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Gathering Storms: Forecasting the Future of Cities

The prognosis for our planet, now widely accepted, is shattering our vision of a bright future for our cities, characterised by abundance and technological expansion. As a result, we urgently need to envision and confront the scenarios that are likely to become our reality, in the hope that this work of imagination can help us to adapt effectively and perhaps steer a different course.

This post is part of our series of articles on the Urban Commons sourced from the Green European Journal Editorial Board. These were published as part of Volume 16 “Talk of the Town: Exploring the City in Europe”. In this instalment, Pablo Servigne, an agronomist and expert in ecology, behaviour and evolution of social insects, examines the role of the city on the midst of a convergence of ecological and social crises.

Cities around the world today face a whole host of grave threats: from pollution to climate change, resource scarcity to overpopulation, and many more. Growing awareness of this has led to a proliferation of ‘solutions’ such as ‘green’, ‘sustainable’, ‘smart’, ‘resilient’, ‘zero-carbon’ projects, as well as ‘eco-neighbourhoods’. But how effective can these initiatives hope to be, in light of the scale of the problems faced? Our vision of the future is in dire need of being injected with a good dose of realism. The vision of a ‘linear’ urban future is in effect fed by the imagery of abundance forged during post-war reconstruction. Yet the conditions of such prosperity are no longer in place. A closer look at the principal threats facing cities can serve as a base from which to devise potential future scenarios. By stimulating our imagination, it is hoped that this conceptual framework will help us design urban policies which are more credible and less unsustainable than those we have witnessed so far.

Continue Reading at the Source: Gathering Storms: Forecasting the Future of Cities | P2P Foundation

Cities under threat

The risks of global warming are well known. According to the UN, more than 60 per cent of cities with populations of over 750,000 are exposed to at least one major risk. One of the latest reports from the IPCC describes one major risk, amongst others – of climate and environmental shocks breaking down the industrial food systems that feed most European towns. [1]

Resource shortages (metals, water, wood, energy, etc) also fall within these major threats. In fact, there is nothing simpler than seriously disrupting a city: it’s merely a matter of blocking its food and energy supplies. These are amongst the worst threats a city can face, because the social, economic and then political effects are felt almost immediately (within a matter of days). Hence the prioritisation of food security by all governments over the centuries.

Serious threats are also posed by certain types of pollution. As well as the heavy metals and organic compounds polluting the soil, and aerosols already rendering certain towns unliveable, there is the risk of major industrial accidents forcing entire urban populations to be evacuated. Cities must learn to anticipate all this, to absorb the shocks, to recover, and to learn from these events, most of which are already happening in certain parts of the world. Simply to achieve this, they need resources, energy and a degree of social order, which are increasingly hard to guarantee.

In fact, all these threats can be considered to come from outside the city (external threats). But there is another equally serious, and less well known, type of threat: internal threats. These arise mainly from vulnerable infrastructure and social conflict. It is well-known to historians and archaeologists that a town’s capacity to grow and thrive depends on its capacity to safeguard good communication, transport, and distribution networks. Today, much of the transport, electricity, and water infrastructure in OECD countries is over 50 years old (over 100 years old, in some cases), and is already operating well beyond maximum capacity. [2] The extent of its interconnection, complexity, and homogeneity, and the speed of movement of the components of city life, have also increased the vulnerability of this infrastructure. It is thus also easily destabilised by one-off events such as floods, hurricanes, and terrorist attacks.

When, following the rise in the price of diesel in the year 2000, 150 striking lorry drivers blocked major fuel depots in the UK, the consequences rapidly made themselves felt: “Just four days after the start of the strike, most of the country’s refineries had ceased operation, forcing the government to take steps to protect the remaining reserves. The following day, people rushed into shops and supermarkets to stock up on food. One day later, 90% of filling stations had stopped serving, and the NHS [National Health Service] started to cancel elective surgery. Royal Mail deliveries stopped, and schools in many towns and villages closed their doors. Major supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s introduced rationing, and the government called in the army to escort convoys of vital goods. In the end, public pressure led the strikers to end their action”. [3]

In the cities of industrialised countries – including, need we add, Europe – it is highly likely that we will reach ‘peak urbanisation’ over the next decade.

