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Explainer: What is the Paris Agreement on climate change and what does it mean for cities? | Citiscope

The Paris climate change accord is one of several global agreements forged among nations in 2015-16 that will have implications for city leaders for years to come. But what exactly is the Paris Agreement, and how does it relate to the quest for building more sustainable cities?

Here’s an overview of the major questions and issues.

What is the Paris Agreement?

The Paris Agreement on climate change is a voluntary accord among 197 countries to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions. Specifically, the Paris Agreement aims to keep the world’s mean temperature from rising by more than 2ºC above pre-industrial levels by the year 2100 — and ideally, contain rising temperatures to 1.5ºC. Scientists believe that keeping planetary warming below this level is necessary to avert the worst effects of global climate change, such as a rising sea level and more frequent extreme-weather events. (See the text of the Paris Agreement here.)

Article: Explainer: What is the Paris Agreement on climate change and what does it mean for cities? | Citiscope By Gregory Scruggs March 30, 2017

Diplomats brokered the deal in December 2015 at the Paris Climate Conference, known in United Nations parlance as COP 21. To achieve the agreement’s long-term goals, countries prepared emissions-reduction plans that negotiators brought with them to Paris. Those plans go into effect in 2020. Every five years, nations are expected to “ratchet up” their plans with more ambitious pledges. That’s because the plans presented in 2015 were not sufficient to hit the 2ºC target. The U. N. Environmental Programme has estimated that if countries make do on their 2015 pledges — and it’s not clear that they will — it would still lead to a global mean temperature rise of 2.9°C to 3.4 °C.

When did the agreement take effect?

Once the agreement was reached, U. N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon went on a major diplomatic charm offensive to convince countries to ratify it. Under the terms of the agreement, 55 countries representing 55 percent of global emissions had to approve the deal in their national legislatures. At least one of the “big four” emitters — China, the European Union, Russia and the United States — had to sign on.

A special ceremony was held on Earth Day 2016 for countries to submit their so-called “instruments of ratification”. Less than six months later, the U. N. reached the magic number, making this ratification process one of the fastest in diplomatic history. The Paris Agreement formally “entered into force” on 4 November 2016. By that time, 73 countries had joined the agreement, including the U. S., China and the European Union. Today, just three countries have not signed it: Russia, Iran and Turkey.

Why are cities important to the Paris Agreement?

In many ways, cities are both the problem and the solution when it comes to greenhouse-gas emissions. And they have a lot to lose from flooding, drought and disease if climate change spirals out of control.

Cities are responsible for the bulk of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. Private automobiles on city streets are a big culprit. So are buildings, and the energy consumed by lighting, heating and cooling them. According to the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, cities consume over two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for more than 70 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions.

At the same time, some of the most promising low-carbon innovations are happening in cities. From efforts aimed at boosting walking, biking and transit to promoting energy efficiency, many mayors have been aggressive about finding ways to squeeze carbon out of their cities.

What role did cities play in bringing the deal together?

None directly — the diplomats hashing out the details were all representatives of national governments. Cities had no formal “seat at the table” during the feverish two weeks of negotiations in Paris.

Indirectly, however, cities had a major impact. Mayors showed up in force in Paris, and were among the loudest voices in a global outcry demanding action. What made the Paris deal successful — after two decades of failed efforts to reach an agreement — was intense global pressure from every corner of the world. From indigenous communities to multinational corporations, some 10,000 players from 180 countries also made pledges to reduce their carbon emissions. They did so in an effort to show national governments that there is a global consensus on the need to halt climate change once and for all.

Mayors argued that cities are well positioned to act immediately — well before national commitments take effect in 2020. According to a U. N. database, cities have made more than 2,500 commitments to slash their greenhouse-gas emissions. That’s more than the number of commitments from the private sector.

So now that we have an agreement, what are cities actually doing?

Cities around the world are taking steps to promote renewable energy, support electric vehicles, change streetlights to energy-saving LEDs, increase transit use, slash emissions from buildings and a host of other measures. Just within the more than 80 megacities that make up the C40 cities, members have taken more than 10,000 climate actions, the organization reported in 2015.

Generally, there are three steps involved on the road to making measurable progress at the local level. First, to create an inventory of the jurisdiction’s emissions. Second, to set a reduction target. Third, to make a plan to get there.

More than 7,000 cities have publicly pledged to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions in the wake of the Paris Agreement. Their commitments are consolidated through a platform called the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy. As of March 2017, 7,436 cities around the world, representing 678 million people — nearly 10 percent of the world’s population — were part of the Global Covenant.

How do city commitments fit into national commitments?

According to a study by UN-Habitat, 110 of the 163 national climate plans presented in Paris “show clear urban references and content”. The study reported that the role of cities in fighting climate change was highest priority in emerging economies and somewhat neglected in the plans by high-income countries. Most references to cities relate to how places will plan ahead to avoid suffering the worst impacts of climate change, rather than citing the role of cities in reducing emissions.

