Commentary: We've been mayors of New York, Paris and Rio. We know climate action starts with cities

Author(s): 
Michael Bloomberg
Anne Hidalgo

This article was published in The Guardian on May 5, 2016. 

Michael Bloomberg, a former mayor of New York City, heads a taskforce on the financial exposure of companies to the risks of climate change. Anne Hidalgo is the mayor of Paris. She is a member of the governing Parti Socialist and was elected in March 2014. Eduardo Paes is a member of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate and mayor of Rio de Janeiro.

The Paris climate agreement, already signed by more than 175 countries, was successful in large part because national governments recognized cities’ progress in reducing carbon emissions. On Thursday, as world leaders gather in Washington DC to discuss how to reach the goals set in Paris, they should focus on helping cities do even more, and act faster, to reduce those emissions.

Cities account for most of the world’s carbon emissions, and their share will continue to increase as cities increase in size. Today more than half of the world lives in cities, and by 2050, two-thirds will. Every day, the world’s cities grow by about 60 square kilometers – an area equal to New York City’s borough of Manhattan.

How that growth takes shape in the next few years will determine whether we can avoid the worst impacts of climate change, and it will also have major economic and public health implications. Cities planned around affordable mass transit expand economic opportunity while cleaning the air we breathe. Smart buildings and land use save energy and protect people from extreme weather events, helping cities avoid enormous potential costs.

National governments can do a lot to help cities accelerate this work, and that’s a key goal of the Coalition for Urban Transitions, a new initiative from the New Climate Economy launched at the Climate Action Summit in Washington DC. The coalition, made up of global financial and business leaders, thinktanks, city officials and urban planning experts, will help achieve the Paris climate goals by making cities a focus of national economic planning, improving city access to financing for low-carbon infrastructure and making the economic case for climate friendly urban growth, particularly in developing countries.

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