Local government action on climate change mitigation
Local government action on climate change mitigation is a key mechanism for delivery of national and international targets for greenhouse gas emissions reductions, and an important complement to the work of community-led initiatives. Several key translocal networks connect and support the work of local government actors taking action on climate change. Recent research has identified several key areas in which local governments can take effective action. Many of these connect climate change mitigation with other forms of action on sustainbility, including several of the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Role of Municipalities in Local Action for Climate Change Mitigation
A municipality is defined as a legally determined region with a local government administration . Although the definition may differ from country to country, all municipalities have the same purpose: local governance . Competences also differ from country to country depending on their legislation. In the context of Portuguese law, for example, municipalities are tasked with safeguarding and promoting their populations’ interests in the following sectors: rural and urban equipment, energy, transport and communications, education, heritage, culture and science, sports and leisure, health, social action, housing, civil protection, environment and basic sanitation, consumer defense, development promotion, land use and urban planning, municipal police, and external cooperation . Despite differences, EU municipalities have the same goal of reducing their GHG emissions by 40% by 2030 [52, p. 25]. In order to reduce or increase the efficiency of municipal energy fluxes, global Euro-pean organizations for municipal CCM, such as the Covenant of Mayors, have highlighted local CCM efforts in the energy sector, and now considering also crucial domains such as land-use planning, mobility and transportation, and consumption patterns [52, pp. 13–14] The Covenant of Mayors expects local authorities to play an exemplary role by taking outstanding measures related to their own context . Thus, the Covenant is also enhancing the importance of stakeholder engagement, where communication is fundamental [52, p. 44]. In analyzing specific European projects fostering municipal CCM, the BEACON project has suggested the following categories of focus for participant municipalities: governance, power and heating and cooling, transport, urban planning, communication and sensibilization, natural resources, consumption patterns, and waste management .
The local perspective and contextualization of CCM and SD actions could be crucial for ensuring appropriate measures are taken in each context, where potential co-benefits are enabled and possible trade-offs are reduced. Despite the importance of general, top-down guidelines, different authors and organizations have defended the importance of bottom-up approaches in ensuring the effectiveness of actions taken for local communities. Castán Broto (2017) claims that “cities are so different, so contingent, that it does not make sense to build cities on a common global objective or shared recipes for best practice.” In terms of the governance perspective, Broto (2017) suggests “invest[ing] in recognizing the local history, the way social and material relations have been produced, and the trajectories that shape people’s lives as essential components of any process of urban governance, including climate change mitigation.” Governance is not the only important dimension that requires contextualization regarding effective CCM measures. Spatial planning processes, energy production, transportation and mobility, and land use are examples of relevant dimensions where contextualization is needed to ensure the effectiveness of CCM , .
Key Networks for Municipal Action on Climate Change Mitigation
The UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainability includes Climate Change as SDG 13 among its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Learning from past experiences, UN-Habitat has cited local action as a key for achieving the 2030 Agenda, including CCM [40, p. 7]. The UN has noticed that progress was more robust when governments addressed the processes inclusively, translating and adapting the global sustainability agenda into concrete and relevant initiatives at the local level [36, Ch. 3.1]. The UN affirms that localising allows this agenda to be better adapted to local circumstances and helps reduce the inequality seen in implementing the SDGs [36, p. 53]. The UN concluded that subnational governments bridge the gap between central government and communities and that they should play a strong role in fostering the involvement of civil society organizations, the private sector (micro, small, and medium enterprises), academia and community-led initiatives in SD actions [40, p. 7]. With the aim of amplifying the voices of local and regional actors and increasing joint-advocacy work relating to SDG implementation, climate change, and the urban agenda, UN-Habitat created the global task force of local and regional governments in 2013 .
Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) is another example of a global network that creates connections among local, regional, national, and global governments to incorporate sustainability into day-to-day operations . They influence sustainability policy and drive local action toward low-emission, nature-based, equitable, resilient, and circular development .
In the European context, the Covenant of Mayors is a key network for enhancing local climate change action. This covenant has brought together thousands of local governments voluntarily committed to implementing EU climate and energy objectives since 2008 . Its aim is to introduce a bottom-up approach for multi-level cooperation and to create a context framework for action . As the EU dictates, within the EU countries, municipalities need to reduce their emissions by 40% by 2030 . Country policies started to be developed. For instance, Portugal has integrated the EU Climate and Energy framework into their Energy and Climate Energy National Plan (PNEC) . Despite the implemented emission-reduction measures at the national level, few are adapted to local contexts. The PNEC enhances the important role of municipalities with respect to climate action, enhancing their contribution in terms of awareness-raising campaigns . However, they do not describe concrete measures to be adopted by the municipalities other than the obligation to elaborate local energy and/or mobility plans .
With the aim of supporting local climate action, the Bridging European and Local Climate Action (BEACON) Project, tries to fulfil the gap between the different levels of governance, supporting municipal actors, policy makers, and educators in developing, refining, and implementing measures for reducing GHG through joint learning, networking, and developing tailored advisory services . Working with participants from Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Romania, Greece, Poland, Portugal, and Germany, this project also aims to connect the different local actors participating and to disseminate good local-level practices for CCM .
Domains for Potential Action on Climate Change by European Municipalities
Globally, the largest increases in direct anthropogenic GHG emissions between 2000 and 2010 originated the following sectors:
- Energy (47%)
- Industry (30%)
- Transport (11%)
- Construction (3%)
The agricultural, forest, and other land use sector (AFOLU) did not increase its impact during this period, but it is an important contributor to GHG emissions: in 2010, it was responsible for 24% of net emissions.
The IPCC has also noted the following key priority areas for action on CCM:
- Changes in behaviour and consumption patterns
- Production and trade patterns
- Infrastructural choices and associated lock-ins.
While every municipality has its own unique set of circumstances and challenges, these local contexts both contribute to and reflect the global drivers of greenhouse gas. For example, the sustainable energy action plan of the municipality of Setúbal in Portugal identified their three most problematic GHG emission sectors, in order, as production and transportation of energy, industry, and transportation. These sectors are also among the most problematic at the global level, as noted by the IPCC.
An extensive literature review on the potential climate change mitigation at the local level identified a set of actions that European municipalities could take on climate change mitigiation, compiled into several key domains: governance, communication and education, land use, consumption patterns, waste management, energy, transportation and mobility, and spatial planning .
Recommendations for action by domain
Governance refers to a process of setting, applying, and enforcing rules by both governmental and non-governmental actors in a network setting . Within the context of climate action at the local level, the capacity for governance is highly related to the effectiveness of climate policy [16, p. 41]. As the IPCC has remarked, CCM is a technically feasible exercise, but institutional arrangements, governance mechanisms, and financial resources must be aligned with the goal of reducing GHG emissions [16, p. 92].
Each locality has its own characteristics (different size, national legislation, and international networks) . Thus, each of them has their own way of proceeding with climate action. Nevertheless, their approach to governing and their internal aspects as they relate to achieving mitigation goals.
The following table suggests recommendations for municipalities concering climate change mitigation in the domain of governance.
|Governance-related Recommendations||SDG Targets|
|A - Provisioning Sustainable Services/Green Public Procurement||13.2 & 17.14|
|B - Promote Information Policies||13.2 & 17.14|
|C - Undertake Voluntary Actions||13.2 & 17.14|
|D - (Re)municipalize Local Services to Foster Institutional Capacity for Climate Change Mitigation||13.2 & 17.14|
|E - Establish Stakeholder Partnerships||17.16 & 17.17|
|F - Rearrange the Internal Structure of the Local Administration||17.16 & 17.17|
|G - Capacity Building for Local Administration Climate Action||13.3|
When connecting the proposed recommendations to the SDG targets resulted the Goal 13 (Climate action) and Goal 17 (Partnerships for the goals). The same authors acknowledge that the targets proposed in Goal 13 could be modified from a national context to a municipal context and, regarding the Goal 17, that CCM is a medium for pursuing SD, thus, acknowledging partnerships for the goals, partnerships for CCM.
Education and communication
Human values and behavior may result from multiple factors such as, for example, cultural, religious, and other beliefs systems [16, p. 299]. Despite their complexity, substantial changes in human values in the long term and inducing behavioral changes in the short term could be important for CCM [16, p. 300]. However, the link between values and ecologically conscious behavior is often vague because of the wide range of factors involved [16, p. 300]. Nonetheless, these values and behavioral changes could be induced through learning and socialization [16, p. 299]. Thus, education and communication could be crucial in fostering CCM at the local level, and local administrations could take the lead on the matters.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization defines education for sustainable development (ESD) as the education that empowers learners to make informed, responsible decisions for environmental integrity, economic viability, and a just society for present and future generations, while also respecting cultural diversity. Education for sustainable development is about lifelong learning and is an integral part of quality education. It is also holistic and transformational education that ad-dresses learning content and outcomes, pedagogy, and the learning environment. It achieves its purpose by transforming society . Education for climate action could empower learners to make informed decisions about CCM and thereby transforming society.
