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Cities act on climate change: Thoughts on the C40 Summit in Joburg

Stephen Hammer's picture

If you go to a conference on cities and climate change, you inevitably hear the statement that “countries talk…but cities act”. This message was loud and clear at the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Summit in Johannesburg last month, where a new report released by the C40 and ARUP detailed the 8000+ initiatives that C40 member cities are undertaking to either reduce GHG emissions or increase their climate resilience. Since the first such report came out in 2011, more cities are reporting on their efforts, and those reporting are doing ever more, expanding the array of initiatives they have launched.

Insights from the Urban “Oscars”

Stephen Hammer's picture

Boris Johnson, Mayor of LondonIt had all the trappings of a major awards ceremony; a “green carpet” (of actual grass), a scrum of paparazzi chasing the celebrities (in this case, the mayors) entering the building, a laser light show, and a striking (and heavy) trophy for the award winners.

The City Climate Leadership Awards held at the Siemens Crystal building in London on Thursday, September 4th, brought together a “who’s who” of urban experts to recognize cities leading the way in urban climate change governance and performance. Sponsored by the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and Siemens, the ten award winners were:

  • Bogota’s Transmilenio bus rapid transit system
  • Copenhagen’s plan to make the entire city carbon neutral by 2025
  • Melbourne’s energy efficient buildings finance initiative
  • Mexico City’s ProAire program, which has dramatically improved local air quality
  • Munich’s 100% Green Power program
  • New York City’s Climate Adaptation and Resilience strategy
  • Rio de Janeiro’s Morar Carioca Urban Revitalization strategy
  • San Francisco’s Zero Waste program
  • Singapore’s Intelligent Transport system
  • Tokyo’s cap & trade scheme

Rio+20 and Its Shades of Grey

Dan Hoornweg's picture

Copacaban PavementSustainable development always seems to come in shades of grey; excuses, obfuscation, conflicting demands, entrenched interests, and inertia can overshadow clarity on what needs to be done ‘on Monday morning’. But for some reason, like Rio de Janeiro’s iconic black slate and white marble sidewalks, sustainable development seemed to be a lot more black and white at last week’s big UN Conference on Sustainable Development.

Maybe it was the more than 20 hours that I spent stuck in traffic that helped bring clarity; or being one of the 50,000 visitors, each spending an average of $10,000 to travel, and emitting about 3.5 tonnes of CO2e (coincidentally what the global average annual per capita emissions needs to stay below, if we want to remain within a warming of 2° C). Flight delays getting there and back were more than 50 hours; leave alone the 24 hours in-the-plane. Was the Rio journey worth it?

Cities Act as Talks Go On

Dan Hoornweg's picture

Bill Clinton and C40 Mayors

Yesterday in downtown Rio, in Forte de Copacabana, there was an entirely different atmosphere than at the Rio+20 negotiations out in Rio’s suburbs. The public — some waiting as long as three hours — filed through the city’s impressive expo on sustainable development. The festive and hopeful mood of school-children and local ‘Cairiocas’ seemed to buoy the mood of the mayors and officials in the main auditorium.

Some 2000 guests looked on as mayors and their friends like Bill Clinton (via video conference), national government, business and World Bank representatives launched a new initiative to reduce methane emissions though solid waste management. The C40 Solid Waste Network in partnership with the World Bank will focus on providing cities with technical assistance to develop projects that reduce methane gas production.

UN Environment Programme, UN Habitat, World Bank Recognize New Global Protocol for Urban GHG Emissions, Encourage its Use

Dan Hoornweg's picture

In March this year, we posted a blog on the draft edition of a global protocol for city-scale GHG emissions, announced jointly by ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, C40, and the World Resources Institute (WRI).

Yesterday, a pilot version of the protocol was released at the UNFCCC climate meetings in Bonn, Germany. And today, UNEP, UN-Habitat and the World Bank expressed appreciation to ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, C40, and WRI for this accomplishment. To learn more about the significance of the protocol, read this news feature.