The social order of a city can falter rapidly, even when networks don’t break down. All it takes is an economic or political crisis, leading to a collapse of industrial activity, massive job losses, housing crises, the bursting of a speculation bubble, riots, community or class conflicts, terrorist acts, and so on. These events have become frequent because of the significant increase in economic and social inequality within countries, [4] and even within cities. [5] This is nothing new, but seems to have been forgotten; archaeology shows us that the economic and political elites of great civilisations have often caused the inexorable degradation of their environment, due to the pressure they put on people and natural ecosystems. [6]

Last, but not least, all these threats are interdependent, and nowadays operate at a globalised level. Large, homogeneous, fast-moving, deeply interconnected international networks have – paradoxically – become more resistant to small disturbances, but more vulnerable to major disruptions, which, when they occur, can trigger a domino effect throughout the system, leading to collapse. [7] Scientists speak of a new kind of risk: the ‘systemic global risk’ inherent in these extensive complex networks, and, as major nodes in these global networks, cities are very exposed to these risks.

Scenarios for the Future: Forwarned is forearmed

With that in mind, four scenarios can be envisaged. The aim is not to alarm, nor to predict the future, but to stimulate the imagination and test the effects of these threats against possible futures. These scenarios are to be taken as signposts, pathways or stages, like the points of a compass. They are archetypes for the future, to help illustrate trends and provide insight into what might lie ahead. The division into four scenarios arises from two forward-looking works: Future Scenarios by David Holmgren, [8] and Resilient Cities, by architects and planners Newman, Beatley and Boyer. [9] The first work describes the possible trajectories in relation to peak oil and climate change.

If climate change has a gradual effect (providing enough room for manoeuvre to transform society), there are two possible scenarios: a ‘green tech’ transition, which, if resources decline slowly, could be relatively comfortable, or a radical and rapid change, known as ‘earth stewardship’, in the case of a brutally rapid decline in energy resources. By contrast, if climate change has rapid and violent effects, society will tip into a ‘brown tech’ future, where the powers that be would muster all their force to maintain ‘business as usual’. Or, even worse, society could completely collapse – the ‘lifeboat’ scenario – if these catastrophes coincided with a rapid loss of resources.

The second publication focuses exclusively on the end of oil, and analysing its effects on cities. It explores the following question: knowing that cities are completely dependent on oil, and have a massive carbon footprint, what would be the consequences for modern industrial cities of the end of the oil age? Two areas in particular are explored: transport and food security. The authors describe four scenarios, similar to those of Holmgren: the resilient city (corresponding to the ‘green tech’ scenario), the divided city (‘brown tech’ scenario), the ruralised city (‘earth stewardship’ scenario), and the collapsed city (‘lifeboat’ scenario).

However, both of these forward-looking publications only consider scenarios based on external threats (climate and oil), without taking account of internal threats. The latter have been explicitely included in the following proposed synthesis. [10]

The ecotechnical city

If the impact of global warming turns out to be gradual, and an ‘energy descent’ [11] can be managed, society can adopt ‘green’ technologies, ensure a successful transition, and work towards distributed renewable energy systems, without conflict or disasters. This would lead to a resurgence in regional, rural economies, more sustainable agriculture, more horizontal political systems, and more compact cities that prioritise public transport and the local economy. A balance would be found between reducing consumption and slowing economic growth, thanks to energy efficiency technology and a relocalisation of the economy. However, it is only possible for a city to take this route if it already has a resilient, well-maintained infrastructure, and if it avoids major political, economic and social upheavals. This is clearly the most desirable scenario in terms of maintaining the living standards and security that our democratic societies rely on. To sum up, in the absence of significant obstacles, even in the context of an energy descent, an efficient transition is still possible. The city can prepare, slowly but surely, for the ‘storms’ ahead.

The ecovillage city

A rapid decline in resources, including oil and natural gas, could trigger a crisis that would bring the world economy to its knees. This global collapse could create political instability, which would in turn lead to serious social problems, but also, paradoxically, to an end of greenhouse gas emissions. Local resilient communities would then emerge in some rural areas (following a massive rural exodus). This would be achieved through agro-ecology and permaculture techniques, and above all by sustaining their capacity for local democracy. It is possible that the major megalopolises would still contain rich, private, gated neighbourhoods, by developing urban agriculture within suburban gardens. In this scenario, no-one believes civilisation can be preserved as it stands; people will have moved on, to work for something radically different. Cities would return to being semi-rural, meeting many of their food and energy needs very locally, along the lines of self-sufficient medieval towns. Peri-urban belts would be made up of ecovillages, supplying the town and recycling waste, much like the Parisian market gardeners of the 19th century. However, this ‘radical resilience’ policy will only be practicable if massive disasters (hurricanes, uprisings, revolutions, etc.), that could destabilise the political and social order are neither too intense nor too frequent. If they do occur, the organisation of the city could change radically, whilst retaining a chance of avoiding breakdown and chaos, and maintaining a semblance of democracy, albeit at increasingly local levels. In this scenario, the city is instantly transformed, yet without being wiped out by the ‘storms’.

