Fighting Climate Change the Urban Way

Urgency is an understatement when it comes to combatting climate change. National and international efforts are making strides, but struggling to keep pace. Cities have shown that they are willing to act even where national authorities do not. In some ways, they have become the new climate champions. What can be to done boost their efforts? Can local successes move the larger climate agenda forward?

Paris Peace Forum
May 31 · 8 min read
Fighting Climate Change, the Urban Way

What’s the Problem?

The effects of climate change are on our doorstep and urban communities are especially vulnerable. Think of the impact of extreme weather events, population displacement, and subsequent economic pressures (including for services and systems repair costs). With the alarming trendline of urban growth, it is likely to get worse. By 2050, analysts estimate that 70% of the world’s population will live in metropolitan areas. And it’s happening fast. Meanwhile, with 90% of all urban areas coastal, many of them are literally sitting on the edge of this coming crisis.

Cities are the greatest impactor as well as the greatest impactee of climate change consequences.

Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, UN Development Program

Be Smart

Even if cities make real strides in combatting climate change, does it have an impact on collective global efforts? Absolutely. First, the impact effects of behavior change in cities and urban areas are especially high. As the Paris Peace Forum’s panelists emphasized, as a primary source of emissions, cities are an essential ingredient if we want to make a substantial change in the global carbon footprint. It will be difficult to reach global targets without a transformative change in urban areas, especially megacities.

At the End of the Tunnel

Leaders of cities and municipalities, large and small, know they are on the cusp of a transformative period. The social and economic fabric of urban life will change significantly in the next few decades. Many are already working to adapt their communities; others would like to do so. They are stepping up, but if we want them to keep advancing, they need our support.

Governments need courage and need to be inspired. Cities can play this role…They can show how they will deliver, and in fact it may trigger confidence from national governments about the viability [of these solutions].

Laurence Tubiana, European Climate Foundation

Who’s on the Hot Seat

Much of the Forum’s discussion of cities combatting climate change focused on opportunities for direct concrete assistance to these key actors. Helping cities network with each other and share best practices and solutions amongst themselves also adds value. There are numerous programs underway such as the C40 Cities (a network of mayors of the world’s megacities), the Global Covenant of Mayors, the Global Alliance for Climate Change, and others. “Crowdsourcing” solutions between city governments can be especially useful. These initiatives should be encouraged and concretely supported. They are advancing, but as Ambassador Tubiana advised, it is time to start thinking beyond 2020.

What’s Next

Cities are one area where actors working to combat climate change can intervene now and have a consequential impact. The Forum’s panel applauded initiatives to work directly with cities and local communities, emphasizing the importance of building local governance capacity on mitigation and adaptation measures. Additionally, the panel called for increasing access to financial resources, expand public-private partnerships, and creating synergy between national and local strategies. Combatting the rise in global temperature and its effects is a challenge that requires every stakeholder possible.



Insights from the Paris Peace Forum

For advancing global governance

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Better #governance for a world at peace

Insights from the Paris Peace Forum

For advancing global governance