The IPCC states that the aim of an educational program in CCM and climate change adaptation is to represent a collective global problem as individual and collective knowledge and experiences [16, p. 256]. Such an education program would require strategies for disseminating scientific information and would have to advertise practical implications in ways that are understandable to diverse populations [16, p. 256]. For example, institutions could promote strategies for education or communication to different target groups (scholars and non-scholars).
Some European municipalities have noticed the importance of schools in promoting personal values and inducing behavioral changes aligned with climate goals and actions. Supported by different projects, such as BEACON  or Three for Climate , municipalities from Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Portugal, Slovenia, Romania, and Bulgaria are closely collaborating with some of their local schools to raise awareness about the climate change challenge.
As a complement to education, communication can also induce behavioral changes. Municipalities may have an important role in communicating local information related to climate action (information policies) and also through non-commercial advertising campaigns. Advertising is used to shape consumer purchasing behavior . Local authorities may use a similar strategy to induce behavioral changes in support of climate action. However, it is difficult to determine the effectiveness of advertising campaigns , . Nonetheless, some progress has been made in the field of neuroscience. Harris et al. (2019) showed that action- and emotion-based marketing communications that ask individuals to “act,” “share,” “pledge,” or “challenge” are more effective than predominantly rational-based appeals for inducing changes in decision making . 29
Following from the above, the author suggests recommendations for municipalities to pursue CCM and links them to appropriate SDG targets (see Table 3).
Table 3 – Recommendations for local climate change mitigation (CCM) related to the education and communication domain.
|Education- and Communication-Related Recommendations||SDG Targets|
|Education||A.1 - Promote climate change education in schools and other educational institutions||4.7 & 13.3|
|A.2 - Promote climate change education for citizens not currently enrolled in an education|
|Communication||B.1 - Dissemination of general information on climate change and local environmental conditions|
|B.2 - Dissemination of information on actions taken by the municipality to mitigate climate change|
|B.3 - Invest in non-commercial advertising campaigns to increase citizen awareness about the climate change crisis and regenerative responses|
The education and communication dimension transverses every other domain, where specific communication strategies are crucial for achieving the proposed measures. For instance, communications campaigns intending to induce a reduction in consumerist behavior is related to the consumption patterns dimension; specific training such as eco-driving courses is related to the transportation and mobility dimension.
When connecting the proposed recommendations to the current SDG targets resulted the Goal 13 (Climate action) and Goal 4 (Quality education), acknowledging in that case, ESD as education for CCM.
Land is the main resource of ecosystem services, and its use directly affects human economies and quality of life [16, p. 818]. Land not only provides food and fodder to feed the earth’s population; it also modulates the climate via regulation services that depend on how it is used [16, p. 818]. Changes in land conditions affect the global and regional climate, reduce or accentuate warming, and affect the intensity, frequency, and duration of extreme weather events [39, p. 11].
Data available from 1961 onwards show that global population growth and changes in per capita consumption have caused unprecedented rates of land and fresh-water use, leading to human-induced degradation of about a quarter of the earth’s ice-free land area [39, p. 2]. Thus, for climate change, land use is highly relevant, and certain types of land use can increase GHG sinks (e.g., afforestation, management for soil carbon sequestration, etc.). Conversely, certain land uses increase GHG emissions (e.g., deforestation, rice cultivation, etc.) [16, Ch. 11].
An estimated 23% of total anthropogenic GHG emissions (2007–2016) derive from AFOLU, including 13% of carbon dioxide (CO2), 44% of methane (CH4), and 82% of nitrous oxide (N2O) [39, p. 7]. The IPCC reports further analyzes two AFOLU categories, “agriculture and forestry” and “other land use,” to understand their contribution to GHG emissions and possibilities for mitigating them.
In terms of agriculture, emissions are mainly non-CO2 emissions (CH4 and N2O) produced mainly by animals’ enteric fermentation (23%–40% of total agricultural emissions), manure management (about 15%), use of synthetic fertilizers (12%), rice cultivation (9%–11%), and biomass burning (6%–12%) [16, p. 823], . All of them are projected to increase [39, p. 11].
Emissions fluxes related to FOLU are mainly CO2 emissions due to losses in carbon forest stocks via permanent forest loss or temporary forest loss where forest regrowth does not balance deforestation [16, p. 826]. As a specific example, 15% of the tropical rain forest net emissions are due to non-balanced removals [16, p. 826].
Moreover, other issues such as land degradation and desertification could accelerate GHG emissions, as growing vegetation in degraded areas will become difficult. Driven by unsustainable land management [39, p. 17], land degradation processes are also exacerbated by climate change through increases in rainfall intensity, flooding, drought frequency and severity, heat stress, dry spells, wind, rising sea levels and wave action [39, p. 6]. Thus, fighting land degradation is necessary to effectively address CCM in the land-use sector [39, Ch. C, D].
Food security is another issue linked directly to land degradation and climate change that is adversely affected by warming, changes in precipitation patterns, and more frequent extreme events [39, p. 7]. Beyond affecting food systems, climate change also creates additional stresses on land by exacerbating existing risks to livelihoods, biodiversity, human and ecosystem health, and infrastructure [39, p. 15].
Due to its enormous influence on different matters, land use’s effect on climate change should be addressed through actions related to land degradation, desertification, food security, ecosystem conservation, and SD approaches, and these actions should be done together to take advantage of their complementary nature . As the IPCC claims, techniques that have co-benefits in terms of climate action, land degradation and desertification are site and region specific . It is therefore important to localize and involve local administrations in these actions. Municipalities are key actors in promoting and initiating appropriate land-use strategies that address CCM. Namely, they have key roles in engaging local stakeholders and contextualizing appropriate measures for the local territory.
Sustainable land management is presented as one of the main ways to mitigate climate change in the land-use sector  that also attends to other major issues to look for potential co-benefits. The UN defines sustainable land management as “the use of land resources, including soils, water, animals, and plants, for the production of goods to meet changing human needs, ensuring the long-term productive potential of these resources and the maintenance of their environmental functions” . Processes that degrade land or cause permanent deforestation are opposed to this notion. Thus, it is important to not only consider sustainable land management but also to act in already degraded areas through restoration (e.g., forest restoration and soil restoration) aligned with biodiversity conservation goals and targets .
Forest management is relevant for CCM [16, Ch. 11]. In order to have a common framework regarding forest management, the definition of forest must be clarified. The author adopted the definition from the IUCN natural forest concept, and it is as follows: “areas where many of the principal characteristics and key elements of native ecosystems such as complexity, structure, and diversity are present, as defined by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) , approved national and regional standards of forest management” . The author prioritizes IUCN’s definition rather than the FAO’s or IPCC’s definitions because the IUCN does not consider monoculture plantations as forests . The energy inputs needed to sustain a monoculture often lead to land degradation [77, p. 140].
The IPCC remarks with high confidence that changes in forest cover from, for example, afforestation, reforestation, and deforestation, directly affect regional surface temperature through exchanges of water and energy [39, p. 12]. Thus, improvements in the forestry dimension could lead to potential co-benefits not only with respect to CCM and climate-change adaptation but also in terms of ecosystems and land restoration .
Consequently, municipal forest areas should be increased or recovered and the already existent ones should be protected. Wildfires will increase in occurrence because of global warming [39, p. 16]. Thus, it is important to work toward preventing these fires, which increase carbon emissions and destroy existing carbon sinks . Beyond preventing wildfires, the IPCC highlights other strategies for reducing deforestation like sustainable forest management (for the forestry industry) and preventing forest areas from being changed into croplands . The author proposes extrapolate the forests’ associated recommendations to other related ecosystems that also act as carbon sinks within the municipal territory.
Agriculture is one of the main drivers of AFOLU emissions [16, Ch. 11] and land degradation . Since the “Green Revolution” started in the 1950s [77, p. 140], a food production model based on homogeneity has been implemented, where genetically uniform crop varieties are grown with high levels of complementary inputs including irrigation, fertilizer, and pesticides. Homogeneity often leads to depleted agroecological resilience and thus natural capital [77, p. 140]. This food production system, often cited as the “conventional” system  uses unsustainable agricultural practices such as the use of herbicides for weed control or not rotating crops [77, Ch. 10], leading to soil erosion . These “conventional” agricultural systems also rely on synthetic fertilizers in place of soil quality management [77, p. 140], which directly increases GHG emissions [16, p. 824]. In terms of how food is produced, the IPCC and FAO note the importance of transitioning towards sustainable food production, as the green revolution model is not only aggravating climate change; it is also unlikely to achieve the zero hunger goal for the most vulnerable people [39, p. 16], [77, p. 141]. Therefore, sustainable food production is useful for CCM and also climate-change adaptation because it combats desertification and land degradation and promotes food security and SD in general [39, p. 19].
