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Equitable transformation in cities needed

Urbanization in India will be dominated by two factors, viz., population and infrastructure growth. Though the rate urbanisation was snail-paced initially, it has started accelerating and indications show that it may become rapid soon which will have significant impact on emissions and the mitigation action in our cities, especially the large and fast growing cities. Urban areas concentrate GHG fluxes because of the size of the urban population, the size and nature of the urban economy, the energy and GHGs embodied in the infrastructure, and the goods and services imported and exported to and from many of these cities.

In cities, carbon cycles through natural and managed pools. The accumulation of carbon in urban pools, such as buildings or landfills, results from the local or global transfer of carbon-containing energy and raw materials used in the city.

Currently, urban areas are a net source of carbon because they emit more carbon than they uptake. Thus, urban mitigation strategies require a twofold strategy: reducing urban emissions of carbon into the atmosphere, and enhancing uptake of carbon in urban pools.

It’s also true that a number of local bodies in our country lack institutional, financial and technical capacities to enable local climate change action which may further aggravate the situation. While these capacities differ from city to city, several governance challenges are similar across cities. These factors also influence the ability of cities to innovate and effectively implement mitigation action.

Further, large-scale system transformations are also deeply influenced by factors outside governance and institutions such as private interests and power dynamics. In some cases, these private interests are tied up with international flows of capital. Adaptation plans involving networks of private actors and related mitigation actions may result in the dominance of private interests. This may lead to trade-offs and adverse impacts on the poor.

When planning and implementing low-carbon transitions, it is important to consider the socio-economic context which we often ignore. An inclusive approach emphasizes the need to engage non-state actors, including businesses, research organizations, non-profit organizations and citizens as has been experienced in some countries like China and Malaysia. For example, an active research and government collaboration through multiple stakeholder interactions in a large economic corridor in Malaysia led to the development and implementation of a low-carbon blueprint for the region. Many cities in our country lack adequate urban infrastructure and housing. An equitable transformation in these cities entails prioritizing energy access and basic services including safe drinking water and sanitation, to meet basic needs of our populations.

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