Stories of urban climate action at COP21
While work continues in the ADP sessions, the Netherlands hosted a fascinating lunchtime session on urban climate action at their pavilion today. This was particularly relevant given the debate about including local government as specific actors responsible for addressing climate change in the Preamble text to the Paris Agreement. Mayors and Deputy Mayors from Athens, Durban, New York, Vancouver and Rotterdam all spoke on the range of innovative approaches their cities have taken to future-proofing, reducing their carbon footprint (in some cases with a goal of carbon neutrality) and becoming more sustainable.
Through their presentations it was clear that there are a multitude of benefits to urban climate action, not limited to reducing the significant carbon impact of cities. The mayors and deputy mayors talked about improvements in the climate resilience of their cities, reduction in waste management, energy and transport costs and significant benefits to human health (particularly among the most vulnerable communities).
In taking questions, all the mayors and deputy mayors noted the significant challenges posed by political infrastructure that does not match the realities on the ground. It’s hard to design resilient urban systems when the responsible political systems are fragmented. Talking about transport, First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris noted that New York’s transport systems cross and are managed by four different jurisdictions. Similarly, and more impressively, Mayor Georgios Kaminis of Athens noted that Athens’s systems were part of forty different jurisdictions! Their answers made it clear that improving the sustainability of our resource use needs to be closely linked to adaptable political systems.
For more on these cities amazing efforts, check out:
- Durban’s Buffelsdraai Community Reforestation Project
- The One New York plan
- Vancouver’s Greenest City Action Plan, and
- Rotterdam’s Climate Initiative.