We have to look beyond electric cars if we want sustainable cities fit for the future

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07 August, 2017


WBCSD insights



Peter White

The WBCSD’s Peter White argues that cities need to be strategic and take a holistic public-private approach to tackling air pollution and rising greenhouse gas emissions

Governments across the world are struggling to address rising pollution, improve air quality, and create a more sustainable future for growing numbers of city-dwellers. In Europe London and Paris have recently announced car bans, seeking to eliminate diesel and the most polluting models, and car-makers are ramping up production of electric vehicles.

A growing sense of awareness and urgency of the challenges, as well as the opportunities facing cities is welcome. With 5 billion people, or 60% of the world’s population, expected to be living in cities by 2030, the opportunities for growth and well-being are immense – but so are the challenges, notably around resources. As city life is estimated to drive 80% of total energy demand and 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions, action is urgently needed.

Policymakers have perhaps fastened on electric vehicles as a tangible sign of changes to come. As an example, a recent publication by the UK government concluded cars are the centre of improving air quality. Such measures are taken in isolation, and while most welcomed, they are simply not enough, and will come into action too late, if we want to abide by the Paris Agreement, keeping temperatures below the 2C threshold. Rather, cities need a holistic, integrated and multi-modal and multi-stakeholder approach to mobility, backed up by strong engagement of their citizens.