The world’s urban areas are responsible for the vast majority of CO2 emissions. But cities, led by Mayors, are pushing forward the climate action that will be vital to keep the 1.5°C target alive, adapting to climate change impacts, and making their voices heard alongside national governments at COP26.
“Cities have the power to act and push for change”, highlighted US Special Presidential Climate Envoy John Kerry in a unique dialogue with Lord Norman Foster and Mayors organised by UNECE and partners in Glasgow this week. With commitments made at COP26, around 65% of global GDP is now covered by implementable climate change plans, stressed Special Envoy Kerry. "But that means 35% isn’t. And we can’t do it without that 35%. You don’t get this done unless we are all in”, he said, urging cities to go even further in their climate action efforts.
Recalling that the GDP of NYC equals Canada's GDP, he emphasized that “Mayors are right where the heart of politics beats. The city is one of the best parts of our democracy."
“There's an interesting overlap of the pandemic and the climate crisis”, recalled Lord Foster, emphasizing how COVID-19 “forced us to reassess the balance between the global and the local.” Asked by Kerry how architects and city planners could make cities more climate-friendly, Foster drew lessons from history in the form of the mid-20th Century Abercrombie Plan for London, and called for putting the “15-minute neighbourhoods”, a policy now championed by the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, at the heart of the city's sustainability strategies.
UNECE convened the dialogue with Mayors from around the world, in partnership with the City Council of COP26’s host city, Glasgow, in addition to the US Department of State and US Mission to the UN in Geneva, the C40 network of cities, the Geneva Cities Hub and Glasgow Urban Lab – a UNECE Geneva UN Charter Centre of Excellence. With Glasgow’s City Council Chambers serving as “the world’s city hall” during COP26, Council Leader Susan Aitken emphasized the power of city leaders to drive the changes needed forward.
"Cities deliver real climate action, so the dialogue between decision makers at national, regional and local levels is crucial. UNECE’s pioneering Forum of Mayors is a new form of multilateralism in practice, and a model which could inspire other regions”, highlighted UN Under-Secretary-General and UNECE Executive Secretary Olga Algayerova. The second Forum of Mayors will take place in Geneva in April 2022, providing a vital platform to contribute to the intergovernmental process on sustainable urban development and exchange city experiences.
In this spirit, Governing Mayor of Oslo Raymond Johansen shared how the city is using a climate budget as a governance instrument to mainstream climate action into all decisions and city planning.
“Mayors cannot properly address the crisis alone. That's why mayors from around the world are coming together in Glasgow to deliver a resounding message to national governments, business executives, youth activists, and other leaders at COP26”, said Sylvester Turner, Mayor of Houston, USA. “Cities around the world are delivering the climate solutions and level of ambition needed to tackle the climate crisis and create a more equitable, resilient, and sustainable future.”
At COP26, UNECE and partners also underscored the need for inclusiveness and accessibility in efforts to deliver climate-neutral housing, guided by the #Housing2030 report developed together with UN Habitat and Housing Europe. Today, buildings account for 40% of CO2 emissions, but – with the help of tools such as UNECE Framework Guidelines for Energy Efficiency Standards in Buildings – cities can take action to unlock significant near-term climate gains and improve quality of life for all residents.
The full recording of the Climate Dialogue with Mayors is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRGonrbe8rQ&list=PL889FD40CAFFC5B94&index=1
Photos of the event are available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/98046700@N04/albums/72157720102217134/with/51652559869/