This research integrates the vision of the FAO regarding sustainable food production and agriculture: “A world in which food is nutritious and accessible for everyone and natural resources are managed in a way that maintains ecosystem functions to support current, as well as future human needs” [77, p. 143]. This definition considers the natural fluxes that help maintain ecosystem functions, soil organic carbon management, and other practices that the IPCC remarks, including soil erosion control, improved fertilizer management, and improved crop management [39, p. 25].
Different agricultural systems exist that include these guidelines for sustainable food production. These systems include permaculture, which is based on natural design approaches , and agroecology, which encompasses the economic, social, and environmental dimensions [77, p. 143]. Agroecology is defined by the IUCN as a land-use system in which woody perennials are grown for wood production with agricultural crops, with or without animal production . Agroecology is highlighted as an example of mitigation-adaptation synergy in the agriculture and forestry sector [16, p. 847]. The author of this research refers to all sustainable food production systems as organic to simplify sustainable local food production measurement. This consideration follows the EU standards for organic food production .
Moreover, the IPCC recognizes the importance of indigenous and local knowledge in agricultural practices that contribute to overcoming the challenges of climate change, food security, biodiversity conservation, desertification, and land degradation [39, p. 31]. Improving local food production is another way to achieve CCM, and it avoids external dependencies and reduces transportation costs and associated emissions. Local food production could ensure food security. For instance, local food production is a key element in the FAO’s project “Brazil’s Fome Zero” (Zero Hunger) .
Regarding where the food is produced, the global forest atlas from Yale university shows that industrial agriculture (along with subsistence agriculture) is the most significant driver of deforestation in tropical and subtropical countries, accounting for 80% of deforestation from 2000 to 2010 . In following the IPCC guidelines for mitigation, it is important to avoid deforestation in giving space to agricultural fields . Agroforestry may therefore have an important role to play because it avoids land-use competition . Urban food production and peri-urban food production were also identified by the IPCC as methods for avoiding competition between land use for food production and urban expansion [39, p. 18].
Land competition and land conversion are major drivers of carbon-sink losses, especially when forests are replaced by agricultural fields . Urban expansion can also lead to increased land-use competition, for instance, by croplands [39, p. 18]. Inappropriate urban expansion reduces soil permeability, which reduces groundwater infiltration [83, p. 12]. This reduction leads to a reduction in soil carbon sequestration and an intensification of the impacts from extreme rainfall events in cities or downwind urban areas [39, p. 12].
Improved land water harvesting and increased ground water infiltration from, for instance, limiting land impermeable areas, could create potential co-benefits. These co-benefits not only concern reductions in flood risks and the enhanced conservation of fresh groundwater reserves (increase of rainwater interception and infiltration) but also the prevention of further land degradation [16, p. 964], . Reducing impermeable areas for water harvesting is mentioned as beneficial for soil organic carbon sequestration, which increases soil fertility [39, p. 22], . It not only contributes to CCM and climate change adaptation but also to reverse desertification and land degradation [39, p. 20].
Ecosystem/nature-based solutions (E/NBS) are presented as ideal sustainable strategies that benefit different domains simultaneously. They are based on natural processes and cycles that use natural flows of matter and energy, take advantage of local solutions, and follow seasonal and temporal ecosystem changes . They are also relevant in multiple areas, from spatial planning and urbanization  to the agricultural sector . In addition, E/NBS are effective solutions to global issues like climate change in terms of adaptation and mitigation because they interact with natural fluxes, require less maintenance, are cost effective, and are probably more effective over a long time span when properly constructed .
As an example, more urban green spaces and infrastructure based on E/NBS that also integrate biodiversity values (e.g., green roofs, green walls, ground areas for water infiltration, etc.) could help CCM and biodiversity conservation. Moreover, these solutions could also contribute to reducing the climate risk associated with the exacerbated warming produced by conventional urbanization, especially during heat-related events [39, p. 12,18].
Table 4 presents the author’s recommendations related to land use for municipalities’ local CCM activities and links these activities to appropriate SDG targets.
Table 4 – Recommendations for local climate change mitigation (CCM) related to the land-use domain.
|Land-Use-related Recommendations||SDG Targets|
|General||A - Promote Sustainable Land Management||15.1, 15.5 & 15.9|
|Sustainable Food Production||B.1 - Promote organic farming systems||2.4|
|B.2 - Increase urban and peri-urban organic food production|
|B.3 - Promote an improved capacity for local organic food production with special attention to indigenous knowledge/local knowledge|
|Sustainable Forest Management||C.1 - Increase municipal forest areas||15.2 & 15.b|
|C.2 - Reduce forest loss and degradation caused by forestry activity|
|C.3 - Avoid conversion from forest land to other land use, particularly from switching into cropland or monocultures|
|C.4 - Implement operational and effective wildfires management|
|Soil Carbon Sequestration||D - Increase Soil Carbon Sequestration by Increasing Soil Fertility and Groundwater Infiltration||6.6 & 15.3|
|Green Urban Infrastructure||E - Increase Green Urban Spaces and Infrastructure, Paying Special Attention to Local Biodiversity||11.7& 15.9|
The global consumption of goods and services has increased dramatically over the last decades, in both absolute and per-capita terms, and is a key driver of environmental degradation, including global warming [16, p. 288].
At a global level, food is the consumption category with the greatest climate impact, accounting for nearly 20% of GHG emissions, followed by housing, mobility, services, manufactured products, and construction [16, p. 305].
For GHG accounting, the IPCC basically relies on two different approaches in the consumption sector: the territorial-based approach and the consumption-based approach [16, Ch. 4.4]. The territorial-based approach allocates those emissions that are physically produced within the territorial boundaries of a nation (or jurisdiction) . The consumption-based approach assigns emissions through the whole supply chain of goods and services consumed within a nation irrespective of their territorial origin [16, p. 306]. This second approach relies on a product’s carbon footprint. A product’s carbon footprint includes all emissions generated during the lifecycle of a good or service, from production and distribution to end use and disposal or recycling [16, p. 306].
Both approaches present advantages and disadvantages, and they were formulated according to certain conventions and purposes [16, Ch. 4.4.2]. For example, producers want the responsibility of GHG emissions to be assigned to consumers (consumption-based approach), as do nations that are net-exporters of industrial goods [16, p. 307]. Conversely, net-importers might prefer that GHG emissions are the responsibility of producers (territorial-based approach), and expect that they will improve their production chain to reduce GHG emissions.
Regarding the territorial-based approach, the responsibility for the emissions associated with the goods’ production only arises when this territory is framed within a normative or legal framework such as a climate agreement that specifies rights or obligations [16, p. 306]. For this approach to work, it is assumed that nations do not have a fragmentated climate policy [16, p. 306]. In practice, differences in climate legislation differ from country to country, and this could be an incentive for producers to move into countries with soft climate legislation to avoid responsibility for emissions generated. Countries with stringent climate legislation could suffer from their producers' exodus, which would increase their dependency on imported goods and increase the emissions associated to trade. It is important to mention that the territorial-based approach does not account for GHG emissions associated with trade [16, Ch. 4.4.2], which is an important gap in GHG emissions accounting.
In comparison, with the consumption-based approach, GHG emissions can be accounted for independently of a nation’s climate policy, and this may help in cases when global climate policy is fragmented [16, p. 36]. Moreover, it does not allow current GHG inventories to be reduced by outsourcing production or by relying more on imports [16, p. 307].
|Figure 15 – Sectorial comparison of total territorial emissions (TE) and upstream emissions of households’ consumption (UE) in four cities in CO2eq per capita per year .|
Consumption-based accounting presents different challenges, as there is no accepted carbon footprint methodology or widely accepted definition [16, p. 306]. These challenges may be surpassed by using a standardized process. The consumption-based approach integrates trade emissions and therefore has the controversial risk associated related to the competitiveness in the trade system, increasing costs and reducing demand for products abroad [16, p. 306]. The IPCC also comments that the consumption-based approach may violate the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO) [16, p. 306], but also, it implies a fairer illustration of who is responsible for current emissions [16, p. 307]. The author encourages prioritizing the framework that results in the greatest reduction of GHG emissions. In the European context, GHG emissions responsibilities should be allocated to consumers because the sum of the countries accounts for more imports than exports . Thus, the consumption-based approach should be used, even if it implies violating the trade system’s rules. Given the evidence that global consumption is a key driver of environmental degradation and global warming [16, p. 310], the author finds it illogical to continue defending a trade system that contributes to maintaining global GHG emissions at high levels. For that reason, the author highlights the consumption-based approach as a valid GHG accounting method in the EU context and suggests reviewing the trade system rules (such as the ones promoted by the WTO) and potentially adapting them to the current climate situation.
To better understand the value of the consumption-based approach, a recent study from Pichler et al.  analyzed GHG emissions accounted for by the territorial-based approach and by the consumption-based approach (product carbon footprint) in Berlin, the National Capital Territory of Delhi, Mexico City, and the New York metropolitan statistical area . Their results show (Figure 7) how the upstream emissions from household consumption are substantial and highly significant, ranging between 81% (Mexico City) and 130% (Berlin) of territorial emissions, and in the two more affluent cities of Berlin and New York, they surpass territorial emissions .
