Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago, from left, speaks while Wong Kam-Sing, secretory of the environment for Hong Kong, and Gregor Robertson, mayor of Vancouver, listen during a press conference at the C40 Mayors Summit in Mexico City, Mexico, on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016.
Leaders from 90 world “megacities” meeting in Mexico City this week are sending a message that they plan to act on climate change—whatever national leaders do.
The sixth C40 Mayors Summit is occurring one year after the landmark conference in Paris, at which nearly 200 countries agreed to take steps to limit warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius compared with preindustrial levels. But it is also taking place in the shadow of last month’s election of President-elect Donald Trump, who has promised to “cancel” U.S. participation in the agreement.
In a call with reporters ahead of the conference Monday, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg acknowledged that the world has “a lot of concern” about the track Trump is likely to take on warming.
“But mayors, as we know, have never waited for Washington to act here in the United States,” said Bloomberg, who is also the United Nations’ special envoy for cities and climate change. “They’ve never waited for an international treaty to take steps to protect their citizens and improve public health. And whatever happens, mayors will continue leading by example.”
Bloomberg and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who is the incoming chairwoman of the group, released a report this week showing that the world’s large cities would need to peak emissions by 2020 and then nearly halve carbon emissions for every citizen in a decade to avoid the worst impacts of warming. This compares with a business-as-usual trajectory of a 35 percent increase in emissions over the next four years.
The so-called Deadline 2020 analysis proposes that city governments focus on placing key sectors in building, transportation and urban development on a low-carbon pathway. It estimated a price tag of $375 billion over the next four years for new climate-friendly infrastructure in C40’s 90 cities.
It also set ambitious reduction targets for urban centers. While cities would take the same steps over the next 14 years to achieve either the 2 C target or Paris’ more aspirational goal of containing warming to 1.5 C, the difference between the two goals becomes more pronounced after 2030. The report found that the tighter goal would require cities to zero out their emissions on a net basis by midcentury and make them negative in the second half of the century.
Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation and Realdania offered a joint pledge of $40 million toward supporting actions in cities. It’s part of a recent trend in private-sector support for initiatives on research, phasing out chemicals and other climate issues. But Bloomberg sidestepped a question about whether private dollars might replace some or all of the public commitments the Obama administration made to the Green Climate Fund if Trump withdraws U.S. support.
“Since we haven’t been getting a lot from the federal government, it’s hard to argue that they can cut back a lot,” he said.
“But in all fairness to Trump, we don’t know what he’s going to want to do,” Bloomberg added. The president-elect repeatedly said on the campaign trail that he would rescind all funding for climate programs, signaling out U.N. funds in particular as something he would eliminate.
‘Get on with it’
Today at the summit, Hidalgo will launch an initiative aimed at fostering female leadership on climate issues at the city level. Mayors, including Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C., will participate in the rollout of the Women4Climate initiative, which will provide a platform for climate leaders to mentor younger women and provide networking and capacity-building opportunities.
Research has shown that women in low- and moderate-income countries are more at risk than men of suffering from natural disasters or water and food shortages linked to climate change. But data on how warming might affect women in urban environments are scarcer, and Hidalgo’s initiative will support research into that.
Hidalgo, who is the daughter of Spanish immigrants to France and became Paris’ mayor in 2014, has frequently discussed climate change as a social justice issue with gender implications. She’s not alone. The bench of female climate leaders is very deep, including U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change chief Patricia Espinosa and her predecessor, Christiana Figueres; national leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel; and a number of mayors.
“Women are a very determined lot,” said Lord Mayor Clover Moore of Sydney, Australia, who will participate in the rollout. “I think we hang in there, notwithstanding misogyny and notwithstanding, as I have received, attacks from right-wing media in our city. And we do that because we believe that action is critical, and if we don’t take the action, the future could be disastrous.”
Moore offered her city as an example of how municipal governments can continue to make strides on climate action even as the federal government goes a different way. Australia repealed its carbon tax two years ago and has often been seen as a laggard in the international climate process, though it has ratified the Paris deal. Moore noted that Sydney has made climate action a priority.
With 80 percent of world emissions emanating from urban areas, action at the city level can add up to significant reductions, she said.
“I think the message to U.S. cities is that it’s more incumbent than ever that you get on with it, because it’s up to you, notwithstanding your federal leadership,” she said.
Reprinted from ClimateWire with permission from E&E News. E&E provides daily coverage of essential energy and environmental news at www.eenews.net.