Megacities and Mega Emissions

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This past Tuesday, National Geographic released an in depth case study on Dubai’s work to become the most sustainable city in the world. Considering the cities’ culture of excess – an indoor ski slope is just where it starts – many have cast doubts over this goal.

This week’s map looks at Dubai and a few other cities, and what their emissions look like – both in individual and total terms. The cities included are part of the C40 – “a network of megacities” – in some way or another, and we compare their current emissions and some of their plans for the future. The graphic tries to answer the question, “How attainable is Dubai’s goal?”

The cities included are varied; from relatively small Oslo – a beacon of sustainability – to Tokyo’s massive reach and huge emissions. Industrial cities like Beijing and fashionable ones like Milan all make the list, in hopes to give Dubai some sort of context. Where does it stand, and where does it need to go to be among the most sustainable cities in the world? Context on urban areas as a whole is also included. That 2% of the world’s land area, and nearly 54% of its population are responsible for almost 70% of global emissions is troubling, and Dubai is one of many starting to work towards a more sustainable future.

Dubai’s own government sponsored think-tank – Dubai Carbon – offers an in-depth and clear picture of where the city is. At over 24 metric tons of carbon dioxide per capita, the city is far behind any of its contemporaries. There is hope, however. As Robin Mills, a Dubai-based energy consultant explains to National Geographic, “‘The solar potential is so great here,’ Mills says. ‘Millions of acres of empty desert, and plenty of roof space.'” Mills explains how Dubai is also pushing for greener and more sustainable building – far from the boom of opulent skyscrapers in the mid-2000’s.

Dubai is not alone in its goal to bring down emissions – nor should it be. Industrial cities like Beijing and massive metropolitan areas such as Tokyo are releasing massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. Per capita, cities like London and Madrid are also pushing for more sustainable policies.  Across the C40, which includes 90 cities total, metropolitan governments across the world are trying to address the issue of urban emissions.
Oslo, Norway is one of the smaller cities on the map, with a reported population of around 660,000 (C40). It is one of the more aggressive cities in tackling the issue of rising urban emissions however. With a plan to cut its emissions in half by 2020, and reduce them another 90% by 2030, it is a model city for those looking at sustainable urban models.
All things considered, it is clear cities around the globe must start focusing on their emissions. There is hope in some of the cities approaching this issue more aggressively, and that one of the worst offenders is beginning to address the issue directly.
This week’s map was made with ESRI ArcMap and Adobe Illustrator.
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