The carbon footprint of products (and firms) could offer the appropriate information to enable a range of mitigation actions and can have essential co-benefits [16, p. 306]. It is conceivable to rely on climate policies that target the consumption and production sides of emissions, as is done in other policy areas [16, p. 307].
As part of the carbon footprint framework, it is essential to inform consumers about the climate impact of products or services, with the final aim of inducing more climate-friendly purchasing decisions [16, p. 306]. However, there is no single accepted carbon footprint methodology, which makes advocating for sustainable consumption more challenging. Nonetheless, it is possible to support consumers’ purchasing choices through different criteria that could help them acknowledge the environmental performance and sustainability of a product or service. The author identifies the following:
Environmental labels based on objective and transparent criteria awarded by independent third parties could play an important role in identifying sustainable products or services . Third-party ecolabels and declarations have proven to be effective in transforming consumer sustainability attitudes into actual behavior in many cases [16, p. 308]. The EU identifies four type of useful labels:
i. Multi-criteria labels: These are based on scientific information about the environmental impact of a product or service regarding production and distribution, the use phase, and final disposition . Examples are EU Ecolabel, Nordic Swan, and the Blue Angel .
ii. Single-use labels: These are based on one or more pass/fail criteria linked to a specific issue . Examples are the EU Organic label or Energy Star.
iii. Sector-specific labels: These are related to specific sectors, for instance, the forestry sector with the FSC or the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification related labels .
iv. Grade product labels: These labels assess products and services’ environmental performance using grades rather than pass/fail criteria . An example is the EU Energy Label, which grades energy-related products according to their energy efficiency .
§ Life-Cycle costing (LCC):
The LCC approach accounts for a purchased product as well as the costs incurred during its use and disposal . This approach could be useful in procurement processes by accounting for costs of used resources, maintenance, and disposal not reflected in the purchase price, and it may include associated GHG emissions.
§ Environmental management systems and schemes certifications:
Environmental management systems are organization-related tools aimed at improving the overall environmental performance of organizations . In the EU, there are Eco-management and audit schemes (EMAS) and the International Standard on Environmental Systems (EN/ISO 14001) .
§ Product Origin:
Another example that could support consumers in choosing low-carbon products is the origin location. Low trade emissions are associated with local products. Local consumption could increase and protect the local economy while saving GHG emissions associated with trade (for instance, by reducing transportation of goods) . Local production also makes the impacts of the production and consumption visible, which can help adjust consumers’ needs to ecological limits .
Supply proximity products are highly relevant for climate change mitigation within the agricultural sector . The IPCC has noted the need for the decentralization of agricultural production and has advocated for producing more food for local consumption as opposed to exportation [39, p. 31]. These changes will considerably save GHG emissions, especially methane and nitrous oxide .
Municipalities can promote local currencies in their territory, as those currencies directly support local businesses, leading to an increase in local product consumption . Local currencies not only boost local economies but additionally contribute to SD through community-building and through enabling different consumption patterns that reduce environmental impact . France already has over 80 local currencies in circulation (March, 2020) .
All the criteria presented could guide local governments in their purchasing decisions, and they could be included in their local public procurement regulations. Public procurement regulations could have an important role in transforming the market [16, p. 718], and they could also contribute to sustainable consumption and other sustainability goals [89, Ch. Introduction]. The EU defined green procurement as a process whereby public authorities seek to produce goods, services, and works with a reduced environmental impact throughout their life-cycle compared to goods, services, and works with the same primary function that would otherwise be procured [89, p. 4]. The EU introduced sustainable public procurement terms that include both environmental and social criteria in purchasing decisions [89, p. 4].
The Paris Agreement is the internationally relevant framework for climate considerations in public procurement procedures . At the EU level, Martinez Romera and Caranta  defined the extent of climate change features in EU procurement law . They concluded that, although EU public procurement could still be more stringent with respect to climate considerations, EU procurement law mostly allows and occasionally mandates climate change considerations in public purchasing .
For achieving green public procurement, the EU released the “Buying green!” handbook, which explains how to integrate environmental criteria through the procurement process and how to articulate it within the current procurement framework . Within this handbook, the EU provide green public procurement criteria for a number of product and service groups, which are regularly reviewed and updated .
Awarded contracts should be followed up with monitoring that ideally includes information about the environmental impact of purchasing decisions made [89, Ch. 1]. As a specific example, the city of Barcelona reviewed and developed, in a highly participatory way, new rules governing the inclusion of sustainability criteria in public contracts, where green requirements are now compulsory for all contract bodies in high-priority procurement categories [89, p. 18].
Beyond the municipal public procurement criteria, local authorities may have an important role in promoting sustainable consumption patterns in the population. Sustainable consumption requires formulating strategies that foster the highest quality of life, the efficient use of natural resources, and the effective satisfaction of human needs while simultaneously promoting equitable social development, economic competitiveness, and technological innovation [16, p. 307].
Behavior is an underlying driver affecting sustainable consumption in the decomposition of anthropogenic GHG emissions [16, p. 387]. Consumption patterns are shaped not only by economic forces but also by technological, political, cultural, psychological, and environmental factors [16, pp. 387–388].
Despite complexity, it could be possible to induce behavioral changes without modifying pricing, thus facilitating the involvement of the local administration. From an economic perspective, Ayres et al. (2009) estimated that non-price, peer-comparison interventions can induce a consumption response equivalent to a 17%–29% price increase [16, p. 389]. Behavioral interventions can target voluntary behavioral change by focusing on individuals’ perceptions, preferences, and abilities, or by changing the context in which decisions are made [16, p. 389].
The definition of sustainable consumption refers to the efficient use of natural resources [16, p. 307]. Therefore, reductions in consumption that do affect quality of life may be an adequate starting point for local authorities seeking to produce behavioral changes in consumption patterns. Sustainable consumption could overcome consumerism, which is defined as a cultural paradigm where “the possession and use of an increasing number and variety of goods and services is the principal aspiration and the surest perceived route to personal happiness, social status, and national success” [16, p. 304]. Assadourian (2010) also argues that increased material wealth above a certain threshold does not contribute to subjective well-being [16, p. 310]. Accordingly, different studies of emotional wellbeing (Kahneman and Deaton 2010, Deaton 2008, and Sacks et al. 2010) found a weak relationship between income and well-being at higher income levels [16, p. 310]. Consequently, local authorities could promote sustainable consumption, reducing citizens consumerist culture insofar as it does not affect their personal wellbeing.
In conjunction with deterring consumerism, local authorities could promote the consumption of goods and services with the lowest carbon footprints. The OECD has proposed some ways for promoting sustainable consumption that are addressed to governments . For example, they recommend increasing awareness among the population through communication campaigns, education, and advertising for sustainable consumption . In addition, labels could help disseminate information of the products’ sustainability and encourage consumers to choose the most sustainable options. The OECD argues that standards and mandatory labels are the most direct policy instruments for eliminating unsustainable products from the market [96, p. 9], in addition to the use of subsidies and incentives, and the importance of the public procurement in influencing the market towards sustainability . The OECD affirms that combining different approaches will increase the effectiveness of sustainable consumption campaigns [96, p. 49].
Targeting products with higher climate impacts such as food could be a starting point for pursuing mitigation in the consumption patterns domain.
Globally, food is the consumption category with the greatest climate impact, accounting for 20% of GHG emissions [16, p. 305]. Moreover, food consumption has a high potential for mitigation because it is closely linked with land use, where consumption could influence production and vice versa.
Diet choices are the first challenge to address. In the last IPCC special report on land use, the IPCC confirm that balanced diets, featuring plant-based foods such as those based on coarse grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and animal-sourced food produced in resilient, sustainable, and low-GHG emission systems, constitute major adaptation and mitigation opportunities while generating significant co-benefits related to human health [39, Ch. B].
Poore and Nemeck (2018), in their study on the GHG emissions associated with 40 major foods, conclude that moving from current diets to a diet that excludes animal products has transformative potential. Using 2010 as a reference year, such a diet will reduce food’s land use by 3.1 billion ha (a 76% reduction), food’s GHG emissions by 6.6 billion Mg of CO2eq (a 49% reduction), acidification by 50%, eutrophication by 49%, and scarcity-weight freshwater withdrawals by 19% .
Therefore, diets with no animal products should be promoted to reduce GHG emissions, and they have potential co-benefits in other areas like land use and natural resource conservation.
To increase this diet’s mitigation potential, one must also consider how food is produced. Consumers should be encouraged to purchase food produced using sustainable techniques [39, Ch. B]. The EU label for organic farming could be useful for identifying the most sustainable products. As a complement, seasonal and local food should also be considered as a way to reduce consumers’ carbon footprints because less energy is used to produce and/or supply these products [39, p. 31], . Based on the governing by enabling model, municipalities could target consumers to promote sustainable food consumption and target producers to facilitate the consumption of locally produced goods, leading to co-benefits like boosting the local economy.
