Compromise at a local level is key to making a difference
By Carlos Roa
The importance of local government engagement in tackling the climate crisis cannot be stressed enough. Mayors hold a unique position to drive meaningful action against climate change. They emerge as key players in the work for a sustainable future.
Cities are both the epicenters of human activity and the frontlines of climate impact. They are responsible for over 70% of global carbon emissions and are disproportionately vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. Urban heat islands – city areas that are extraordinarily warmer than rural areas – pose imminent threats to the well-being of their inhabitants.
The Power of the Mayors
One of the most notable features of mayoral action is its agility and adaptability. Unlike cumbersome national bureaucracies, local governments can swiftly implement innovative policies tailored to their city’s unique needs.
Mayors can spearhead initiatives such as expanding public transportation networks, encouraging energy-efficient buildings, and promoting green spaces, all of which can have a profound impact on emissions reduction and quality of life.
In addition, mayors can engage directly with their constituents, fostering a sense of ownership and shared responsibility for climate action. Also, they have a unique ability to forge partnerships across various stakeholders, such as universities, research institutions, non-profit organizations, and the private sector.
Aware of this, an increasing number of mayors worldwide are adopting proactive steps to combat climate change.
Mayors taking action now
The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy (GCoM) brings together the former Compact of Mayors and the European Union’s Covenant of Mayors. It operates as a global coalition of city leaders delivering climate action by working to cut greenhouse gas emissions while preparing their cities for the impacts of climate change.
C40 is another global network of nearly 100 mayors from some of the world’s biggest cities that are united in action to confront the climate crisis. They are committed to this goal “using an inclusive, science-based and collaborative approach to cut their fair share of emissions in half by 2030, help the world limit global warming to 1.5°C, and build healthy, equitable, and resilient communities”. They are achieving results across the world. From Boston to Bogotá, from Cape Town to Beijing, from Portland to Amsterdam, just to name some of the cities involved.
In the United States, Climate Mayors is a bipartisan network. They have involved more than 750 U.S. mayors since 2014. As stated on their website, they have demonstrated “climate leadership through meaningful actions in their communities.” Climate Mayors highlight that “Mayors see the impacts of climate change firsthand and are the first to propose, develop and implement solutions to this existential challenge.”
The group has brought together mayors from 48 states and nearly 60 million Americans.
The mayor’s commitment to sustainable urban development is a strategic necessity. As cities continue to grow and evolve, they have the power to shape a future where vibrant urban life coexists harmoniously with a thriving planet.