Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb is in Johannesburg attending the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group Mayors’ Summit. This follows the organisation’s São Paulo summit in 2011. The theme is to make cities able to withstand natural disasters and climate influences.
The C40 started in late 2005 when former London mayor Ken Livingstone gathered together representatives from 18 of the world’s megacities, in order to determine ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
According to Mr Aboutaleb, preventing flooding and greenhouse gases are the most important challenges facing cities globally, South Africa included. “Cities have to take action,” he says.
Rotterdam’s port is a main artery in the global oil and gas trade, mainly from Russia and the Middle East.
It is also home to numerous industries and manufacturing value chains, including oil refining, and heavily relies on innovation to keep abreast of global competition.
Carbon emissions expected to increase
Mr Aboutaleb says it is expected that global carbon emissions will increase hugely to 2050 with the greater use of fossil fuels, especially coal, in countries with high-density populations and fast-growing economies. These range from Vietnam to Indonesia and China, Turkey and in Latin America.
This requires cities to invest in the capture, storage and reuse of carbon dioxide as energy, which in future could see oil and gas refineries, among other industries, being powered by their own by-products.
“That is one of the themes to be discussed at this C40 meeting,” Mr Aboutaleb says.
C40 programmes aim to increase energy efficiency through building retrofits; the provision of clean energy technologies at government, business and homeowner levels; and to reverse deforestation by preserving and regrowing forests.
Soon 80% will be in cities
“We have no choice — we are moving towards 80% of the world’s population living in cities,” Mr Aboutaleb says.
He also says ports should be run by private enterprise with the blessings and facilitation of governments. If governments run ports, politics will be involved in decision-making, so they should be run only as trading entities, he says.
“The role of government is to create a set of rules for these commercial parties.”
Mr Aboutaleb says this means port operations should be governed by market dynamics, including the innovation that is required to mitigate the effects of global climate change.
“A company can put its refinery in Rotterdam, but also Singapore,” Mr Aboutaleb says.
A global standard for emission measurement
C40 members have formulated a global standard for measuring greenhouse gas emission, to enable cities to invest in the implementation of the most needed climate change actions over time.
Research in this area indicates that more than one-third of worldwide energy is consumed in buildings, accounting for more than 15% of global carbon emissions. But in large cities, building energy use can account for up to 80% of carbon emissions.
The built environment is therefore seen as a critical part of the climate change problem — and is also a solution — which has great relevance to both South Africa’s and sub-Saharan Africa’s substantial infrastructure programmes.
Along with luminaries such as former mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg, who led the C40 organisation from 2010 to last year, and is in Johannesburg as newly appointed UN envoy for cities and climate change, the Clinton Climate Initiative for cities programme works in partnership with the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group.
Prioritising climate adaptation measures
This initiative by former US president Bill Clinton provides cities with the tools they require to prioritise climate adaptation measures and mitigate local climate risks.
As the capacity of shipping continues to increase, vessels carrying up to 19,000 containers, and other mega-ships specially fitted for oil and gas and dry bulk and break-bulk supply, are slowly switching from oil to liquid natural gas power plants.
Mr Aboutaleb says this will reduce shipping pollution by 80%. Such leviathans only go to ports where they can be easily handled. This requires a constant upgrading of systems and technology, with increasing collaboration among the great ports across the world.
“In Rotterdam we have deep waters and the technology to handle that,” Mr Aboutaleb says. “Cleaner vessels will pay less.”
By Mark Allix. Source: Business Day
Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg at Bloomberg’s Africa Outlook Conference in Johannesburg on Monday. Picture: Russell Roberts