Table 5 presents the author’s recommendations related to consumption patterns for municipalities’ local CCM activities and links these activities to appropriate SDG targets.
Table 5 – Recommendations for local climate change mitigation (CCM) related to the consumption patterns domain.
|Consumption-related Recommendation||SDG Targets|
|A - Promote the Consumption-Based Accounting Methodology for GHG: The Carbon Footprint||12.6|
|B - Adopt Green Public Procurement||12.6 & 12.7|
|C - Promote Seasonal, Organic and Locally Produced Food Consumption Without Animal Products||12.2 & 12.8|
|D - Promote a Reduction in Consumerist Behavior||12.2, 12.5, & 12.8|
|E - Promote Sustainable Consumption||12.2 & 12.8|
|F - Facilitate Locally Produced Product Consumption||12.2 & 12.8|
These recommendations are linked to SDG 12 (Responsible consumption and production). The author acknowledges that reducing consumerist behavior is a means for preventing waste generation. Sustainable Development Goal 8 (Decent work and economic growth) could be linked to the consumption patterns domain, especially target 8.4, which defends decoupling economic growth from environmental degradation. Ward et al. (2016) concludes that growth in gross domestic product (GDP) cannot plausibly be decoupled from growth in material and energy use . Thus, the author of this research wholly excludes SDG 8 in relation to CCM.
The Collins dictionary defines waste as “material which has been used and is no longer wanted” . The EU defines waste as “an object the holder discards, intends to discard, or is require to discard” .
The quantity of municipal waste per capita in the period 1980 and 2005 increased by 29% in North America, 35% in OECD countries, and 54% in the EU15 [16, p. 385]. The total amount of municipal solid waste generated globally has been estimated at about 1.5 Gt per year and is expected to increase to approximately 2.2 Gt by 2025 [16, p. 786]. Of the current amount, 300 Mt are recycled, 200 Mt are treated with energy recovery, 200 Mt are disposed in sanitary landfills, and the remaining 800 Mt are discarded in non-sanitary landfills or dumps [16, p. 786].
In 2010, GHG emissions from waste represented 3% of total GHG emissions from all sources and mainly consisted of solid waste disposal on land and wastewater handling [16, p. 385]. However, emissions related to waste management are not only related to the direct emissions from waste management. The emissions from the production of materials to replace discarded materials should also be considered [16, p. 786].
Accordingly, appropriate waste management has considerable potential in CCM and transitioning toward a circular economy , .
The IPCC suggests the following as important options for mitigation in waste management: waste prevention and reduction, followed by reuse, recycling, and energy recovery [16, p. 744], in that order.
Waste prevention and reduction is foreseen as part of the circular economy strategy in the EU . The EU guidelines for waste prevention include reducing the quantity of material used in the creation of products and increasing the efficiency with which products, once created, are used . Strategies for zero-waste scenarios could be categorized according to the aim of behavioral change (promotional and informational strategies) or according to enforced limits on waste generation (regulatory strategies) . As part of the process, the EU highlights the importance of avoiding unnecessary consumption and, as a complement, designing and consuming products that generate less waste . Local authorities could approach “unnecessary consumption” as part of their plan for reducing consumerist behavior among the population and link it to the consumption patterns domain [16, p. 310], .
In terms of limiting waste generation, it could be useful to identify products that generate less waste from the moment of purchase through a lifecycle assessment (LCA) . Nonetheless, even if a LCA is not possible, products with short lifespans could be targets for regulatory policies, as their use probably increases waste production. An example is single-use plastic products. The annual production of plastic is about 300 million tons (data from 2015), with roughly 50% disposed of after a single-use . Single-use plastics could be targeted by implementing local bans, as is the case in 28% of municipal governments in California . Other approaches could include using communication campaigns to promote local sustainable consumption among stakeholders .
As the EU highlights in its new circular economy plan, food is another important target for waste prevention . Currently, 25%–30% of total food produced is lost or wasted [39, p. 26]. From 2010 to 2016, global food loss and waste contributed 8%–10% of all anthropogenic GHG emissions [39, p. 26]. Thus, reducing food loss can lower GHG emissions and contribute to adaptation through reduction in the land area needed for food production [39, p. 26].
As a good local practice example, in Portugal, the cooperative Fruta Feia seeks to reduce the waste of tons of good quality food that is thrown back to the land by farmers every year and also to prevent resource waste in food production . Their initiative has already saved 1,834 tons of food .
Other important target groups for reducing food waste and specifically included in the new EU circular economy action plan are water and nutrients, electronics and information and communication technologies, batteries and vehicles, packaging, textiles, and construction and buildings .
If reducing waste cannot be achieved, reusing products, is the next possibility for reducing waste generation [16, p. 24].
The reparation of goods and the promotion of product exchanges could be included as part of the reusing dimension. The EU Commission, within the context of its circular economy action plan, is working to establish a new “right to repair” and considers new horizontal material rights for consumers, for instance, as regards the availability of spare parts or access to repair .
Following the recommendation of governing by enabling , local authorities could promote the re-use of goods by increasing people’s awareness, organizing events, or developing infrastructure for the development of circular economic activities. For instance, municipalities could support the re-using endeavor by creating repairing offices, second-hand goods markets for citizens and any other activity that leads to a lifetime increase of a product.
Recycling would be the next step after waste prevention and reduction and reusing goods.
Globally, only about 20% of municipal solid waste (MSW) is recycled, and about 14% is treated with energy recovery, while the rest is deposited in open dump sites or landfills [16, p. 82]. It is expected to enable remanufacturing and high-quality recycling as part of the EU circular economy action plan .
Part of the success of the recycling process relies on the individual’s responsibility, as normally individuals are responsible for correctly separating waste. Local authorities could facilitate the recycling process by ensuring access to waste collection points and increasing people’s awareness of the importance of the recycling process.
|Figure 16 – Indicative CO2eq emission intensities and levelized costs of conserved carbon of municipal solid waste practices/technologies (upper figure) and wastewater treatments (lower figure) [16, p. 791].|
Right before waste disposal, there are different treatments available as part of the reusing dimension. Depending on the nature of the waste, it could be used to increase soil fertility or produce heat and energy [16, p. 789], .
The IPCC studied the costs and possibilities for selected mitigation options with respect to reducing the GHG emissions of the two waste sectors that represent 90% of waste-related emissions: solid waste disposal and domestic wastewater [16, p. 791]. The IPCC observes that the costs and possibilities vary widely across regions and treatment methodologies [16, p. 791]. Consequently, local authorities could have a crucial role in enabling appropriate waste treatment procedures in local contexts. Nonetheless, regardless of the local context, as shown in Figure 8, solid waste disposal in landfills and non-treatment for wastewater are the options to avoid because of their related emissions intensity [16, p. 791].
The author suggests composting as the preferential option for food and green waste because its provides co-benefits. It not only to reduces landfill GHG emissions but also improves soil properties through compost application . Accordingly, improving soil properties increases soil fertility  and thereby avoids desertification and increases soil carbon sequestration [39, p. 20], . Moreover, the assessment of gaseous emissions of the compost production ensures the sustainability of the process .
There are multiple techniques for composting, and two important factors are waste heterogeneity and the presence of oxygen (or lack thereof).
The aerobic process requires prior source separation to ensure a correct compost process [16, p. 789]. As an advantage, the aerobic process could be suitable for decentralized and small-scale situations, where the separation responsibility could be given to consumers, and they can create compost themselves. As a local example, the Lisbon municipality launched the Lisboa a Compostar project to promote domestic food waste compost treatment . The project has an important component of citizen awareness raising and capacity building, and encourages people to reduce their waste and also to substitute their synthetic fertilizers with their own compost .
Anaerobic composting techniques allow for the inclusion of meat and other substances, but the included elements needs to be digested in closed biochemical reactors [16, p. 789], complicating its application at a small scale. Nonetheless, the methane generated in anaerobic digestion (biogas) could be used in gas engines to produce energy [16, p. 789].
This biogas production (considered as part of bioenergy processes) has important co-benefits. It reduces fossil-fuel dependencies, reduces GHG emissions from waste disposal, produces energy, and can even make use of the residues of the process as crop fertilizer .
Table 6 – Recommendations for local climate change mitigation (CCM) related to the waste management domain.
|Waste Management-related Recommendations||SDG Targets|
|Waste Prevention and Reduction||A - Reduce Urban Solid Waste Production with Special Attention to Food Waste and Single-Use or Products with Short Lifespans||12.3 & 12.5|
|Re-use||B – Enable the “right to repair”, promote the exchange of second-hand goods and increase awareness about re-using||12.5|
|Recycle||C – Promote Recycling||12.5|
|Waste Treatments||D.1 - Produce compost, particularly from food or green waste||11.6|
|D.2 - Biogas production: Capture methane from waste management or wastewater management|
|D.3 - Reduce landfill waste disposal|
|D.4 - Reduce the amount of untreated wastewater|
Methane could also be recovered through wastewater treatment. As displayed in Figure 8, both centralized wastewater collection and anaerobic biomass digestion with methane capture could be the most interesting options for pursuing local CCM [16, pp. 788–789].
