Though the threat of climate change has been looming for decades, the reality that it does, in fact, represent an existential crisis did not hit home for most people until quite recently. Just in the last few years, huge temperature swings, extreme weather events, large-scale flooding, and wildfires are disrupting the lives and livelihoods of people around the world in terrifying ways.
This past summer, the UN once again sounded the alarm about the immediate imperative to take action to reduce the emission of heat trapping gases, with the Secretary General calling the report a “code red for humanity.” While it is now too late to reverse climate change, governments can still slow its pace and work to avoid increasingly more devastating consequences.
Countries around the world are revising their climate action plans in light of frightening new data, tightening their emission goals and reinvigorating their energy greening and efficiency programs. Most have set a target of either 80% reduction or net zero carbon emissions by 2050, but, still, most are not on track to meet those goals, as their governments struggle with economic realities and lack of momentum.
Fortunately, cities everywhere are also taking up the challenge, often surpassing their national leadership in planning and innovation. While they are usually burdened with energy systems and policies under the control of their country’s leadership, with limited opportunity to change course, many cities have taken citywide and community based measures to lower emissions, often pairing these efforts with economic and social goals.
Because humanity has been slow to address climate with the urgency it requires, it is difficult to know how well currently revised plans and good intentions will play out. The best and most grounded national and municipal plans provide for close monitoring and plan revisions, however, allowing for the measuring of progress and the kind of reality check crucial to actual success.
To identify the cities with the worst CO2 emissions in the world, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed Nangini, C et al. (2019): “A global dataset of CO2 emissions and ancillary data related to emissions for 343 cities,” published in 2017 and available through data publisher Pangaea. Emissions data were collected in each of the cities on this list between the years of 2011 and 2017, in each case the most recent year for which CO2 emissions data is available.
Emissions figures from transport, industrial, waste, and local power plants within city boundaries, as well as emissions (when available) from grid-supplied energy used by cities and produced by power plants outside city boundaries, were also obtained from the study.