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Using the Earth Hour City Challenge to identify high leverage points for footprint reduction in cities

A publication led by Luc Hoffmann Institute fellow Fouad Khan presents the development of a framework for identifying high leverage points for footprint reduction using Earth Hour City Challenge data.

Cities shelter half of the human population and are one of the most important forms of administrative governance; and while many of them face pressing challenges posed by their inevitable expansion and development, they also harbour the potential to act as catalysts to drive societies worldwide towards a more sustainable future.

The Luc Hoffmann Institute project Leverage Points for Low Footprint Solutions in Cities seeks to advance the systemic understanding about cities urbanisation processes, and incentivise their potential to design, develop, implement and replicate sustainable development practices.

The research team recently published the project’s research methodology and plans in the Journal of Cleaner Production.

Envisioning sustainable urban futures is key

This project is built upon cities’ carbon reduction commitments, actions, strategies and investments data, collected by the WWF Earth Hour City Challenge (EHCC) and distributed through the carbonn Climate Registry.

A thorough assessment of cities’ urban visions, implemented strategies and impacts will allow the identification of urban sustainable scenarios (involving renewable energy, food and water flows) for different types of cities. At the same time, a second classification will be developed according to cities’ available natural, social and economic capital.

These two pieces of information will then enable the delineation of transition pathways for key urban typologies – especially fast growing cities – and the development of a framework to promote changes in different types of cities and different urban objectives.

The focus on cities is of paramount importance to produce changes at the scale needed. In Khan’s words:

Unless we figure out a way to imagine urban living with significantly lower footprint, the climate change and associated problems will only worsen.

Research findings will help inform policy decisions

Researchers hope that this analysis will result in the identification of “soft” drivers of change that could generate transformative footprint reductions while delivering co-benefits for human development and quality of life.

Likewise, this research is aimed at informing policy and decision-making to adopt high leverage actions, and the development of a decision support system to help cities select ideal indicator systems according to their particular context.

This Luc Hoffmann Institute project is developed in partnership with WWF-Sweden, WWF Earth Hour City Challenge (EHCC) and IIIEE/Lund University, among other collaborators.

Khan, F., Borgstrom-Hansson, C., Using the Earth Hour City Challenge to identify high leverage points for footprint reduction in cities, Journal of Cleaner Production (2015), https://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2015.06.128

Main image: Night-time view of a street lights in Shanghai city, China. © Brent Stirton / Getty Images / WWF-UK

Luc Hoffmann InstituteUsing the Earth Hour City Challenge to identify high leverage points for footprint reduction in cities