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Outcomes of the Global Carbon Project's First International Conference on Carbon Management at Urban and Regional Levels

Shobhakar Dhakal

Pathways of regional development are sequences of interlinked transformations in socioeconomic processes and institutional settings. Regional changes over time have diverse impacts, including consequences for carbon stocks and fluxes that constrain feasible development options. Cities are complex drivers of both regional development pathways and carbon emissions. On the one hand cities are centers of key activities (e.g. transportation) driving changes in the carbon cycle and the climate system. They also have an ecological footprint extending to distant and more remote places, arising from their demands for energy and material goods. On the other hand, cities are centers of cultural opportunities and changing lifestyles that can induce transformations in consumption behavior and technological development. One of the societal challenges posed by human-induced climate change is to find ways of reducing carbon emissions through changes in consumption and technology.

In order to address this important topic, the Global Carbon Project (GCP) launched a flagship activity, Urban and Regional Carbon Management (URCM), in late 2005. In line with this activity, GCP organized an international conference entitled “Carbon Management at Urban and Regional Levels – Connecting Development Decisions with Global Issues” in Mexico City from September 4 to 8, 2006, and it was deemed an overwhelming success. It was hosted by Metropolitan Autonomous University (UAM) in Mexico City. The conference aimed to: develop comprehensive analysis of city/regional net emissions trajectories and their underlying drivers; explore possible management strategies (points of intervention) and best timing for implementation (windows of opportunity) to foster the development of less carbon intense ("decarbonized") pathways of regional/urban development; bring UCRM activities to the attention of carbon communities; and attract participants in these communities to the UCRM agenda. To accomplish this, the conference was divided into four themes: (1) Measurement and observations of urban and regional emissions trajectories; (2) Patterns, variability and modeling at multiple scales; (3) Influence and development processes on carbon emissions; and (4) Mitigation opportunities, constraints and challenges at multiple scales.

The quality of the presentations given at the conference was quite high and met our expectations. The abstracts and presentations are available on the conference website (http://www.gcp-urcm.org). More importantly, we were successful in forming a community that can work together to develop URCM further. Our success in this conference will help us to play a leadership role in this endeavor to drive the URCM agenda. The conference received coverage from two Japanese newspapers and also some Mexican media.

At the final session of the conference, the Global Carbon Project was given the mandate to develop the URCM initiative further. As urban-related carbon issues gain momentum in scientific and policy communities, we hope to contribute particularly at the interface of science and policy in a meaningful way to support carbon management at urban and regional levels. We have already come across a number of initiatives at urban and regional scales that are indicating how policy and science need to work together.

The Mexico City conference has outlined the following road-map to be pursued by the URCM scientific community over the next three to four years.

  • Initiating special issues in a journal
  • Fast-tracking science papers from the conference
  • Carrying out policy relevant scientific syntheses on existing knowledge of URCM
  • Developing a number of key research activities, such as:
    • Developing a comprehensive protocol or framework for URCM case studies
    • Comparing carbon emissions/sinks across cities and providing future scenarios
    • Identifying the drivers for carbon emissions/sinks and the various combinations that shape different carbon trajectories
    • Identifying opportunities for and barriers to making carbon concerns a priority for cities
    • Clarifying the role of institutions and multi-level governance for sound URCM
  • Developing an information repository on URCM
  • Developing and maintaining URCM’s scientific community through events and networking and organizing one more conference in approximately 3 years
  • Enhancing the communication between science and policy communities through dialogue

The GCP-URCM initiative will play a catalyzing role in this endeavor and will provide overall coordination. The Global Carbon Project hopes to gather your support while, at the same time, provide you with the greatest possible assistance in attaining our collective goals. We need your suggestions and guidance to develop URCM to its fullest potential. Please feel free to contact us for further information.

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