Table 6 presents the author’s recommendations related to waste management for municipalities’ local CCM activities and links these activities to appropriate SDG targets.
Energy is a significant domain. To explore how to localize CCM action in this sector for municipalities, the author suggests focusing on two main energy areas: the energy production and supply sector and the energy end-use sector and energy efficiency (which includes the building sector).
The energy supply sector comprises all energy extraction, conversion, storage, transmission, and distribution processes with the exception of those that use final energy to provide energy services in end-use sectors [16, p. 516]. The energy supply sector is the largest contributor to global GHG emissions; it was responsible for approximately 35% of total anthropogenic GHG emissions in 2010, and its share was expected to increase [16, p. 516]. In the baseline scenarios assessed by the IPCC, the energy supply sector increased emissions from 14.4 GtCO2/yr in 2010 to between 24 and 33 GtCO2/yr in 2050 [16, p. 516].
The pathway for mitigation suggested by the IPCC as concerns the energy supply is to initiate a deep transformation of the energy system towards decarbonization of electricity generation (decarbonization is the process for reducing carbon and fossil-fuel dependency in energy production) [16, p. 516].
To achieve energy decarbonization, the IPCC states that Renewable Energy (RE) needs to be prioritized as the main energy source and explains that the possible adverse side effects (location and technological) associated with RE can be reduced through appropriate technology selection, operational adjustments, and siting of facilities [16, p. 516]. In this paper, RE is understood as energy derived from natural, unlimited, and replenishable sources . The IPCC admits that nuclear energy could play an important role in contributing to a low-carbon energy supply, but it is not recommended due to the associated risk (operational risks, safety concerns, uranium mining risks, financial and regulatory risks, unresolved waste management issues, nuclear weapon proliferation, and adverse public opinion) [16, p. 517]. This research does not consider nuclear energy as renewable because of its adverse side effects. This research recognizes bioenergy, direct solar energy, geothermal energy, hydropower, ocean energy, and wind energy as RE sources [16, p. 525]. The IPCC also notes the importance of bioenergy combined with carbon dioxide capture and storage systems, which play an important role in low-stabilization scenarios. Nonetheless, the production and use of biomass for bioenergy has context-specific impacts on land use, including adverse side effects and risks regarding land degradation and food insecurity [39, p. 22]. Hydropower is included as a source of RE. Nevertheless, lifecycle emissions from fossil fuel combustion and cement production related to the construction and operation of hydropower stations falls in a range of up 40 gCO2eq /kWh [16, p. 540], far higher than other renewable technologies’ lifecycle emissions [16, p. 541].
Despite the different approaches for mitigation, it is important to avoid any energy production based on fossil fuels (carbon-based fuels from fossil hydrocarbon deposits, including coal, peat, oil, and natural gas) [16, p. 1262]. The current fossil-fuel reserves contain sufficient carbon to yield radioactive forcing above that required to limit the global mean temperature increase to less than 2ºC [16, p. 525]. The IPCC also highlights the importance of analyzing site- and context-specific factors, such as the use of resources or public perceptions, to ensure RE projects are viable for CCM [16, p. 569].
In addition, approximately 25% of all losses in Europe and 40% of distribution losses are due to distribution transformers, and roughly a further 25% of losses are due to distribution systems’ conductors and cables [16, p. 528]. More distributed generation systems can reduce these losses since generation typically takes place closer to loads than with central generation, and thus electricity does not have to travel as far [16, p. 528].
An integral solution for SD is energy supply decentralization. Alanne and Saari describe “distributed energy systems” as sustainable because they are cost-efficient, reliable, and environmentally friendly . Khetrapal (2020) reviewed the potential technical, economic, and environmental benefits of distributed energy generation . Regarding the environmental benefits, the author highlights the reduction of fossil-fuel consumption and the resulting reduction in GHG emissions . In addition, Khetrapal (2020) further notes the significance of optimally selecting, sizing, and positioning distributed generation systems since an inappropriate location can negatively impact system performance (increased losses and degraded voltage profile) . The appropriate and diverse use of local resources is presented as an important benefit from energy supply decentralization .
Municipalities should support distributed models of energy production because they have multiple co-benefits when adapted to local contexts. Energy decentralization could be addressed differently depending on its technical and social dimensions .
Decentralization also implies improving citizen participation in designing and operating power systems, whether individually or collectively . Consumers could even become prosumers (both energy consumers and producers), providing flexibility to the energy market . People’s increased participation promotes a bottom-up approach that opens the possibility for consumers to participate in the development of renewables .
To promote decentralized energy production and to standardize the meaning of self-energy producers, this research uses the EU definition of renewable energy communities (REC). According to Directive (EU) 2018/2001, a REC is a legal entity
(a) which, in accordance with the applicable national law, is based on open and voluntary participation, is autonomous, and is effectively controlled by shareholders or members that are located in the proximity of the renewable energy projects that are owned and developed by that legal entity;
(b) the shareholders or members of which are natural persons, SMEs, or local authorities, including municipalities;
(c) the primary purpose of which is to provide environmental, economic, or social community benefits for its shareholders or members or for the local areas where it operates, rather than financial profits.
Renewable energy communities are entitled to produce, consume, store, and sell RE, including through renewables power purchase agreements, to share RE within the community, and to access all suitable markets , . Energy communities can be instrumental for facilitating the energy transition at the citizen and local levels . As was exposed with the governance dimension, (re)municipalization of the energy sector (for instance, the energy distribution grid) may support the energy transition by facilitating energy decentralization [66, Ch. 8]. As a municipal example, the Barcelona municipality has become an REC in 2019 through their public energy supplier Barcelona Energía .
Regarding end-use energy, different sectors are contributing to GHG emissions: transport contributes 27%, building 32%, and industry 28% (all data are direct emissions accounted for in 2010) [16, Ch. SPM]. This section only focusses on the end-use energy of the building sector, which includes residential, commercial, public, and service sectors [16, p. 22]. Most of the GHG emissions in the building sector are indirect CO2 emissions from electricity used in buildings, and the OECD countries contribute the most GHG in this sector, with moderate GHG growth between 1970 and 2010 [16, p. 678].
To achieve mitigation in this sector at the local level, the last IPCC report suggested two different dimensions to focus on that are related to energy efficiency and human lifestyles, cultures, and behavior [16, p. 23]. In terms of energy efficiency, the IPCC cites existing knowledge, advanced technologies, and policies for stabilizing emissions related to this sector as opportunities [16, p. 23]. As examples, the IPCC highlights the advances achieved through the adoption of very low energy codes for new buildings and from reducing heating and cooling energy use. Along with building codes, appliance standards (if well designed and implemented) have been among the most environmentally and cost-effective instruments for reducing emissions [16, p. 23].
Regarding the social aspect, awareness raising that encourages people to reduce their energy use could be essential. In Europe, scenarios indicate that behavioral changes could reduce energy demand by up to 20% in the short term [16, p. 23]. European municipalities already have the EU commission’s guidelines for increasing energy efficiency in buildings, and these could be supported by engaging local stakeholders to pursue the same goal. Reducing energy consumption is the final aim of increasing energy efficiency; nonetheless, reducing energy consumption could also be fomented directly in the municipal territory from out the energy efficiency umbrella.
Table 7 presents the author’s recommendations related to energy for municipalities’ local CCM activities and links these activities to appropriate SDG targets.
Table 7 – Recommendations for local climate change mitigation (CCM) related to the energy domain.
|Energy-related Recommendations||SDG Targets|
|Energy Production and Supply||A - Promote Appropriate Renewable Energy (RE) Production||7.2|
|B – Decentralize Energy Production (Both Social and Technological Aspects)|
|C – Facilitate Citizen and Private Sector Involvement in the Energy Supply Dimension|
|Energy Efficiency and End Use||D - Increase Energy Efficiency in Municipal or Local Buildings and Infrastructure||7.3|
|E - Facilitate Citizen and Private Sector Involvement to Increase Energy Efficiency|
|F - Encourage Energy Consumption Reduction|
Transportation and mobility
The global transport sector accounted for 27% of final energy use (6.7 GtCO2) in 2010, with OECD countries being the highest contributors in this sector [16, p. 21]. The emissions of this sector are expected to increase significantly, up to between 9.3 and 12 GtCO2/yr by 2050 based on the IPCC scenarios [16, p. 72].