That emphasis on “adaptation” over “mitigation” may be a gross oversight. A C40 Cities report issued in late 2016 argued that the world’s megacities must see their emissions peak and begin declining by 2020, otherwise the planet will miss the 1.5ºC mark.

What are the next steps?

The Paris conference was called COP 21 because it was the 21st in an annual series of climate talks. Those will continue — COP 22 took place in Marrakech and COP 23 will take place in Bonn in November. Meanwhile, the Paris Agreement set out a timeline of what future COPs are to accomplish. At COPs in 2020, 2025 and 2030, countries will present their new climate pledges. In 2023 and 2028, they will also engage in “stocktakes”, or reviews of how progress on the agreement is coming along. The details of what, exactly, countries will take stock of was not defined in the agreement itself and is subject to ongoing follow-up negotiations.

Meanwhile, cities continue to meet at annual gatherings of mayors who tout their climate leadership. But they will also have a formal role within the U.N climate system for the first time. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the scientific body that advises national governments on the issue, agreed to incorporate a specific urban lens into its research and reports after a successful lobbying campaign called #CitiesIPCC. In 2018, scientists will convene for the first #CitiesIPCC conference to prepare a research agenda for the panel.

What are the biggest outstanding issues?

Money is a big one — or rather a lack of money. Buying municipal electric vehicle fleets, building “green infrastructure” and opening new mass transit lines as an alternative to private automobiles all costs money.  C40 estimates that cities will have to invest USD 375 billion to hit the target of peaking their emissions by 2020.

They might have gotten some of fiscal help from the Green Climate Fund, a financial instrument set up in 2010 that many countries pledged to fund during the Paris talks. But U. S. President Donald Trump’s proposed budget would zero out contributions to the fund, and other countries may follow. Moreover, existing Green Climate Fund projects don’t have much of an urban focus.

Trump’s election raises other questions. Trump campaigned on a promise to pull the U. S. out of the Paris Agreement — something the U. S. cannot technically do for four years. Whether Trump tries to scuttle the deal or not, he has taken steps to reverse the climate-change policies of former President Barack Obama. That makes it less likely that the U. S. will meet its Paris pledges, and could encourage other countries to backtrack as well.

Article: Explainer: What is the Paris Agreement on climate change and what does it mean for cities? | Citiscope By Gregory Scruggs March 30, 2017


Citiscope is a nonprofit news outlet that covers innovations in cities around the world. More at Citiscope. org.”

Here Are the Sanctuary Cities Ready to Resist Trump’s Deportation Threats | Mother Jones

President-elect Donald Trump still has about two months to go before he is inaugurated, but pockets of resistance to his mass immigrant deportation plan are already emerging across the country. Since his election, local officials in at least 18 major “sanctuary” cities have pledged to limit their cooperation with federal immigration officials. By one estimate, 12 of these cities account for roughly 20 percent of all undocumented immigrants in the United States.

“We have been and always will be a city of refuge, a city of sanctuary, a city of love,” said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee.

Original Source: Here Are the Sanctuary Cities Ready to Resist Trump’s Deportation Threats | Mother Jones

There are at least 364 counties that limit their cooperation with federal immigration authorities, including 39 cities. For years, these sanctuary cities have resisted federal deportation efforts in different ways. Some jurisdictions have policies that prevent police officers from inquiring into the immigration status of residents; in other locales, jails have refused to comply with requests from the feds to hold suspected undocumented immigrants past their scheduled release dates. Immigration advocates argue that that these tactics encourage immigrants in their communities to report crimes or cooperate with police investigations.

But critics of sanctuary cities, like Trump, say these policies run contrary to federal immigration law and risk releasing criminals onto the streets. In fact, the term “sanctuary city” has become so politicized that many jurisdictions have hesitated to accept the label. (It is worth noting that evidence suggests sanctuary cities are actually safer for local residents.)

Trump has vowed to stomp out such local resistance by cutting off federal funding to any sanctuary city. That would mean that in a worst-case scenario, these jurisdictions risk losing anywhere between 1 percent and 25 percent of their total city budgets, depending on how much they rely on federal funds. However, a Trump administration may decide not to withhold all that funding. The Los Angeles Times reported that Trump’s advisors are considering specifically targeting law enforcement funding.

Here are some of the metros that have renewed their resistance to federal deportation efforts since the election—in order of what percent of their budgets they stand to lose if Trump stays true to his threats:

District of Columbia
At risk: 25 percent of its city budget.

DC risks more of its budget than any other jurisdiction on this list. A week after Trump’s election, Mayor Muriel Bowser reaffirmed that DC would remain a sanctuary city by keeping in place its policy of preventing city employees and police officers from asking residents about their immigration status. DC also grants driver’s licenses and other benefits to undocumented immigrants.

