Michael Bloomberg

Cities are again taking a leadership role in the climate change fight, with a global Compact of Mayors comprising 2000 cities launched at the UN Climate Summit in New York, promising to help cities make deep collective carbon cuts.

The Compact, which features the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability and United Cities and Local Governments, will try to drive aggressive carbon cuts in cities through public, annual emissions reporting through a format similar to that used by nations under the Kyoto Protocol.

The Compact was announced in conjunction with the release of new research, conducted with Arup, which found existing city commitments alone could reduce annual emissions by 454 megatonnes carbon dioxide equivalent in 2020 – a total of 13 gigatonnes CO2e by 2050.

Other research, led by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, now UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, also found that the world’s cities could move to increase reductions by an extra eight gigatonnes a year by 2050 and have the ability to cumulatively reduce emissions by more than 140 gigatonnes by 2050 – the first time the collective carbon reduction potential of cities has been measured.

“Cities are key players in the global fight against climate change – and this research measures, for the first time, the huge difference they can make together,” Mr Bloomberg said. “Despite the progress they are making, and their potential to do much more, cities are rarely included in national climate plans. This research can help change that – and encourage nations to set higher goals for reducing emissions – by showing how much their cities can contribute.”

The Compact will work to help regions, nations and financial institutions better understand the potential impact of local climate actions and where they can offer support, such as funding mass transit systems and energy efficiency measures.

“The Compact is more than a new political commitment,” Juergen Nimptsch, mayor of Bonn and a leader in ICLEI mayors network, said. “It is an additional locomotive to speed up and scale up transformational climate actions that the world urgently needs right now.”

In order to realise cities’ potential to reduce carbon emissions, aggressive actions have to be taken, the Compact says, particularly around buildings, including:

  • building energy efficiency standards for new urban buildings
  • building energy retrofits for existing urban buildings
  • aggressive energy performance standards for urban building lighting and appliances
  • transportation mode shifts and transit efficiency for city residents

“From Rio to Seoul, mayors are not waiting to take decisive action to combat global climate change and prepare for the ill effects it will bring,” Rio de Janeiro mayor and C40 chair Eduardo Paes said. “We are forging ahead with innovative solutions that make our cities better, safer places to live and work. Leading mayors are setting the example for the rest of the world, and this new research shows what could be achieved if all cities and our national governments now followed suit.”

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