The enclave city

A slow decline in energy supply could leave influential power structures in place, thus thwarting any chance of real transformation. The combination of an authoritarian state and greedy private business would foster an extraction industry rush for non-renewable resources, with predictably catastrophic consequences. But then the climate and environmental crises would be so overwhelming that all of society’s energy and resources would be needed to keep the ship afloat, due to policies that are centralised, securitised, militarised, and inegalitarian. The city would splinter; the rich, cocooned in their safe neighbourhoods, would maintain access to increasingly expensive supplies, protecting themselves from climatic variations with new technology. The poorest in society would be left to their own devices in semi-rural areas (with survival vegetable plots providing resilience), or even shanty towns, with less and less reliable access to resources. In this scenario, the economic elite (the rich) and political elite (the government), in their opulent enclaves, would use violence and fear to maintain their privilege. These elites would have no choice than to bring in ever more oppressive laws. Those in the most precarious situations would gradually lose the means to protect themselves from environmental and social disasters, and certain districts (crowded with arriving migrants) would become shanty towns, and police no-go areas. Political cohesion, and thus democracy, would be the first victims, leaving the field open for the expansion of the private sector and its irresistible machine for generating ever more privilege and social division – in other words, social chaos. The city crumbles, the rich ‘manage’ the crisis, everyone else endures it, and the former control the latter by increasingly undemocratic means.

The collapsed city

If rapid economic and political collapse (the Ecovillage scenario) is compounded by severe environmental and climate crises, it is too late to take the resilience route; collapse is inevitable. History shows that a lack of preparation combined with a succession of various disasters will end up getting the better of any city. There is no lack of examples of dead cities, such as Ephesus, the port and second largest town in the Roman Empire, abandoned in around the year 1,000 when the river dried up after all the trees on the surrounding hills had been felled. War, illness, and famine have always cleared cities of their inhabitants, and this can still happen. In Syria and Libya, armed conflict has devastated entire towns, which have still not recovered. When the shock is too brutal, some of the urban population flee, and those who cannot, stay, prey to shortages and chaos. Epidemics and/or conflict can reduce social life to clans controlled by local warlords. Some small population clusters would survive in exceptionally favourable conditions (such as a healthy river, stable damn, fertile fields, or an isolated monastery). These small islands (Holmgren’s ‘lifeboats’) would be humanity’s only chance to find a way through a dark period and retain the hope of renaissance in a few decades, or centuries. In this scenario, unpredictable and irreversible domino effects lead to the rapid breakdown of the city.

A rupture in our imagination

This four-scenario compass provides us with a new way of looking at the future. It enables us to see more clearly what is at stake: from a hardening of class relations, de-industrialisation of towns, urban exodus, and infrastructure collapse to the development of green technologies. Even if the details of these trajectories are not specified, global trends are clear: towards catastrophes, or what some might term collapse. These narratives differ from the more common forecasts, based on myths around technological progress, and luring us with a future ever more connected to the virtual, and thus in the end disconnected from the natural. But we have clearly run up against the limits of this approach (and of earth-system science), and now we must prepare for a future of rupture and interruption.

In the cities of industrialised countries – including, need we add, Europe – it is highly likely that we will reach ‘peak urbanisation’ over the next decade. In other words, we cannot carry on in this ultra-urban direction. The future of industrial towns will more likely be one of depopulation, reconnection with green belts and the countryside, an overdue reduction in social inequality, and the re-localisation of the economy. It is up to us to tip the balance in favour of a particular scenario.

Even if the precise nature of these scenarios is not clear, we can be sure that the urban future has to be resilient. [12] Cities will have to weather various kinds of ‘storms’, some with more ease than others, and this will radically transform how Europeans design and inhabit their cities. Anticipating these ‘storms’ today, feeling and imagining them, equips us to be prepared, and thus avert disaster.

