At UCLG’s World Congress and Habitat III, Mayors Delivered
How 8 Days in South America Showcased City Leadership on Climate Change
This Fall, world leaders are gathering in cities around the world to outline and deepen commitments to fighting climate change, and local actors are joining them and working with each other every step of the way to turn plans into action.
That’s why, this October marked the second time local leaders from around the world were given the floor at the United Nation’s Habitat III in Quito. Descending upon Ecuador, national leaders and mayors from cities in all corners of the world joined UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to develop a framework for sustainable urban growth for the next 20 years — known as the New Urban Agenda. And that’s why the Compact of Mayors, soon to become the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy, was there with cities, supporting their actions and working to make their voices heard on the global stage.
The fact is that 70 percent of the world’s population is expected to be living in cities by 2050. While national delegations were tasked with both defining what cities of the future should look like and how they will be shaped to get there, throughout the negotiating process, it was clear that mayors were the ones with the answers.
Aiming to formalize an Agenda rooted in building smart, inclusive, participatory, safe, and resilient cities, national leaders listened as mayors shared what their cities currently look like, what climate-related challenges they are facing, and how they are already changing the modern city to achieve ambitious local climate targets. But mayors also demonstrated their strength, their action-oriented spirit, and their capability on the ground to spearhead transformative climate-smart initiatives in their cities. Most of all, mayors shared their vision for the future and how it aligned with the kinds of cities outlined by the New Urban Agenda.
Before Habitat III, city actors came together to demonstrate their leadership on climate change and sustainable development. Just a week before, cities attended and participated in the 5th UCLG World Congress for the World Summit for Local and Regional Leaders. While in Bogotá, cities participated in panels, workshops and events to ignite the conversation on urban development.
On October 14, the Compact hosted a moderated discussion on the new Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy with Iñigo de la Serna, Mayor of Santander, Patrick Klugman, Deputy Mayor of Paris, Mohamed Sefiani, Mayor of Chechaouen, Greg Moore, Chairman of Greater Vancouver, Amanda Eichel of Bloomberg Philanthropies and moderator Monika Zimmerman, Deputy Secretary General of ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability. Speaking to an audience of city officials, Compact and Covenant of Mayors cities, and other local leaders, the panel discussed the significance of the newly formed Global Covenant of Mayors — united by the merger of the Compact of Mayors and the EU’s Covenant of Mayors — to strengthen city-led action, as well as shared personal testimonials on the threats they face in their own cities from a changing climate and the steps they are taking as part of their commitments to either the Compact or the Covenant, which enhance mitigation and boost resiliency. Showcasing the power of local climate action to impact global progress, the panelists were united in showing their determination to tackle climate change. Despite the different circumstances that make each city unique, the fight against climate change is the same fight for every city because it is for our collective future.
Featuring this discussion at a city-led event — and ahead of Habitat III — reinforced the role of local leaders as the key players standing on the frontlines of climate action and sustainable development.
As mayors traveled from Bogotá to Quito, their voices were louder, their ideas were stronger and their commitments were bolder. At Habitat III, local leaders showed up in force as mayors were directly engaged with the heads of state who ultimately adopted the “Quito Declaration on Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements for All.” During the World Mayors Assembly on October 16, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon delivered his opening address, calling mayors “invaluable” to implementing a New Urban Agenda and calling upon them to “take ownership” of sustainable development. And they did just that.
Mayors took the stage to share how they are already supporting national solutions to this global challenge and to reinforce how crucial their voices are at the international level. Over 300 local and regional leaders delivered a signed joined statement to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, stating their contributions and commitments to implementing the New Urban Agenda beyond Habitat III.
Further emphasizing city commitments, the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy co-hosted an event with the City of Quito and Mayor Mauricio Rodas on October 17. Featuring two panels, the first included Marcio Lacerda, Mayor of Belo Horizonte; Helen Fernández, Mayor of Caracas; Iñigo de la Serna, Mayor of Santander; Libby Schaaf, Mayor of Oakland; Mercedes Conesa, President of Barcelona Provincial Government; and Yolanda Kakabadse, President of WWF-International. The panel was moderated by Gino Van Begin, Secretary General of ICLEI and featured an introduction by Amanda Eichel of Bloomberg Philanthropies. Mostly focusing on the collaboration between cities both big and small, the first panel discussed the importance of integrating local climate action with sustainable urban development policies.
The second panel included Federico Gutiérrez, Mayor of Medellín; José Blandón, Mayor of Panama City; Mauricio Rodas, Mayor of Quito; Mónica Feín, Mayor of Rosario; and Harry Verhaar, Head of Global Affairs at Philips, and was moderated by Manuel Olivera, Latin American Regional Director for C40. Diving into the collaboration of cities under coalitions like the Compact of Mayors and the soon-to-be Global Covenant of Mayors, mayors shared best practices on climate action, and made recommendations for other cities to implement successful Sustainable Development Goals.
The event showcased not only how local leaders are sparking greater collaboration and action on the ground, but it also demonstrated how despite the geographic diversity of the Compact of Mayors coalition, city leaders are ready to build cities for all.
As world leaders implement stronger agendas and agreements for facing climate threats, there is one clear theme that continues to stand out and that was apparent at both the UCLG World Congress and Habitat III — cities matter.
Cities will be the ones to implement the agendas, the strategies and the agreements. Cities are standing at the forefront of implementation because they are able to respond to these global challenges on the ground and work together to advance a progress on an international scale.
When it comes to fighting climate change, the solutions are clearer and clearer — the future of sustainable development rests in the hands of cities as they work collaboratively and swiftly to solve our most pressing global challenges.
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