On SAGE Insight: Can low-carbon urban development be pro-poor?

Article title: Can low-carbon urban development be pro-poor? The case of Kolkata, India
From Environment and Urbanization

Economic growth and the accompanying urbanization are linked to rising energy consumption and production of greenhouse gas emissions. There is growing recognition of the importance of cities as climate actors: notably, the Paris Agreement explicitly welcomes the efforts of cities to address and respond to climate change. This paper considers the economic case for low-carbon urban development, and assess whether this pathway could support wider social goals. Authors identify a bundle of mitigation measures that could help to shift cities onto a less emission-intensive development path.

Using Kolkata, India as an example, it is suggested by investing in economically attractive measures within the city, it could reduce its energy expenditure by 8.5 per cent and its greenhouse gas emissions by 20.7 per cent relative to business-as-usual trends. Re-investing the profits from these measures in additional low-emission measures would allow the city to maintain its greenhouse gas emissions roughly at 2014 levels. Critically, many of these measures also offer substantial co-benefits that could contribute to poverty reduction and improved climate resilience. It is therefore essential that decision-makers place issues of equity and inclusivity at the centre of urban policymaking and planning to ensure that the pursuit of economic growth and low-emission development does not exacerbate urban poverty and vulnerability.

Abstract

Fast-growing cities in the global South have an important role to play in climate change mitigation. However, city governments typically focus on more pressing socioeconomic needs, such as reducing urban poverty. To what extent can social, economic and climate objectives be aligned? Focusing on Kolkata in India, we consider the economic case for low-carbon urban development, and assess whether this pathway could support wider social goals. We find that Kolkata could reduce its energy bill by 8.5 per cent and greenhouse gas emissions by 20.7 per cent in 2025, relative to business-as-usual trends, by exploiting readily available, economically attractive mitigation options. Some of these measures offer significant social benefits, particularly in terms of public health; others jeopardize low-income urban residents’ livelihoods, housing and access to affordable services. Our findings demonstrate that municipal mitigation strategies need to be designed and delivered in collaboration with affected communities in order to minimize social costs and – possibly – achieve transformative change.

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Article details
Can low-carbon urban development be pro-poor? The case of Kolkata, India
Sarah Colenbrander, Andy Gouldson, Joyashree Roy, Niall Kerr, Sayantan Sarkar, Stephen Hall, Andrew Sudmant, Amrita Ghatak, Debalina Chakravarty, Diya Ganguly, Faye Mcanulla
Environment & Urbanization
DOI: 10.1177/0956247816677775

 

 

 

 

     
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