This is a revised version of an article that was first published on

1. P. Servigne (2017). Nourrir l’Europe en temps de crise. Vers de systèmes alimentaires résilients, Babel.
2. I. Goldin & M. Mariathasan, (2014). The butterfly defect: How globalization creates systemic risks, and what to do about it. Princeton University Press, p.101.
3. P. Servigne & R. Stevens (2015), Comment tout peut s’effondrer. Petit manuel de collapsologie à l’usage des générations présentes, Seuil, p. 116.
4. R. Wilkinson, & K. Pickett (2009). The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone, Allen Lane.
5. O. Razemon (2016) Comment la France a tué ses villes, Rue de l’échiquier.
6. For example, the salinisation of land during the third millennium BCE in Mesapotamia, or, today, the living stands of rich Europeans destroying
tropical forests. See N. B. Grimm, et al. (2008). Global change and the ecology of cities, Science, n°319, pp. 756-760.
7. P. Servigne & R. Stevens (2015), op. cit.
8. D. Holmgren (2009), Future scenarios, How communities can adapt to peak oil and climate change, Green Books
9. P. Newman et al. (2009) Resilient cities. Responding to peak oil and climate change, Island Press.
10. Here, armed conflict is not included in external threats, and civil war not included in internal threats.
11. In the context of a post-peak oil transition, this refers to the shift away from an increasing use of energy to a reduction.

What is ‘Energy Descent’?

12. A. Sinaï et al. Petit traité de résilience locale, 2015, Éditions Charles Léopold Mayer.

The post Gathering Storms: Forecasting the Future of Cities appeared first on P2P Foundation.

Make no mistake, momentum is growing to ‘localize” climate finance

The evidence is overwhelming. Besides being the warmest year on record, 2016 saw an overwhelming number of “pollution peak” days in cities across the globe.

Paris, for instance, is regularly exposing more than 1.5 million inhabitants to pollution levels that do not respect European regulation. In Africa, imported fuel — low-cost but toxic — is poisoning those who live in Lagos, Dakar and elsewhere.

Article: Make no mistake, momentum is growing to ‘localize” climate finance | Citiscope by CHARLOTTE BOULANGER APRIL 10, 2017

Multiple concerns are tied up in these situations, of course, including around public health and the environment. Yet the broadest policy changes will be brought about in the fight against climate change — and as is becoming increasingly recognized, cities lay at the forefront of those solutions.

Even as cities continue to commit to reducing their greenhouse-gas emissions, however, local officials face a major challenge in piloting a shift to a low-carbon future: financing. And this is only exacerbated by national-level funding constraints that have limited public investment in recent years.

Over the past 12 months, then, mayors and other local authorities have increasingly mobilized on this issue. In November, local governments agreed on a Roadmap for Action aimed at “localizing” climate finance in response to the urgent need to fund sustainable urban services and infrastructure, particularly in areas that are seen as fragile or especially vulnerable to climate change.

[See: Cities unveil time frame for ‘localizing’ climate finance]

Today’s international climate-financing architecture is highly complex and suffers from division and chronic under-financing, in particular for adaptation. There is not nearly enough patient, long-term and innovative climate finance models and approaches that could pay for the massive infrastructure projects needed in coming years in developing countries.

That’s a particular problem in that these countries are where the needs for renewable energy and other sustainable infrastructure are greatest. Over the next 15 years, the world will have to invest around USD 90 trillion in sustainable infrastructure assets if it hopes for a breathable future, and much of that will be required in cities.

Much of the obstacle to greater financing is that risks abound, both real and perceived. Political, technological and other risks often are too high to attract investors and developers to finance low-carbon projects, especially in emerging markets.

[See: Initiative aims to make more green infrastructure projects ‘bankable’]

Furthermore, the global “smart” revolution has prompted a shift away from traditional business models around public services in cities. But new financial models still need to be experimented with and assessed according to their local value on a spectrum of issues — social, environmental, political and economic.

But we are seeing new trends — and new innovations. A host of solutions today are being put into action in cities across the globe as investors, practitioners and policymakers at the national and local levels recognize the urgency and opportunity of this gap. Many of these remain in an experimental phase, but several are gaining on-the-ground experience by the day.

Matchmaking and readiness

The most concerted effort to bolster mechanisms to localize climate finance is taking place through an initiative called the Cities Climate Finance Leadership Alliance (CCFLA). Launched under former U. N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon in 2014, the alliance is made up of 48 NGOs, research centres, foundations, public and private banks, central governments, U. N. agencies, and networks of local and regional governments.

Core to its mandate is “matchmaking” — connecting demand and supply. But the group also supports overall readiness in order to empower local and regional governments to deliver low-carbon and resilient development plans and infrastructure. CCFLA plays a key role in identifying and helping to address gaps in knowledge, capacity, resources and working practices in cities and other subnational levels.

[See: Pension funds are key to Africa’s transformation — and city officials can help]

In 2015, the CCFLA released “The State of City Climate Finance” report, which highlighted this investment gap and emphasized the need for increasing capacities necessary to facilitate capital flows toward local low-emission, climate resilient infrastructure. Following that release, CCFLA members committed to support several key steps aimed at strengthening the international and domestic environments to allow for robust flows of climate finance to cities.

