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City dwellers more environmentally friendly than country folk

by Alan Harten
March 24, 2009

A new report by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) in London reveals that inhabitants of cities make smaller carbon footprints than the average for their country.

The report studied 11 big cities around the world, including Tokyo, London, Rio de Janeiro and New York.

It discovered that in 2004, emissions of greenhouse gas by a Londoner equalled 6.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide, against an average of 11.19 tonnes for the UK.

Yorkshire and Humberside and the country areas of northeast of England, had the largest footprints per head.

In the US, the citizens of New York City made footprints of 7.1 tonnes each, lower than 33 percent of the 23.92 tonnes national average.

Washington, DC, is the most environmentally hostile city with 19.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide per head, making each resident’s carbon footprint almost three times that of comparable cities in rich countries.

The report accuses the city’s quantity of office space of creating this.

Nonetheless, DC inhabitants only emit 82.4% of the country average.

This holds true for other wealthy cities. Barcelona and Toronto emit only 33 percent of their country’s average.

The emissions of Tokyo, Seoul and London emit half of their national level.

David Dodman, author of the IEDD report, said that Tokyo emits much less per person than Shanghai or Beijing which demonstrates that affluence does not always mean more emissions.

Cities properly designed and properly administered can mix a good standard of living with lower emissions.

In the past, Dodman said, environmental damage and pollution has been blamed on big cities and it is true that they consume a lot of energy.

But, he added, a lot of emissions come from the countryside, and methane is a more harmful gas than carbon dioxide by a long way.

Dodman maintains that where a city has a large and close population, public transport is used more frequently, but in rural regions the residents mostly use cars.

Appartment blocks need less fuel to heat than a house alone.

The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, of the UK, published a study today urging greater spending on city trees and parks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide employment opportunities.

The US Brookings Institute last summer reported that city dwelling is greener than rural living, pointing out that people in US cities made footprints 14 percent lower than the national average.

The city with the smallest footprint is São Paulo in Brazil at 1.5 tonnes.

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1 Comment
  1. For the UK this would’ne suprise me one bit, public transport is a joke and not owning a vehicle of your own seriously effects your job prospects. I travel 30 miles in a round trip each day just to go to work, if i want to visit the cinema/bowling or other such things i have to travel 60 miles. If these things where on my doorstep then i would not have to travel and therefore reduce the ammount of carbon produced. Think first…..

    Comment by mathew evans — March 24, 2009 @ 3:56 pm

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