Expert Voices: Antonis Mavropoulos, President of ISWA, on the importance of C40's Deadline 2020 research

By Antonis Mavropoulos, President of ISWA (International Solid Waste Association)

This article originally appeared on the blog Wasteless Future.

At the end of 2016, just a few days before Donald Trump named Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general and a close ally of the fossil fuel industry, as his choice to run the Environmental Protection Agency, C40, a network of the world’s megacities committed to addressing climate change, released its new report Deadline 2020.

The report outlines what is needed from cities to help achieve the aims of the Paris Agreement, through 2020 and beyond. The overriding and deeply significant finding of the work is that the next four years are particularly crucial and will determine whether or not the world’s megacities can deliver their part.

Without action by cities, the Paris Agreement cannot realistically be delivered. The report finds that the business-as-usual path of C40 cities’ emissions needs to ‘bend’ from an increase of 35% by 2020, to peak at only a further 5% higher than current emissions. This “bending of the curve” is required now to ensure that in the coming decades the necessary reductions remain feasible, given that actions can take many years to mature and reach full scale. To remain within a 1.5 degree warming scenario, average per capita emissions across C40 cities need to drop from over 5 tCO2e per capita today to around 2.9 tCO2e per capita by 2030.

If the action pathway outlined in this document is pioneered by C40 cities, and then adopted by cities globally, action within urban areas would deliver around 40% of the savings needed to achieve the ambition of the Paris Agreement. Cities are therefore critical to delivering a climate safe future.

The report’s key message is simple and powerful. Climate change is the biggest challenge ever faced by humanity. But humanity is more capable than ever to face it, as long as it understands the urgency and acts according to specific, and very tight, deadlines. I strongly suggest my readers to go through the report, as I believe it is a very important document for all those involved in climate change policies.

In addition, I was really happy to see that waste management is considered one of the five key paths towards substantial reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The most important aspect is that improvements in waste management and the shift towards the circular economy are considered some of the most “low hanging fruits”, compared with other activities (like changing the CO2 footprint of buildings) that will require decades to be prepared and implemented.