Among the solutions, alliance members and partners are experimenting with innovative financial instruments for city investments such as green bonds, climate insurance, sustainable and resilience standards and certifications, and project preparation facilities. Here are a few notable such initiatives:

The Global Innovation Lab for Climate Finance was developed by the Climate Policy Initiative as an international partnership to identify and pilot cutting-edge climate finance instruments. An example is the Energy Efficiency Enabling Initiative, which aims to increase the supply of risk capital (equity) by attracting private-sector capital for a new energy-efficiency equity fund.
Global Infrastructure Basel’s Standard for Sustainable and Resilient Infrastructure (SuRe) is a voluntary global standard that integrates key criteria of sustainability and resilience into infrastructure development. SuRe states that it seeks to “leverage both public and private investments in infrastructure in a cost-effective way while strengthening resilience, maximizing social benefits and limiting the environmental footprint”.

[See: Lessons from Mexico City’s green bond, the first municipal issuance in Latin America]

The Long-Term Infrastructure Investors Association has co-developed a library of environmental, social and governance (ESG) indicators for infrastructure investments. The aim here is to help asset managers and institutional investors collect and manage information on ESG performance of their assets.
ICLEI’s Transformative Actions Programme (TAP) Project Pipeline serves as a project preparation and certification facility. It seeks to strengthen the capacity of local and subnational governments to access climate finance and attract investment.

Each of these initiatives aims to catalyze and improve capital flows to cities in developing and emerging economies for mitigation and adaptation measures. The Global Innovation Lab for Climate Finance alone already has attracted USD 600 million in seed funding and will drive billions more in investment.

[See: Explainer: What are ‘green bonds’ and why are cities so excited about them?]

These initiatives are presented in the latest CCFLA report, “Localizing Climate Finance: Mapping Gaps and Opportunities, Designing Solutions”, released in November. The report details more than 80 projects, covering the entire financing chain of local climate actions, with a particular focus on early-stage project development.

In mapping members’ initiatives on climate finance for cities, the report confirms a key point: Global momentum is growing to address the financing gap for local investments.

Carbon pricing and more

Despite this growing momentum, major advances still need to be made in order to create incentives for investment in local resilience. First and foremost, national governments could dramatically help this cause by acting decisively around carbon pricing.

[See: As the Green Climate Fund meets, will it ensure climate finance reaches the local level?]

But others must play a role, too. Multilateral and regional development banks, for instance, need to dedicate funds to climate action and ensure that every policy and project funded is “climate-proof”.

Local financial institutions are key actors, as well. In the long run, they will need to be empowered to develop domestic, tailored-made financial solutions for cities, while channelling international climate funding to the local level.

Taking such steps can support local and other subnational governments in building fiscal autonomy, integrating and further adopting standards, operational and regulatory frameworks, and measurement tools for cross-cutting “climate smart” investments and urban services.

[See: Explainer: What is the Paris Agreement on climate change and what does it mean for cities?]

In all of this, it’s impossible to overlook the fact that progress in this area ultimately will require fundamental changes in social relations and institutions to make them more inclusive and equitable. It will require leaving aside individual and organizational ego to collectively create a common culture of climate finance that can move toward transformative change. Indeed, this long-term strategic vision may well be the fundamental mission of an alliance such as CCFLA.

Article: Make no mistake, momentum is growing to ‘localize” climate finance | Citiscope by CHARLOTTE BOULANGER APRIL 10, 2017

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

Why Boston’s Mayor Alone Can’t Save the City From Flooding – Next City

On Dec. 8, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh released one of the most comprehensive climate adaptation plans in the country. The 400-page report outlines an array of options for “climate-proofing” the city, including the creation of a decentralized energy grid, the construction of a barrier in Boston Harbor to protect against storm surges, expanded flood insurance coverage and scores of other measures. Better yet, the city promises to be completely carbon neutral by 2050.

Sound good, Bostonians? Well, there is a catch: None of this will happen without voters’ support. While Mayor Walsh’s desire to climate-proof the city is laudable, neither he — nor any other politician in the state — has the political capital to implement the massive infrastructure upgrades outlined in the Climate Ready Boston report without the explicit and sustained support of Bostonians themselves.

Anticipatory policymaking is political kryptonite. Voters reward politicians for projects that procure immediate benefits, not long-term and potentially intrusive planning projects that take years to produce clearly observable outputs.