San Francisco
At risk: More than 10 percent of the city budget, amounting to about $1 billion total.

San Francisco has put in place some of the most expansive sanctuary city laws in the country. In fact, the city has been at the center of the sanctuary city debate ever since 2015, when a young woman was killed by an undocumented Mexican immigrant who had reportedly been deported five times and had just been released from the sheriff department’s custody. Trump repeatedly drew attention to the case during his campaign. After Trump’s election, Mayor Ed Lee and the school district and sheriff’s office, among others, pledged to abide by San Francisco’s current policies. “We have been and always will be a city of refuge, a city of sanctuary, a city of love,” Lee said. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the city attorney is looking into the possibility of suing the federal government should it withhold funds.

At risk: At least 10 percent of the city budget, totaling more than $1 billion.

According to the Chicago Tribune, should Trump choose to target law enforcement funding, the city could stand to lose nearly $29 million per year in justice grants. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel vowed that Chicago “always will be a sanctuary city.” He added, “To all those who are, after Tuesday’s election, very nervous and filled with anxiety as we’ve spoken to, you are safe in Chicago, you are secure in Chicago, and you are supported in Chicago.”

Providence, Rhode Island
At risk: Approximately 10 percent of the city budget, amounting to $71 million last year.

Providence does not refer undocumented immigrants charged with low-level civil infractions to federal immigration authorities. Mayor Jorge Elorza, the son of Guatemalan immigrants, does not consider Providence a sanctuary city, but he did declare in a statement, “We are standing with cities like Los Angeles and New York City who have made it clear that we will not sacrifice a single resident and we will continue to protect our communities.” He added, “It is important that every resident can live their lives without fear of being persecuted.”

At risk: About 9 percent of the city budget in 2015, or more than $175 million.

Justice Department funding, the most vulnerable to attack, amounted to about $5.4 million last year. The Denver Police Department released a statement in the wake of Trump’s election saying it does not plan to participate in federal immigration enforcement.

New York
At risk: About 9 percent of the city budget, totaling just over $7 billion.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has called Trump’s threats against so-called sanctuary cities “dangerous.” He said, “We are not going to sacrifice a half million people who live among us, who are part of our community. We are not going to tear families apart.” Should Trump choose to target law enforcement funding, the city’s police department budget is less vulnerable than the overall city budget. Just over 3 percent, or $185 million, of the police budget comes from federal aid.

At risk: About 8 percent of the city’s budget, or more than $216 million

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake reaffirmed that the city police will continue its policy of not asking about a person’s immigration status, stipulating that she considers Baltimore a “welcoming city” but not a “sanctuary city.”

Oakland, California
At risk: A rough estimate suggests that at least 4 percent of the city’s funds, or $52 million. (The Oakland City Administrator’s Office did not respond to our request for a specific breakdown of the budget.)

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf wrote in an op-ed that Oakland will “proudly stand as a sanctuary city—protecting our residents from what we deem unjust federal immigration laws.”

At risk: 2 percent of the city budget—more than $25 million.

The police department stands to lose about $2.1 million in federal funding, or about 1.4 percent of its budget. Responding to Trump budget threats, Mayor Betsy Hodges said, “In his quest to scapegoat immigrants, Donald Trump has threatened cities’ federal funding if we do not change this practice. I repeat: I will continue to stand by and fight for immigrants in Minneapolis regardless of President-elect Trump’s threats.”

Los Angeles
At risk: About 2 percent of the city’s budget, or $507 million.

This year, Los Angeles is expected to receive $127 million in federal law enforcement grants. LA became one of the country’s first sanctuary cities, if not the first, back in 1979. Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck declared that his department will not “engage in law enforcement activities solely based on somebody’s immigration status.”

Santa Fe, New Mexico
At risk: About 2 percent of the city’s annual budget, or about $6 million in federal funding.

The city’s police department relies on federal funding for just 0.25 percent of its budget, or about $62,000. Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales vocally denounced Trump’s proposed policy toward sanctuary cities on Fox and CNN, earning him the title of the latest “public face of ‘sanctuary cities.’” He called Trump funding threats “dangerous.”

Aurora, Colorado, and Seattle:
At risk: About 1.8 percent of each city’s total budget and 2 to 3 percent of Seattle’s police budget.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said that standing by his city’s policies is “the most American thing we could possibly do.”

Portland, Oregon
At risk: Up to 1.3 percent of its total budget and up to 2 percent of its police budget.

Portland Mayor-elect Ted Wheeler said, “We’re saying that we’re willing to sacrifice those dollars and we are willing to live with whatever consequences may come our way.”

Other cities that have vowed to restrict their participation in Trump’s mass deportation plan include Philadelphia, Boston, Newark, and Austin.

Source: Here Are the Sanctuary Cities Ready to Resist Trump’s Deportation Threats | Mother Jones.