As temperatures become warmer and tropical storms strengthen around the world, global leaders are being forced to adapt to climate change in real time.

And while it can be difficult to get countries to commit to national-level climate policies, cities are generally more capable of taking action. All around the world, city officials have taken it upon themselves to create and develop sustainable eco-friendly infrastructures and systems to reduce carbon footprints.

Here are 5 major cities across the world that are making a difference with green growth and sustainable development.


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City leaders set a goal to become the first carbon neutral city in the world by 2025, and so far, Copenhagen is on the right track. The city has reduced carbon emissions by 50% since 1995. When it comes to sustainable mobility, Danes walk on foot or ride bicycles, which has cut emissions and resulted in healthier lifestyles for the population.

According to the CPH Climate Plan 2025, created by the council to reduce carbon emission, Copenhagen’s “bicycle superhighway” connects outer districts and suburbs to the city center via special bike lanes. It opened in 2013 with 26 more set to be developed over the coming years.

The city is also planning to create efficient carbon neutral heating and cooling systems, and generate its electricity from renewable sources.  


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Over the next three years, the city that never sleeps will implement single-stream recycling, so residents won’t have to sort recyclables from regular trash, more bike lanes, and more efficient amenities within buildings, including boilers, water heaters, green roofs, and heaters to restrict greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, according to the Metro News.

According to a report from the office of Mayor Bill de Blasio, fossil fuels burned for heat and hot water in New York's buildings account for 42% of the city’s overall greenhouse gas emissions and the city is aiming to adapt buildings to be more green. The efficiency initiative will create jobs and cleaner air and reduce carbon pollution, helping the city reach its goal of reducing GHG emission by at least 80% by 2050 (80x50 plan).


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In their “Growth and Transformation Plan,” the Ethiopian government has been developing hydropower projects and wind turbine farms to deliver most of the country’s electricity needs. The largest wind farm in Northern Ethiopia was inaugurated in 2013, and the country currently has plans to build at least five more wind farms.

Addis Ababa also plans to convert 40% of its land to green space to provide shade and cooling to reduce the urban-heat-island effect, which occurs when materials like concrete and asphalt cause environments to heat up. In addition to becoming green, the mayor of Addis Ababa has proposed a tree-planting project of three million trees, along with a nature reserve that features every tree and plant native to Ethiopia. 


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In 2009, the Sao Paulo city council unanimously approved a law establishing the Municipal Policy for Climate Change, making it the first city in Brazil to pass such legislation. Trash has long been a problem in the city, but new thermoelectric power plants capture and burn biogases emitted from decaying wastes in landfill. This allows Sao Paulo to reduce methane emissions and produce clean energy at the same time.

Sao Paulo aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by focusing on transportation, renewable energy, energy efficiency, waste management, and construction. For example, the city has started a bicycle sharing program to counter traffic congestion caused by cars. Improvements have been made to cycling infrastructure with new bike lanes. In 2014, Sao Paulo became the second city to win the Sustainable Transport Award.


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To reduce dangerous air pollution in the city, London’s mayor Sadiq Khan is enforcing the “Congestion Charge Zone,” which goes into effect later this month. Older cars will be charged a fee to drive in central London, while electric vehicles will be allowed to travel for free in the zone.

The Guardian also reported that the mayor will unveil plans to limit the use of wood burning stoves by 2025, and ensure all new stoves are clean.


Defend the Planet

5 Cities Leading the World in Sustainability

By Carlotta Mohamed