Continue reading at the source here: Why Boston’s Mayor Alone Can’t Save the City From Flooding – Next City

A recent study in Ocean & Coastal Management on climate change and adaptive decision making found that most local officials need to observe physical damage to their district before they are willing to act preventatively. New York has been touted a national leader in adaptation planning. However, its efforts did not begin in earnest until Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on the city in 2012, killing more than 50 residents and costing more than $30 billion in damage.

In Boston, unabated climate change could result in floodwaters reaching as far inland as Quincy Market. Parts of East Boston, South Boston and Charlestown are already at risk of significant flooding due to storm surges and, by 2050, Boston’s summers may be as hot as those in Washington, D.C., increasing the risk of catastrophic heat waves. These trends will worsen if — or more likely, when — President-elect Trump puts a climate denier in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Adaptation won’t be easy. It will cost billions of dollars. Retrofitting existing structures to withstand climate-induced hazards will be incredibly intrusive, particularly in a colonial-era city with an outdated transportation system. Many of the projects outlined in Climate Ready Boston will take decades to fully implement. In fact, it remains unclear whether some of the larger projects, including the coastal flood protection system, are even structurally feasible, let alone politically expedient. Adaptation is thus a fluid process and, in the time it will take to simply evaluate these options, new demands will arise.

But the time for action is now. Excessive delays will only increase the costs associated with these projects and, worse yet, leave many of city residents at risk. Nor should we take the Mayor’s climate concerns for granted: Even the best-laid plans could be dashed by a competitive mayoral election in the fall of 2017. While much work remains, Bostonians should embrace the mayor’s proposal and demand that he makes good on his promise to save our shining “city upon a hill” before it is too late.

Rob DeLeo is an assistant professor and co-coordinator of the public policy program at Bentley University. His recent book Anticipatory Policymaking: When Government Acts to Prevent Problems and Why It Is So Difficult, explores the political and social dimensions of preparedness policy making.

Source: Why Boston’s Mayor Alone Can’t Save the City From Flooding – Next City

Bloomberg Says Cities Will Fight Climate Change, With or Without Trump – The New York Times

Donald J. Trump has said climate change is a hoax created by the Chinese to get the United States to suppress its manufacturing sector. That prompted a public rebuttal last week from a Chinese official attending a climate summit meeting in Marrakesh, Morocco.

On Tuesday, Mr. Trump appeared to back away from the strict climate-denier viewpoint embraced by many Republicans in an interview with The New York Times, saying that there was “some connectivity” between human activity and climate change. He also said he wanted to keep an “open mind” about whether to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement, the main global climate change accord.

Mr. Trump’s opacity means it is unclear whether he will actually support policies to limit the effects of climate change after being sworn in as president in January. But officials from China, which has surpassed the United States as the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gas, have said they will move forward on climate policies without the Americans, if it comes to that.

More at: Bloomberg Says Cities Will Fight Climate Change, With or Without Trump – The New York Times


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California, at Forefront of Climate Fight, Won’t Back Down to Trump – The New York Times

The prospect of California’s elevated role on climate change is the latest sign of how this state, where Hillary Clinton defeated Mr. Trump by more than four million votes, is preparing to resist the policies of the incoming White House. State and city officials have already vowed to fight any attempt by Washington to crack down on undocumented immigrants; Los Angeles officials last week set aside $10 million to help fund the legal costs of residents facing deportation.

The environmental effort poses decided risks for this state. For one thing, Mr. Trump and Republicans have the power to undercut California’s climate policies. The Trump administration could reduce funds for the state’s vast research community — including two national laboratories — which has contributed a great deal to climate science and energy innovation, or effectively nullify state regulations on clean air emissions and automobile fuel standards.

“They could basically stop enforcement of the Clean Air Act and CO2 emissions,” said Hal Harvey, president of Energy Innovation, a policy research group in San Francisco. “That would affect California because it would constrain markets. It would make them fight political and legal battles rather than scientific and technological ones.”

More at: California, at Forefront of Climate Fight, Won’t Back Down to Trump – The New York Times

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Gov. Jerry Brown: California could ‘launch its own damn satellite’ – Business Insider

Source: Gov. Jerry Brown: California could ‘launch its own damn satellite’ – Business Insider

The governor of California, Jerry Brown, gave a fiery speech at a meeting of scientists Wednesday, promising to fight back against attacks on climate science.

Read More:  Gov. Jerry Brown: California could ‘launch its own damn satellite’ – Business Insider.

Global Network of Mayors Join Forces to Combat Climate Change and Inequality – Shareable

Source: Global Network of Mayors Join Forces to Combat Climate Change and Inequality – Shareable

Cities around the world face the effects of climate change and wealth inequality. To address these pressing, global issues many mayors are stepping up as powerful, and vital, voices for creating low carbon, healthy cities that address climate as well as social issues.

