From Copenhagen To Paris, Cities And Mayors Are Leading The Way On Climate Action

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The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40) and research partner Arup released Climate Action in Megacities (CAM 3.0), a groundbreaking and definitive assessment of how the world’s leading mayors have taken on the urgent challenge of climate change.

Since the last major COP in Copenhagen, C40 cities have taken 10,000 climate actions – a doubling of actions in just six years – and have committed to reduce their CO2 emissions by 3 Gt CO2 by 2030, equivalent to the annual carbon output of India.

Furthermore, decisions taken by global cities to invest in low carbon development over the next 15 years have the potential to avoid locking in a total of 45 Gt of CO2, or eight times the total current annual emissions of the United States.

By working together, the world’s largest cities have forged a pathway to low carbon and climate resilient development. By showing what cities have already done, are currently doing, and have the potential to do, cities and mayors provide a positive message going into COP21 that nations, too, can agree upon and deliver ambitious climate action.

C40 cities understand what is at stake: 98% of C40 cities recognise the risks of climate change; while 70% report that they are already experiencing its impacts. As a result, cities have taken 10,000 actions including establishing incentives for building retrofits, installing energy-efficient LED streetlights, developing city-wide adaptation plans, building bus rapid transit lines and financing waste-to-energy projects – actions that not only reduce greenhouse gas emission but increase cities’ liveability. CAM 3.0 analysed actions taken by 66 cities across twelve sectors (e.g. adaptation, energy supply, finance, waste) and 50 action areas.

The urgency to act is greater than ever. Recent C40 research shows that global urban policy decisions before 2020 could determine up to a third of the remaining global carbon budget that is not already “locked-in” by past decisions.

“If cities can work together to tackle climate change, nations can too,” said C40 Chair and Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes. “By demonstrating the ambition, scale and impact of urban climate action, Climate Action in Megacities 3.0 should provide hope to the world and a backbone to the climate negotiators assembling in Paris this month to agree on a new, universal climate change accord.”

“We’re in better shape going into Paris than we were going into Copenhagen largely because of the progress cities have made, and C40 cities have helped lead the way. It’s a great example of the power of cooperation – a lesson told in this report that I hope will inspire world leaders at the U.N.’s climate change conference.” said Michael R. Bloomberg, UN Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, who launched the first edition of the Climate Action in Megacities during his tenure as C40 Chair as part of a strategic goal to empower cities with data.

“The Road to Paris is a road that leads to and through a C40 city deeply committed to climate action,” said Mayor Anne Hidalgo. “Paris is a concrete example of how actions taken locally – whether a bikeshare program, a building retrofit program or even hosting international climate talks – can have widespread global impacts. Parisians are extremely proud of the steps we are taking to tackle climate change and hope our efforts can inspire global leaders to strengthen their pledges as well.”

As the world’s most extensive quantitative study of city climate action, CAM 3.0 documents and analyses the nearly 10,000 actions taken by C40 cities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve climate resilience since the failed climate negotiations in Copenhagen in 2009. The report demonstrates the ability of mayors to share knowledge across geographic, political and economic boundaries: 30 percent of climate action measured was a result of city-to-city collaboration. This collaboration is also accelerating the rate at which cities are acting – more than half (51 percent) of climate action is happening today at a city-wide scale, up from just 15 percent in 2011.

“Our research shows that cities and their partners are working together to effectively mitigate and adapt to climate change. As cities initiate and increase their climate actions, they are making themselves more attractive for investment and partnerships with the private sector” said Arup Chairman Gregory Hodkinson. “There is both need and potential to do more, and as this knowledge and expertise spreads globally, we expect to see cities’ ambitions grow as we reach a critical stage in international climate change action.”

Among the report’s notable findings, all but one C40 city participating in the 2015 survey (65 out of 66) is introducing LED street lighting, a 250% increase from just 20 cities at the time of the Copenhagen climate talks. C40 cities have started an urban solar revolution – 46 out of 66 surveyed cities are now delivering solar power generation, a 280% increase since COP 15, and four times as many C40 cities (39 out of 66) are now employing building energy management systems to reduce energy consumption in municipal buildings.

Cities have a vested interest in securing a climate safe world. Nearly all (98 percent) of C40 cities responding to the CAM 3.0 survey recognize the risk of climate change, and half are already experiencing its impacts. C40 mayors are therefore setting ambitious climate targets and long-term strategies, and making strong, direct investments in climate action, the report shows. Cities report plans to expand nearly all (88 percent) actions currently underway, up from 30 percent in 2011. They are also financing 70 percent of city-wide action themselves and report a sizeable investment of USD $2.8bn in the mere 450 actions for which cost data was provided.

Climate Action in Megacities 3.0 is the third of C40’s definitive assessments of its member cities’ climate action, following earlier surveys in 2011 and 2013. For this report, “climate action” is defined as the measures and initiatives cities take to reduce the severity of climate change (mitigation), or their exposure to the effects of climate change (adaptation). Sectors of city climate action include: Adaptation, Buildings, Community-scale Development, Energy Supply, Finance, Food & Agriculture, Mass Transit, Outdoor Lighting, Private Transport, Waste and Water.

The research was supported by researchers at the City Leadership Initiative at University College London (UCL).