Together Much is Possible – A New GHG Emissions Protocol for Cities

Dan Hoornweg's picture

Factory smokestacks, EstoniaThis month marks an important milestone – an agreed to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions protocol for cities was announced jointly by ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, C40, the big-cities climate change club, and the World Resources Institute (WRI). The protocol builds on early work by ICLEI, WRI and WBCSD’s corporate scopes model, a research paper presented by Professor Chris Kennedy et al at the June 2009 Marseille Urban Research Symposium, and a joint UNEP, UN-Habitat, World Bank guideline, supported by Cities Alliance, launched June 2010 at the World Urban Forum in Rio de Janeiro.

Up to now there were many different types of ways that cities were measuring their GHG emissions. A few cities were leading. Rio’s one of the first cities to complete the new inventory. New York City, Amman, Cape Town, Tokyo and Mexico City are front-runners as well. Xiaolan and Kunming are lined up to be the first cities in China to use the new protocol. Soon, most cities that complete a GHG inventory will follow a common ISO standardized approach. This will make analysis and learning across cities much easier. A common and verifiable metric is also one of the best ways to attract additional finance for cities.

Request for Public Comments on New Global Protocol for City-Scale GHG Emissions

Rishi Desai's picture

In response to the global need for consistency when measuring and reporting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, a group of organizations have partnered to develop a Global Protocol for Community-scale Greenhouse Gas Emissions (community protocol). Beginning today and for the next month, the draft edition of the GPC is open for public comment, marking a landmark effort which seeks to harmonize the emissions measurement and reporting process for cities of all sizes and geographies.

“C40 operates under the premise that cities must measure emissions in order to manage them; with this unprecedented and collaborative initiative, we are empowering all cities to do both,” says Jay Carson, CEO of C40.

d’Urban: Cities leading at COP17

Dan Hoornweg's picture

I learned this week that Durban got its name in 1835 from Sir Benjamin d’Urban, the first governor of the Cape Colony. His name seemed particularly apt as COP17’s urban-in-Durban yielded important contributions. During the first weekend at Durban City Hall, just next to the COP17 venue, 114 local governments signed the Durban Adaptation Charter, committing signatory cities to accelerate local adaptation efforts, including conducting risk assessments and more city-to-city cooperation. An impressive complement to last year’s Mexico City Pact that calls for similar efforts to measure and promote mitigation in participating cities. More than 200 cities have now signed on to the Mexico City Pact.

A League of their Own: Cities Working Together for a Better World

Dan Hoornweg's picture

In 1845 Alexander Cartwright, a Brooklyn shipping clerk, drew up a formal set of rules and established the Knickerbockers Baseball Club. Before that baseball, or rounders, had players in different cities running in different directions, using different size balls on different size fields. Cities like Philadelphia and Boston all had their own rules, but in the end New York City’s rules prevailed and a common game was launched.

Cities now need a new league to foster cooperation and clearly pursue a set of common objectives. Cities count, and the world is increasingly counting on them. The world’s 600 largest cities make up more than 60% of the world’s economy. Even more striking, the world’s 50 largest cities, by population, are home to more than 500 million people, have an annual GDP more than $9.6 trillion (larger than China), and generate more than 2.6 billion tonnes of CO2 per year (more than the world’s 100 smallest countries combined, and if a country, these cities would be the third largest emitter).

Climate Change and the World’s Cities: A Week To Remember

Neal Peirce's picture

SAO PAULO, June 4, 2011 -- For the cities of the world, there’s rarely if ever been such a momentous single week.  Faced with the potentially catastrophic impacts of climate change, the C40 organization of world’s large cities met in this Brazilian megacity to announce a set of landmark agreements. All the accords, said New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg, current C40 chairman and the prime driver of its new initiatives, will be designed to undergird their struggle against rising seas and disruptive weather patterns -- in a world in which cities are responsible, directly or indirectly, for up to 80 percent of global climate emissions.

WB C40 agreement“The leaders of C40 Cities - the world’s megacities - hold the future in their hands,” Bloomberg asserted.

As a first step, the three dozen C40 mayors confirmed a full merger with the Clinton Climate Initiative, assuring added funding for a centralized, high-grade professional staff as well as full-bore support from former President Bill Clinton, who flew to São Paulo to seal and celebrate the agreement. Staff operations are global, with current bases in London and New York.


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