At the recent C40 Mayor’s Summit in Ciudad de México, which was the largest group of local leaders fighting climate change since COP21 in Paris, mayors gathered to advance a shared agenda, share knowledge, and increase the visibility of climate solutions in cities.

More here: Global Network of Mayors Join Forces to Combat Climate Change and Inequality – Shareable.


Mayors WorldWide Will Act on Climate, Whatever Trump Does – Scientific American

Source: Mayors WorldWide Will Act on Climate, Whatever Trump Does – Scientific American

Mayors WorldWide Will Act on Climate, Whatever Trump Does – Scientific American.

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

Can mayors actually rule the world? | Citiscope

Source: Can mayors actually rule the world? | Citiscope

Increasingly in recent years, we have seen growing calls by city governments for more autonomy and new international forms of collaboration. Make no mistake: In so doing, local authorities are seeking to restructure the areas in which they operate in ways that could fundamentally shift longstanding forms of global governance dominated by nation-states.

The movement toward an expanded international role for cities has been enshrined in documents that resulted from the recent Habitat III conference on urbanization. It also has been replicated in multiple new collaborative organizations and activities — the Global Parliament of Mayors in September, the C40 Mayors Summit that took place last week and more.

[See: Cities clamour for a seat at the table of the U. N. countries club]

This is a natural response to trends of globalization and participatory governance, as well as to the fact that some of the most pressing problems of our times are occurring at the urban scale. However, it would be naive to think that national governments will sit by idly as cities and mayors seek to enter and guide global conversations on their own terms. What can we learn from past historical experiences as we forge ahead?

Globalization, while weakening national boundaries, has helped reinforce the importance of the local scale. Lower barriers for cross-border investment, communication and collaboration have allowed cities to make a de facto entrance onto the international stage. Economic globalization has empowered firms and foreign investors to select particular cities for investment in activities that drive both local and national economic growth, such as real estate, finance and services. This means that cities are increasingly becoming the stage upon which the economic future of a nation is set.

[See: The New Urban Agenda needs to recognize a future of city-to-city networks and trade]

National governance structures often have proven unwieldy when dealing with the localized effects of such global problems as climate change, the flow of migrants and refugees, and informal urbanization. Further, trends in technology and the embrace of decentralization have facilitated the emergence of fine-grained, highly participatory governance strategies that are most easily applied at smaller scales.

Against this backdrop, city governments are on the right track in seeking to carve out spaces to outline a more context-specific urban agenda for dealing with today’s global problems. And far from being ghettoized as the site for society’s most pressing social problems — as was the case not that long ago — cities are now identified as key areas of investment opportunity and innovation.

Global mayoral elite

However, any shift toward city-level responsibilities must be accompanied by a corresponding expansion of the governance capacities of local governments, particularly with respect to fiscal and political resources.

“Should cities be empowered to govern themselves as globalized city-states while the nations in which they sit struggle with rural poverty and sprawling peripheries disenfranchised by the urban core?”

Proponents of stronger, more autonomous authority at the local scale advocate an international governance system that shifts decision-making to effective, nimble and highly democratic local governments while also promoting international cooperation and collaboration. On the one hand, doing so brings problem-solving down to the local level, where knowledge of what will and won’t work in that context may be greatest. On the other hand, such efforts allow more direct knowledge transfer across cities.

[See: The Global Parliament of Mayors can lead the devolution revolution]

Decades ago the scholar Janice Perlman started such “co-learning” efforts with her 1987 creation of the MegaCities Project, an experiment that helped create an international conversation about what was working best in cities around the globe. One might even see the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities Initiative or Deutsche Bank’s Urban Age project as continuing this storied tradition. (The Rockefeller Foundation supports Citiscope.)

And it would be foolhardy not to link the globetrotting successes of high-profile mayors such as Bogotá’s Enrique Peñalosa to these precedents and to the ever-expanding awareness that city-level innovation can help advance dialogue about pressing global issues. Currently, several events showcasing the activities of Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg are drawing global attention from the United Nations and the larger world of climate diplomacy.

But any institutionalized devolution of agenda-setting or convening power away from national governments and toward mayors or other local authorities is bound to be highly controversial. In particular, pushback from national-level actors who want to preserve their authority should be considered before celebrating the rush toward what could be called “global city governance”. We also must recognize the possibility that such activities could merely reproduce a global elite of mayors who are divorced from the urban problems of “ordinary” cities and their citizens.