Turning to the details, Figure 9 presents the total emissions from 1970 to 2010. One can observe how transportation emissions have increased through time, with road transportation being the highest transportation contributor to global GHG emissions [16, p. 606]. It is with road transportation where local authorities can mitigate climate change, as mobility is one the local authorities’ competences, especially as concerns light-duty vehicles (LDVs). Light-duty vehicles includes passenger cars and commercial vans below 2.5–3.0 tons in net weight [16, p. 605]. Their number is expected to double in the next few decades from the current number of 1 billion vehicles globally [16, p. 611]. Thus, there is a high potential for mitigation through shifting into different modes of low-carbon transportation or to non-motorized transportation (NMT), combined with an increase in LDVs’ engine performance [16, pp. 603, 620]. Nowadays, exchanging conventional LDVs for electric vehicles will only save an insignificant amount of CO2eq where electricity systems rely on high-carbon intensity (500–600 gCO2eq/kWh), and the mitigation costs can be hundreds of dollars per ton [16, p. 624]. In addition, the material needed to proceed with transport decarbonization through new technologies may create adverse effects on local environments because of unsustainable mining of resources to supply low-carbon transport technologies [16, p. 632]. Mitigation pathways at the local level prioritize reducing the number of LDVs instead of completely replacing the current fleet for low-carbon LDVs. This measure can also be supported by other means of transportation (NMT, collective transportation, or other already existent low-carbon modes of transportation).
Within this context, the concept of “sustainable transport” arises as a priority for CCM. It defends the accessibility of all in helping meet the basic daily mobility needs consistent with human and ecosystem health, but to constrain GHG emissions by [16, p. 609].
|Figure 17 – Direct GHG emissions of the transportation sector (shown here by transport mode) rose 250%, from 2.8 Gt CO2eq worldwide in 1970 to 7.0 Gt CO2eq in 2010 [16, p. 606].|
The IPCC reports clearly reaffirm the mitigation potential within this sector through different areas of actualization: changes in the built environment (urban and community redevelopment to increase accessibility), behavioral changes (avoiding long journeys where possible and shifting to lower-carbon transport systems and NMTs), investments in related infrastructure (public transportation, walking and cycling infrastructure, etc.), less energy-intensive modes of transportation (by enhancing vehicle and engine performance), and reductions in carbon-intensive fuels (biofuels, electricity or hydrogen produced from low GHG sources, etc.) [16, p. 603].
Changes in the built environment could be linked to the spatial planning domain, where the urban form and infrastructure could play important roles in reducing vehicle-kilometers travelled (VKT) [16, pp. 951, 958].
All these mitigation pathways could be integrated by municipalities in a sustainable urban mobility plan (SUMP), where local authorities could provide appropriate measures regarding their local context. The Urban Mobility Observatory, which is under the European Commission’s general directorate for mobility and transport, has created useful guidelines for developing and implementing a SUMP . They reaffirm the following eight principles for correctly developing such a plan: (1) plan for sustainable mobility in the “functional urban area,” (2) cooperate across institutional boundaries, (3) involve citizens and stakeholders, (4) assess current and future performances, (5) define a long-term vision and a clear implementation plan, (6) develop all transport modes in an integrated manner, (7) arrange for monitoring and evaluation, and (8) assure quality .
An example of a municipality that has appropriately designed, planned, and implemented sustainable mobility is the municipality of Pontevedra, Spain. Pontevedra was awarded with several international prizes regarding sustainable mobility and urban planning, such as the Smart Mobility Award (Hong-Kong 2015) and the first EU urban road safety award (2019) . Among the measures that they have implemented, the following can be highlighted: speed limits up to 30km/h in all urban areas, the installation of 300 speedhumps, and the prioritization of pedestrians over LDVs, with spaces free from motorized transportation (except for those needed for residential or commercial activities) . As a result, in 2014, Pontevedra has reduced its fossil-fuel consumption by 66% compared to 1999 levels . There is a varied range of policies that could address sustainable transportation at the local level. Municipalities should play their role by contextualizing appropriate policies and measures according to their own local reality.
Following the model of governing by provisioning , providing reliable and efficient low-carbon collective transportation services is important for fostering sustainable transportation [16, Ch. 8]. Aside from municipal responsibilities, the (re)municipalization of transportation services could be the key to inducing the change needed for moving towards sustainable transportation systems due to their better alignment with local urban development policies, which could encourage the use of public transportation or non-polluting transport over LDVs [66, p. 31].
Table 8 – Recommendations for local climate change mitigation (CCM) related to the transportation and mobility domain.
|Transportation- and Mobility-related Recommendations||SDG Target|
|A - Implement Local Policies for Sustainable Transportation||11.2|
|B - (Re)municipalization of Transportation Services|
|C - Reduce Automobile Dependency, Especially Dependency on Light-Duty Vehicles|
|D - Promote the Reduction of Fossil-Fuel Dependency in Transportation|
|E - Promote Low-Carbon Collective Transportation (Trains, Waterborne, and Low-Carbon Buses)|
|F - Promote and Increase Accessibility and Safety for Non-Motorized Transportation (For Example, Cycling or Walking)|
|G - Promote Sustainable Transportation Through Awareness-Raising Campaigns, Education, and Advertising|
By following the concept of “sustainable transport,” this research suggests the following actions to be taken by local authorities to promote CCM: induce mobility behavioral changes through communication campaigns, promote alternative low-carbon or NMT transportation for long and short distances, prioritize collective transportation over individual transportation, and reduce the need for conventional LDVs.
Table 8 presents the author’s recommendations related to transportation and mobility for municipalities’ local CCM activities and links these activities to an appropriate SDG target.
In 2006, urban areas accounted for between 71% and 76% of CO2 emissions from global final energy use and between 67%–76% of global energy use [16, p. 927]. Urban form and infrastructure significantly affect direct (operational) and indirect (embodied) GHG emissions and are strongly linked to the throughput of material and energy in cities, the waste they generate, and their related system efficiencies [16, p. 927]. Mitigation options vary by urban type and development levels [16, p. 927]. The options available to rapidly developing cities include shaping their urbanization and infrastructure development trajectories [16, p. 928]. The main goal of pursuing CCM for this dimension for municipalities is to shape urban form and integrate and improve urban infrastructure by developing it toward low-carbon pathways [16, p. 928]. Thus, the author structures the local CCM approach according to three main areas: urban form, infrastructure, and the spatial planning process.
Urban form and structure are the patterns and spatial arrangements of land use, transportation systems, and urban design elements, including the physical urban extent, the layout of streets and buildings, and the internal configuration of settlements [16, p. 949].
Regarding urban form, the IPCC cites the importance of four key interrelated drivers to consider in reducing GHG emissions: urban density, land-use mix, connectivity, and accessibility [16, p. 952].
§ Density: Density is the measure of an urban unit of interest (e.g., population, employment, and housing) per area unit [16, p. 952]. Density affects GHG emissions in two different ways. Low density of employment, commerce, and housing increases the average travel distances for both work and shopping trips (and thus increases VKT) [16, p. 952]. Low density of employment, commerce, and housing also brings more difficulties in switching to less energy-intensive and alternative modes of transportation [16, p. 952]. To achieve mitigation with respect to density, the IPCC suggests prioritizing medium-rise buildings (less than seven floors) over single-unit and high-rise buildings [16, p. 955]. They state that medium-rise buildings can increase urban density without the increased need of materials and embodied energy of high-rise buildings [16, p. 955].
§ Land-Use Mix: Land-use mix refers to the diversity and integration of land uses at a given scale [16, p. 955]. Diverse and mixed land uses can reduce travel distances and enable both walking and the use of NMT, thereby reducing aggregate amounts of vehicular and associated GHG emissions [16, p. 955]. For service-economy cities with effective air pollution control, mixed land use can also benefit citizen health and wellbeing by promoting walking via more walkable distances [16, p. 955]. Increasing mixed land use would facilitate reductions in GHG emissions.
§ Connectivity: Connectivity refers to street density and design [16, p. 956]. High urban connectivity is characterized by finer-grain systems, with smaller blocks that allow frequent changes in direction [16, p. 956]. When connectivity is high, there is typically a positive correlation with walking and thereby lower GHG emissions [16, p. 956].
§ Accessibility: Accessibility can be defined as access to jobs, housing, services, shopping, and, in general, to people and places in cities [16, p. 956]. It can be viewed as a combination of proximity and travel time and is closely related to land-use mix [16, p. 956]. Highly accessible communities are typically characterized by low commuting distances and travel times, which are enabled by multiple modes of transportation [16, p. 956]. Metanalyses show that VKT reduction is most strongly related to high accessibility to job destinations [16, p. 956].
These four dimensions should be approached simultaneously to be most effective in reducing annual VKT [16, p. 957].
