Source: https://www.greenpolicy360.net/w/C40_Cities_Climate_Leadership_Group

I attended a side-event on ‘Under 2 MOU: 2050 strategies towards 1.5°C with States, Regions and Cities’ organised by The Climate Group, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40), and Climate Analytics GmbH, because we were encouraged to do so by Meena Raman from the Third World Network.

I walked in after it had already begun, but I did gather the gist of what some of them were saying. In a nutshell, C40 is a network of more than 80 of the world’s ‘greatest’ cities (elitism in being inclusive – nice) around the world that are committed to addressing climate change. Acknowledging that each city has its own unique issues and progress in tackling climate change, it empowers cities to connect, collaborate and share knowledge to drive ‘meaningful, measurable and sustainable’ action on climate change.

The Swedish speaker explained that action at the national level plays an important role in the Swedish context such as on carbon pricing, and mentioned that the Carbon Tax 1991 was very effective. She also said that the ban on landfills in Sweden had spurred local and regional level to systematically and strategically promote innovation and a circular economy on waste management. However, what is most important from the government, is to make sure that climate policies and plans are integrated into sectors such as healthcare, jobs, etc. so that they are cheap but also effective measures.

She also highlighted the need for funding and co-funding on the regional and local level as an efficient way for cities to work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as create jobs and incentives for businesses to work on innovation. She mentioned there are two types of investments; first, carbon efficiency in cities for sustainable urban planning. The second is from corporations that have led a number of innovation programs on a local and regional level and through NGOs. She said that this could be part of an export strategy as a means of being in the forefront of social and business innovations globally.

Another speaker emphasised that what was not lacking at the moment, is the impetus to act. With the tremendous momentum from the signing of the Paris Agreement last year and the turbulence in the USA following the (unfortunate) elections the previous week, there was an even greater result. The 6th biennial C40 Mayors Summit that will be taking place from 30th November – 2nd December 2016 will be hosted by Mexico City, and the participating cities account for over 600 million people. He mentioned that every mayor provided an individual roadmap of cities and in collaboration with other parties that will deliver on the agenda on a regional and national level in the city.

He pointed out that only a quarter of the commitments made in the cities that are included in the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), and there needs to be greater support for regulations such as to drive diesel-friendly vehicles altogether. He also raised the issue on finance, where of the USD 11,000 that was spent on climate actions, 75% were directly funded by the cities themselves, and although there is the USD 100 billion trajectory, city coffers are not big enough to deal with such an amount.

I have to admit, I did not understand everything about what they were saying as I did sit in halfway and was not familiar with the C40 before that. However, it was an interesting concept to decentralise climate policy and action to give more control to city mayors and councils, who might be best placed to understand the challenges and needs of their people. Connecting cities together to provide direct technical assistance, facilitate peer-to-peer exchange, research, knowledge management and communications seem to be a great way to turn political momentum on an international level to action on the ground.

Indeed, as one of the speakers elucidated, cities are often prime movers of economic development if one studies the history of cities. Cities cannot, of course, change in the short run. However, cities will make it easier to ride the turbulence that comes with climate change, particularly in more vulnerable cities, so they must be made more ‘livable’ and this includes employment, health and education.

The moderator asked the speakers that if they each had the chance to pick one area of collaboration with the most benefits between the regional, local and national level, what it would be. Most agreed that transportation and buildings would be that area because of their carbon-intensity. The speaker from Canada quipped that Quebec was dealing with this through the zero emission vehicle law that obliges car-sellers to offer their customers with a minimum number of hybrid, electric or rechargeable models.

The Swedish speaker said that in Sweden, they have more or less managed the energy sector, but in regards to transportation, more work needs to be done but that cannot be done solely on a national level. She said that there are tools available but there is a need for collaboration in order to create a truly fossil-free system. However, that would require active city planning for it to be feasible.

The effort and need, to make zero or positive energy buildings are important, particularly in the growing infrastructure in cities of developing countries. This resonates with me, as I believe that developing countries should not sacrifice the environment for their economic development as developed countries have done, but they could be more conscious about how they erect the numerous buildings and industries in their cities. This, however, requires access to climate funding and support from developed countries, a hot issue at COP22.

It is interesting that none of the Malaysian cities is involved in the C40 and I am curious as to why this is so, although I do not think it is because we do not have any of the ‘world’s greatest cities’.

Written by Nachatira Thuraichamy
Edited by Choy Moon Moon

You can read more about why cities are important in combating climate change here; C40 and the work they do here.