If we don’t reflect carefully on the obstacles and potential fallout from cities asserting their governance agenda on both the national and the global stages, we could ultimately see new political conflicts over who has the right to govern urban territories.

Decentralization dangers

Decentralization may seem to be a relatively new path towards strengthening urban governance, but in fact cycles of decentralization and centralization have long been with us.

Before the advent of the contemporary nation-state, city-states such as the Hanseatic League as well as medieval and pre-modern cities grew and developed through networked trade routes, largely independent of national-level governance. One consequence was the emergence of “urban communities” with autonomous rules and laws, city-level forms of association and local governance institutions.

[See: The only sustainable city is one co-created by all of us]

Often, however, this form of local governance failed to survive conflict with other potential sovereigns. The reasons for this may be useful for us to understand today.

The nation-state emerged as the dominant form of sovereignty and governance in modern times because it was better equipped than city-states or empires to marshal financial resources, armed support and political legitimacy to prevail in war. Whether the nation-state will prove a historic aberration or whether violent suppression of would-be city-states is possible, now that technological prowess has replaced standing armies as the determining factor of military might, remains to be seen.

Even so, the battles that raged leading up to the consolidation of the nation-state as the dominant form of territoriality are worth remembering. The complex eddies around globalization — such as the return of toxic nationalism in the United States and Europe or the breakdown of supra-national governance systems such as the European Union or the Latin American grouping Mercosul — illustrate their continuing relevance today.

[See: What effect could President Trump have on U. S. cities’ climate action?]

Even if nation-states do devolve significant autonomy to their cities, it is not clear that local governance will be a panacea. Problems with indefinite borders, after all, pose challenges to any established borders of governance — including cities. While local governments may offer more space for experimentation in governance styles and strategies by virtue of their size and number, there is no guarantee that cities will be more successful or innovative.

Moreover, if cities remain at the forefront of national economic growth, national authorities will continue to want to “capture” those gains. Independent of the political conflicts this may produce, any such disassociation of cities from their host nations could have significant negative effects on rural areas, which would increasingly rely on national authorities to redistribute urban gains. Without this response, the future of the nation-state would be threatened.

Some would argue that such challenges can be positive, if only because the cadre of “global mayors” speaking for cities on the world stage so far has had a progressive agenda. But decentralization is neither necessarily innovative nor inherently progressive.

[See: A cautionary note for Habitat III: Decentralization can lead to centralization]

For example, the “decentralization revolution” over the past several decades in the developing world began to shift state power to the local level. Yet in the case of several neoliberal regimes in Latin America, this devolution — undertaken due to economic necessity as much as political ideology, and generally unsupported by national funding — had mixed results at best. In some cases, such as in the satellite cities ringing Argentina’s capital, this process has led to increased polarization and inequality.

We also cannot necessarily equate a more “horizontal” governance model with better and more egalitarian democracy, especially if cities’ administrative borders no longer correspond with their physical footprints. Should cities be empowered to govern themselves as globalized city-states while the nations in which they sit struggle with rural poverty and sprawling peripheries disenfranchised by the urban core?

Reinterpreting territoriality

The problems that lead to demands for territorial change are not fixable with a one-size-fits-all solution of expanded urban autonomy. Rather, the territoriality of urban governance is likely to shift in unpredictable ways, perhaps even producing new experiments with forms of governance that are more flexible, virtual, demand-driven or sector-based.

Different sectors may require different scales of governance, such that services might be fairer and more efficient if multiple territories opt in. Transportation could be a good example of this. Likewise, some territorial boundaries, such as those determining citizenship or perhaps even action on climate change, might be counter-productive if their definitions are linked too closely to territory.

[See: Habitat III and metropolitan governance: Time to act]

Others boundaries, however, such as those imposed for taxation, may allow for more discussion of inequality — although with regard to equitable redistribution of gains, revenue-sharing across territories can serve the same function.

These sorts of inventive interpretations of urban territoriality have arisen throughout history. New York City’s Catskills watershed reserve area is an early example of a city expanding its resources footprint beyond its administrative borders. More recently, São Paulo has made strides toward metropolitan governance, seeking to improve transit integration between the city centre and periphery beyond municipal boundaries.

Any exploration of creative territoriality for the modern context will require a nuanced, adaptive and context-based approach that may include — but should not be limited to — increasing the autonomous power of cities and the visibility of mayors on a global stage. The latter also may call attention to the opportunities at hand. But this should be recognized as only the first step in inching towards new sovereignties that enable us to better address the contemporary problems of our times.

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Can mayors actually rule the world? | Citiscope.

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