The British Academy marks COP26 Cities Day with three briefings on the role cities have to play in the fight against climate change

11 Nov 2021

Marking COP26 Cities Day, the British Academy has published three briefings examining how cities and urban communities can respond effectively to the climate crisis.

The briefings highlight the significant contributions that cities have made to man-made global warming and the role they have to play in transformative action on climate change. Estimates suggest that cities now account for 78% of world energy consumption and more than 60% of carbon emissions, while 70% of the world’s cities are already experiencing climate change impacts.

The three briefings are:

  • "Cities & Energy Transitions" – by Dr Minna Sunikka-Blank – examines the politics of transitioning to more sustainable policies, with reference to thermal retrofit policies in Germany and the UK. The paper also considers who is included and excluded in decision-making in cities, focusing on global and Southern perspectives.
  • "Just Climate Adaptation in Cities: Reflections for an Interdisciplinary Research Agenda" – by Professor Vanesa Castán Broto – explores what "just adaptation" means for cities, examining the need to reconfigure the physical environment in urban areas; the demands for inclusive adaptation that also addresses the causes of inequality and discrimination; and the dynamics of power and action in contemporary cities.
  • "Climate Finance for Cities and Urban Governments" – by Dr Sarah Knuth and Anantha Krishnan – looks at the challenge of urban climate investment, surveys financial pathways for making new policies possible, and considers future directions for responding to the climate crisis.

The British Academy's COP26 Briefings Series aims to raise awareness of the importance of the SHAPE disciplines (the Social Sciences, Humanities and the Arts for People and the Economy) in understanding the complex human and social dimensions to environmental challenges and their solutions. The Academy is convening its community, bridging sectors and disciplines, integrating insights to help inform policy, and encouraging interdisciplinary learning.

Professor Simon Goldhill FBA, Foreign Secretary of the British Academy, said:

“In our increasingly urbanised world, cities are responsible for 60% of carbon emissions and account for the bulk of world energy consumption. The UK government has targeted a 78% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2035 but this goal will be impossible to reach without transformative action in cities. These briefings show that by transitioning to new energy sources, prioritising climate investment and including previously underrepresented groups – such as informal settlement dwellers – in decision-making, governments can begin to transform cities’ role in, and response to, the climate crisis and associated challenges.”

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