlock.” That’s good for 3.7 gigatons of carbon reductions, which is up to 20 percent of the CO2 emissions needed to keep the global mean temperature from increasing by more 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. In other words, changing how we get around could save money, and maybe the environment.