COVID-19 is a devastating public health crisis that is wreaking human, social, and economic havoc. Paradoxically, the environment is flourishing, as greenhouse gases (GHGs), like CO2, have fallen. Canada participates in the United Nations Paris Agreement, a commitment to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Unfortunately, most countries, including Canada, are falling short of their goals — that is, until Covid-19. Global emissions for the first quarter of 2020 were down by 17% in early April 2020, with an 8% decline predicted for the year. Cities are a major source of emissions accounting for 75% of global CO2 emissions. To meet its long-term emission goals, we could press forward with lessons learnt from the pandemic. Emissions will rebound as life gets back to normal. But should we go back to normal, or take a different path? Less travel, less consumption, spending in community, promoting local business, working from home, etc. led to significant gains in reducing emissions. Many cities are already using renewable energy sources and employing techniques like smart technology to enhance performance and quality of life. Cutting emissions further reduces local pollution, improving urban air quality and health. Building urban resilience becomes crucial to avoid human, social, and economic losses that threaten urban sustainability. In this presentation, we will review best practices for urban emissions management and smart growth that emerged due to the pandemic. We then recommend ways Canadian cities can rethink strategies to lower emissions while enhancing sustainability, resilience, and quality of life.
Anshuman Khare, Athabasca University, Canada
Patricia MacNeil, Dalhousie University, Canada
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