Growing without sprawl: some solutions for a city targeting the IPCC goals?

The author is part of the Local Journalism Initiative

The local and global housing crisis calls for a rethinking of the system that guides the construction of our lifestyles

One of the main conclusions of the IPCC report is that the city is one of the main emitters of greenhouse gases: “Cities and other urban areas are responsible for more than two-thirds of global emissions, if you take into account what is produced in the city and what is imported from elsewhere. And the potential for reducing these emissions is huge. » (IPCC Report, 2022, p. 17).

Already mentioned in one of our articles on the destination of the city, one of the first phenomena that should come to light is the decoration of places of consumption and places of production. This creates a lot of indirect emissions related to vehicular traffic. And the Pointe-au-Père project continues this way of imagining our urban spaces only with the distribution of activities (production, consumption, living, work, leisure, etc.). Having a small grocery store nearby won’t change anything. Traffic related to urban planning is then a symptomatic problem; and fortunately, the IPCC report suggests solutions (which should have been studied by the city…).

Local authorities can operate in two sectors: the building and construction sector and the transport and mobility sector. Focusing on these two sectors would reduce direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions by more than a third, as buildings and construction account for 16% (adding indirect emissions related to energy consumption) and the transport sector for 15%.

So thinking about how to develop our territories means dealing with a third of global emissions.

Transport and urban planning

The solutions proposed by the IPCC for the urban transport sector are actually very well known. First of all, 10% of the 15% of emissions are related to the use of motor vehicles. Therefore, reducing dependence on cars and motorized vehicles through various solutions should be considered (avoiding flying is obvious in this context!).

In order to get rid of the car, the transition to soft modes of transport such as walking and cycling, while the general use of public transport becomes the main solution. However, the IPCC notes that the electrification of vehicles has a rebound effect associated with the creation of batteries and electricity generation.

There are other solutions to reduce traffic, such as reducing the need to travel and therefore demand, which the Pointe-au-Père project did not do at all.

Thus, cities have a real role in attracting investors. They can initiate and support the transition to these new modes of transport. For example, for bike paths, they should not wait for the expressed need of cyclists to start building the paths. Instead, cities must anticipate these demands by immediately creating ambitious infrastructures that allow the vast majority of people to use these new means of transportation in a completely safe and legal manner. Therefore, accessibility for people with disabilities is important. We find this process to make the city pedestrian-friendly, by building sidewalks that are wide enough and placed on each side of the road to make walking more pleasant or at least safer. While in Quebec, winters tend to be harsher when you’re on foot, requiring a rethinking of pedestrian preference over cars.

Thus, the report recommends compact, walkable cities with quality public spaces for pedestrians and bicycles. In short, nothing new and nothing yet. Compact and walkable urban forms are associated with lower greenhouse gas emissions and co-location of places to live and work.

Other solutions are possible to increase the carbon storage capacity of the city, such as green roofs, planting urban forests instead of huge parking spaces, debiting waterways.

It is also important to consider that achieving these reductions will improve quality of life and reduce social inequalities (IPCC, 2022, p. 17). For example, air quality and resistance to heat waves will be improved; it will also be preferred because access to transport is easier (both for people with financial difficulties and disabilities, and because the vast majority of journeys will be made on foot).

Thus, for the IPCC, reducing emissions for a city “conserves biological diversity; restoration of forests and other natural ecosystems, reduction of deforestation; climate change adaptation etc. (IPCC, 2022, p. 17). We hope that the city of Rimouski will review its priorities and the construction project in Pointe-au-Pere. We must end the era of urban sprawl in natural environments. according to To live in the city and according to several experts, urban sprawl is one of the main causes of environmental degradation in Quebec (


A very important element in the IPCC report on the construction sector is the undeniable effectiveness of vigilance against efficiency-based solutions.

Efficiency-based solutions contain and lead to more negative rebound effects than they bring about. We can see this clearly with new technologies that solve one problem but create others as they consume the resources they require.

Cities have significant potential to reduce emissions by adopting low-carbon renewable energies (wind, photovoltaics, etc.), renovating buildings and reducing energy consumption by creating more compact cities.

So innovation should not be prioritized, but instead aim for prudence, less is better than more.

For the IPCC: “Climate change-resilient development processes have proven to be more effective and sustainable as they incorporate diverse knowledge (scientific, local, indigenous, professional, etc.) and are adapted to local contexts. legal, appropriate and effective actions [C]. These processes transcend jurisdictional and organizational barriers and rely on public choices that accelerate and deepen major systemic transitions” (2022, p. 35).


IPCC report, What are the solutions to global warming?, 2022,

Ludivine Cozette, Ghislaine Tandonnet-Guiran, Jérôme Boutang, Mark Tuddenham, Colas Robert, “Volume 2: adaptation”, 6th assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Citepa, 2022.

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