Infrastructure affects GHG emissions primarily during three phases of its lifecycle: construction, use and operation, and end-of-life [16, p. 951]. Analyzing all emissions for each phase associated with new infrastructure, including transboundary emissions, is important for shaping its sustainability and resilience [16, p. 951]. Related energy should be accounted for from the use and operation phase and the end-of-life phase, including that from reuse, recycling, and primary and embodied energy from building materials used [16, p. 951]. For example, the manufacturing of steel and cement, two of the common infrastructure materials, contributed nearly 9% and 7% to global carbon emissions in 2006, respectively [16, p. 951]. Thus, at the planning stage when choices of materials are made, a forward-looking life-cycle assessment can help reduce undesired lock-in effects with respect to the construction and operation of large physical infrastructure [16, p. 391]. The placement of infrastructure could also modulate the GHG emissions associated with its use and operation phase. Infrastructure is linked to urban form, especially among transportation infrastructure, travel demand, and VKT [16, p. 951]. Municipalities should consider reducing direct and indirect GHG emissions related to municipal infrastructure and give special consideration to potential lock-in effects. Consequently and in accordance with SDG 9 (which focuses on developing quality, reliable, sustainable, and resilient infrastructure) , information about infrastructure-related GHG emissions could facilitate a better acknowledgement of its costs and benefits for CCM and its long term sustainability.
Spatial planning is a broad term that describes systematic and coordinated efforts to manage urban and regional growth in ways that promote well-defined societal objectives such as land conservation, economic development, carbon sequestration, and social justice [16, p. 958]. The framework for infrastructure and urban form could be the base for facilitating a CCM perspective in the municipal spatial planning process. There is no single recipe for approaching spatial planning from a CCM perspective. Nonetheless, based on case studies, the IPCC highlights the success and effectiveness of strategies that combine a spatial planning process with climate action. Doing so harmonizes and integrates each scale plan (regional, district, and neighborhood) and requires institutional capacity and political wherewithal to align the right policy instrument to specific strategies [16, p. 958]. Each municipality should choose a context-specific combination of policy instruments to accomplish CCM within the spatial planning dimension.
Green infrastructure (GI) plays an important role for CCM in the spatial planning process. The EU green infrastructure strategy defines GI as a strategically planned network of natural and semi-natural areas with other environmental features designed and managed to deliver a wide range of ecosystem services . Green infrastructure can refer to rural, peri-urban, or urban settings covering terrestrial, coastal, and marine areas . One of the key aims of the GI EU strategy is to foster the potential co-benefits of GI, namely CCM and climate-change adaptation, reduced energy use, disaster risk management, food provision, biodiversity conservation, health and wellbeing, recreation, increased land and property values, competitiveness and economic growth, and enhanced territorial cohesion . Green infrastructure is linked closely with E/NBS, as both could potentially increase ecosystem services, leading to more carbon sinks and reduced GHG emissions. Recommendations for municipalities on that field comes through the integration of the ecosystem service approach (by GI, nature-based solutions, or both) into urban planning processes, maximizing the ecosystems’ provision, adopting methods for mapping, assessing, and measuring ecosystem services, promoting payments for ecosystem services, and calculations the (economic) cost of their use .
For bringing out co-benefits, GI can be seen as a connected network of green and blue spaces, either in the city or countryside, that are linked to the concept of ecological connectivity .
Funded by the European Commission, the EKLIPSE project has developed an evidence- and knowledge-based report that analyzes the different benefits and challenges of applying E/NBS; defined as “an impact evaluation framework to support planning and evaluation of nature-based solutions projects” . They highlight the importance of NBS in increasing green spaces, which not only increase carbon storage and sequestration in vegetation and soil but also improve the local or regional micro-climate through cooling, shading, and shelter [125, p. 19,20]. The European Commission has provided a preliminary list of possible NBS interventions for urban areas, depending on the pursued goal (e.g., protect and increase urban green spaces, plant green roofs and walls, use phytoremediation and phytostabilization, encourage the planting of appropriate plants and caterpillar food plants, etc.) [126, pp. 40–51].
The process of integrating GI and/or NBS are site specific, adjusting different related designs and plans to each local context, where municipalities plays an important role. As a practical example, the city of Vienna has had an ongoing large-scale green infrastructure strategy for more than two decades . It contributes to numerous national strategies (e.g., Biodiversity Strategy Austria, Netzwerk Natur, Natura 2000), is embedded in urban plans (e.g., the Urban Heat Island Strategy Plan, City Development Plan 2025), and covers existing, recovered, and new NBS such as small- to large-scale parks, trees, rivers and streams, green bridges, green roofs, green walls, and large-scale nature protection areas (e.g., Naturschutzgebiet Donauauen) .
Table 9 presents the author’s recommendations related to spatial planning for municipalities’ local CCM activities and links these activities to appropriate SDG targets.
Table 9 – Recommendations for local CCM related to the spatial planning domain.
|Spatial Planning-related Recommendations||SDG Targets|
|Spatial Planning Processes||A.1- Enable the local administration in integrating climate change mitigation perspectives into municipal spatial planning processes||11.3|
|A.2 - Integrate nature/ecosystem-based solutions into the spatial planning process||11.3 & 11.7|
|A.3 - Implement adequate spatial planning policies and instruments to support low-carbon fluxes in the municipality|
|Urban Form||B.1 - Increase density||11.3|
|B.2 - Increase land-use mix|
|B.3 - Increase connectivity|
|B.4 - Increase accessibility|
|Infrastructure||C - Prioritize Sustainable and Resilient Infrastructures while Minimizing Lifecycle GHG Emissions||9.1 & 9.4|
The spatial planning process and urban form can be linked to SDG 11 and targets 11.3 and 11.7. Doing so, the author acknowledges local administrations’ capacities for pursuing sustainable urbanization and therefore low-carbon-flux urbanization. The author also acknowledges that appropriate spatial planning policies and the NBS approach would lead to increased access to green public spaces, leading to sustainable urbanization.
The infrastructure recommendation is linked to SDG 9 and targets 9.1 and 9.4. The author also acknowledges that pursuing a reduction of related GHG emissions in municipal infrastructure is a way to enable their sustainability.
Potential Monitoring Indicators
Monitoring was highlighted as important for achieving SD and therefore CCM [36, Ch. 2]. In addressing the CCM challenge, efficiency and effectiveness are crucial and require measuring climate impacts and identifying priorities for reducing carbon. These come along with an appropriate planning and monitor-ing system . The UN suggests implementing a solid, efficient, inclusive, and transparent reporting and follow-up system at every level in order to better achieve climate- and sustainability-related goals [36, Ch. 2].
Regarding the local context, Boehnke et al. (2019) mentioned deficiencies in both data collection and action planning, which have led to inadequate practices . The IPCC has also noted that municipalities often highlight progress on the implementation of mitigation projects, but the impacts of these initiatives are not often evaluated [16, p. 974].
The monitoring process seems to not be a priority, especially at the local level. As claimed in the last Global Environmental Outlook of the United Nations Environmental Program, the current monitoring process is severely inadequate and significant improvement is needed to be more effective in the decision-making process and to increase the credibility of local actors [47, Ch. 6]. The UN has already prepared indicators for monitoring the SDGs’ implementation, with every goal and target having at least one associated indicator . Unfortunately, few of these indicators could be addressed to the subnational level , where it seems to be more complicated to find a single recipe that suits every local context. Despite the challenge of localizing, different organizations are committed to strengthening local capacity building and local monitoring processes. For example, UN-Habitat created the City Profiling Tool, which introduces different indicators for climate action in cities to facilitate city resilience assessments by local governments . Local Governments for Sustainability has developed the global protocol for community-scale greenhouse gas emission inventories (GPC), which follows the guidelines of the IPCC and aims to support the implementation of local emissions’ inventories . The Covenant of Mayors also created general guidelines for municipalities to prepare a Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plan (SECAP), which includes in general terms how to develop the monitoring aspects associated with the designed plan . In their guidelines called “How to develop a Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plan,” the Covenant of Mayors indicates that municipalities should identify data and indicators to monitor progress and results of each action undertaken [52, p. 56].
With all this available information, some municipalities have begun integrating climate action and the SDGs into their local agendas, including monitoring processes. This is the case of the Cascais municipality in Portugal. They have started to localize the SDGs by trying to integrate indicators for each goal, including climate action . Unfortunately, as they affirm, their local adaptation of the SDGs into the municipal agenda is just an experimental process where the indicators, good practices, and the index used are indicative and do not accurately represent the reality of the municipality .
There is no concrete guidance to follow from municipalities with respect to SD monitoring within their territories. With this in mind, research projects were initiated in Portugal to facilitate this process. For example, the Center of Opinion and Polling Studies (CESOP) of the Catholic University in Lisbon, Portugal started developing indices to assess local sustainability in 2018 . They are trying to adapt global SDG indicators to the local level by localizing the data that is already available at the Portuguese National Statistical Institute (INE) and PORDATA and by proposing new indicators when relevant data is unprocessed . Another example of a local monitoring initiative is ODSLocal, an online tool that allows for the monitoring, visualization, and communication of municipal progress towards implementing the SDGs . This website, developed by 2adapt, was launched on November 12th, 2020 .
- (59, p. 46)
- (59, p. 46)
- 16, Ch. 5
- Matias Mesa Garcia, 2020. Local Science-based Recommendations and Monitoring for Climate Change Mitigation in the Context of the Sustainable Development Goals - European Municipal Perspectives and Key Indicators. Master thesis. Faculty of Science, University of Lisbon. 248 pp