An Urban Institute academic is to lead a major new research project which will analyse actions taken by smaller cities around the world to combat climate change.

The population of the world is expected to reach 9.8 billion in 2050. Most of this population growth will happen in small and medium-sized cities. Due to this rapid urbanisation, the majority of emissions in the next century will be emitted by infrastructures that are yet to be built.

Research on climate action often highlights initiatives in major cities, but lowering carbon emissions will depend on actions carried out in smaller, ordinary cities that currently sit outside the global networks of climate innovation.

“Attaining low carbon cities depends precisely on ordinary actions, the kind of small shifts in everyday life whereby citizens themselves become the agents of change.” Vanesa Castán Broto

The five-year Low Carbon Action in Ordinary Cities (LO-ACT) project, led by Professor Vanesa Castán Broto, is the first large-scale study of low carbon actions in smaller cities in Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia and is funded by a €1.4m starting grant from the European Research Council.

Her research team will analyse local actions resulting from changes in global environmental politics over the past 30 years, examine climate innovation in context, and help produce the means to bridge the gap between global concerns and local possibilities for action.

Professor Castan Broto said: “The majority of urban growth in the next decades will take place in cities under 1 million inhabitants in areas of Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia. These kind of cities never feature in scholarly work on climate change governance.

“Moreover, urbanisation takes place in subserviced areas and it is associated with a rise in inequality. Low carbon action in these cities must address the infrastructure deficits in informal settlements and deliver alternative models of urbanism that address the needs of the urban poor.

“Attaining low carbon cities depends precisely on ordinary actions, the kind of small shifts in everyday life whereby citizens themselves become the agents of change. These ‘ordinary contexts of action’ are crucial to deliver the kind of large-scale, transformative innovation that is needed to build low carbon cities.”