Thematic axes Global Challenges

"We must put an end to C02 emissions before 2050"

Diana Reckien


"Cities can lead the fight against climate change. If we all go together, we can mitigate its effects, nobody will get anything on their own." This was one of the conclusions of the conference that Diana Reckien, an expert in urban planning and a doctor at the University of Twente (Holland), made on June 13 in the "Let's face climate change" cycle of the organized Re-City platform by the Catalunya Europa Foundation with the collaboration of BBVA and the support of the Barcelona City Council, the Barcelona Metropolitan Area and the Generalitat de Catalunya.

With the title "Urban challenges for climate change", the conference was held in the auditorium of the Antoni Tapies Foundation and was moderated by Lorenzo Chelleri, scientific advisor of Re-City and research professor at the International University of Catalonia-UIC Barcelona.

Diana Reckien is a professor at the University of Twente and is one of the main coordinators of the new report prepared by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). A report where, for the first time, in addition to recounting the impact of the climate emergency on the planet, it will have the mission of disseminating the options and actions that we can carry out to mitigate and adapt to the biggest planetary crisis in recent climate history. from the earth.

We have good plans but we must implement them.

"If we do not act, the cities will suffer the main consequences of extreme phenomena, such as heavy rains, floods, droughts or heat waves, with an impact on both the economic and social sectors. The lack of water will be another problem, especially in the Mediterranean region. " Says Diana Reckien, who leads a group of European researchers to assess how cities in the 28 EU countries prepare for this climatic emergency. For years, they have analyzed the climate plans of the cities to see if the measures they pose will be sufficient to comply with the Paris Accords of 2015 and with the latest IPPC report that limits the temperature increase of 1.5 ° C. planet.

According to Reckien, to achieve these objectives we should reduce CO2 emissions by 45% before 2030 and reach zero emissions by 2050. "Today we have enough technology to do so and, even, we can remove the existing C02 in the atmosphere , by means of a technique of encapsulation of the polluting gases ", explained the expert while regretting that the governments have not worried until now for the sustainability of the planet, when for more than 40 years we were aware of the problem. However, he warns that the Paris Accords are not enough: "even if governments complied with all of them, we could only limit global warming at 3 ° C, far from the recommendations of the UN experts. It is clear that We can only get it if we cooperate with each other, nobody will get anything on their own and, therefore, cities can play a very important role. We have to act and move on to the phase of implementing measures. "

There is a gap between the cities of southern and northern Europe.

The study led by Reckien began in 2013 with 200 cities and 2016 was extended to 885, of which more than half have mitigation plans and 26% adaptation plans, but a third of European Union cities have not yet They have no plan. In three years, the number of cities that have endowed with climate plans has grown, especially in countries like Spain or Italy, but there is still a significant gap between southern and northern Europe, where countries such as the United Kingdom, Denmark or Slovakia have been pioneers in these types of plans. One of the countries with more tradition is the United Kingdom that created its first climate plan ten years ago and usually renews its local plans every two years. In addition, the United Kingdom is one of the few European countries that has a state-level law that requires municipalities to create their own local mitigation or adaptation plans to deal with climate change. Franca, Germany or the Netherlands also have laws of this kind that also serve to make citizens increasingly aware of the problem.

Within the different types of plans, most focus on specific objectives such as reducing the emission of polluting gases. But there are also sectoral plans (for example, focused on sectors such as transport or technology) and generalist ones, designed from a broader or transversal point of view (supramunicipal or European plans to face more global challenges such as lack of water, pollution, sustainability, etc.).

To move further, short-term goals.

However, Reckien believes that the more concrete the plans, the better, since there is often a tendency to develop overly generalist plans with little concrete objectives that are not met. So important is to have climate plans, Reckien recalls, as the ability to implement them, follow up, and review them based on the outcome of their measures. "We must set specific objectives in the short term, in order to move further," recommends this expert.

Another of the worrying conclusions of the study is the direct relationship between the GDP of cities and the existence of climate plans. Often cities with higher rates of poverty or unemployment do not perceive the climate emergency as an urgent or serious problem and therefore do not have their own plans. Something more common among the cities of southern Europe. A situation that, Reckien, considers that we must revert with networks of mutual aid, partnerships or state laws that allow the exchange of experiences and resources between cities to fight together against climate change. "All cities must have their own plans, not only the largest or the ones with the most financial or institutional capacity," says the expert who, precisely, sees climate change as a possibility of developing new economic activities and job opportunities.

Another paradigmatic fact is the lack of plans among coastal cities, perhaps because, according to the professor, historically they are areas that have experienced many climatic changes and the belief that this time can also overcome the problems arising from the emergency Current weather. But they are cities that, if they do nothing, are very exposed to sea level rise and possible flooding.

The most vulnerable groups and the example of Barcelona.

In his conference he also warned that some of the plans do not take into account the most vulnerable groups such as the elderly or less resources, children, the sick or migrants, who may suffer more from the consequences of drought, heat or pollution . Given this, the urban planning expert recommends that the plans also affect the problems of social inequality and are made with the maximum possible citizen participation, in order to also integrate these most unprotected groups.

"The participation and design of the bottom-up plans is always better, but sometimes you have to impose some regulations or make unpopular decisions," said Reckien, who used the proliferation of cars, motorcycles, bicycles or shared scooters as an example. A phenomenon that considers that it does not help to reduce private traffic, since the users of these shared vehicles are usually users of public transport, and not the drivers of private vehicles. To reduce the circulation of cars, there is a regulation to restrict individual traffic and encourage collective transport.

Finally, Reckien gave as an example, the Climate Plan of the Barcelona City Council that he described as "ambitious and very promising", among other things, for the promotion of green environments in the city with a strategy of planting trees and new green areas that They favor sustainability and help reduce heat and pollution. In addition, he said, it is a way to reduce the risk of flooding so that the land can better retain water.

"Our world will be a better place if we all contribute to the best of our ability," Reckien said after encouraging attendees to participate and put pressure to demand political changes, since "we play too much and we must endow ourselves with serious climate plans, dynamic and ambitious. "