21 Feb, 2017

How can cities reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

New paper from the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance examines the successes and stumbling blocks of three major cities in trying to meet greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.

Toronto, February 22, 2017 – In Canada, city governments have some control over 44 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Every year, more cities commit to reducing their GHG emissions, and set increasingly ambitious targets. The necessary changes, however, can be challenging to make, and success requires significant modifications to urban institutions, infrastructure, and behaviour patterns. How can city governments achieve these targets?

In the IMFG Perspectives Paper (No. 16), Reducing Urban Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Effective Steering Strategies for City Governments, Sara Hughes reviews the unique strategies of three cities leading the charge: Toronto, New York City, and Los Angeles. The paper identifies three strategies that have proven effective:

  • Building and maintaining a broad-based coalition of governmental and non-governmental actors working toward a common goal;
  • Investing in capacity-building, data collection, and education; and
  • Embedding new ideas, financial tools, and standards into local formal and informal decision-making institutions.

“Cities are critical climate change actors, and will be for the foreseeable future,” says Hughes. “Given the jurisdictional and financial constraints local governments face, their climate change goals will demand creative partnerships, new tools and systems, and innovative institutional cultures.”

This paper is part of a series of IMFG publications and events focusing on cities and climate change.

Read the paper


Sara Hughes is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto. Her teaching and research focus on urban governance and environmental politics and policymaking. Current projects examine the implementation of climate change policy in large cities, transitions in urban waste management, the determinants of policy attention in local governments, and urban vulnerability and environmental justice.

About the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance (IMFG)

The Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance is a research hub and think tank that focuses on the fiscal and governance challenges facing large cities and city-regions. It is located within the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs.

For more information, please contact:
Selena Zhang | Manager, Programs and Research
Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto