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67 JG imageIn June I commented on the Popes Encyclical on Climate Change and the Environment see As a follow up there was a meeting last week in Rome in which the Pope met with more than 60 local leaders from around the world – including 20 C40 Mayors1 – to discuss the topics of climate change and sustainable development in cities.

The meeting lasted 2 days and the Pope himself gave an impromptu address in which he reinforced the need to address the challenge of climate change and its potentially deleterious effects on the social fabric in cities. The meeting was organised by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences who see the mayors and city governors from around the world as central players who can have a significant influence at COP21.

Why do they think that? Well all we need to do is look at some simple facts:

  1. Cities house more than half the world’s population,
  2. Cities  consume 75% of the world’s energy
  3. Cities emit 80% of all greenhouse gases

A point that had been lost on me to date was that the C40 Cities Group started in October 2005 when the former mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, convened representatives from 18 megacities to pursue action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions2. The meeting resulted in an agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by taking action on a number of points, most notably procurement policies and alliances to accelerate the uptake of climate-friendly technologies. This agreement began what later became known as the C40 Climate Leadership Group. Serving as C40’s first Chair, Mayor Livingstone established the C40 Secretariat in London, set up the C40 Steering Committee, and initiated the use of C40 workshops to exchange best practices amongst participating cities. The tenure of current C40 Chair, Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes, began in December 2013, following the 2010-2013 Chairmanship of the Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg.

So yes cities are important to global greenhouse gas reduction and these non-governmental players are considered to having an increasingly important role to play at COP21 and beyond.

At the Rome summit, Rodrigo Rosa (Speaking on behalf of the C40 Chair, Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes) commented as follows;

“Cities are our “Common Home” and we must work together to make them safe, fair and sustainable. As leaders of our communities, we believe in cities as a force for good. By embracing their potential, we can address many of today’s most urgent challenges – including threats like climate change and modern slavery.”

Rousing stuff.

As a result of the workshops, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences released two Declarations signed by the mayors expressing commitment to creating socially inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities.

The first Declaration stated:

“As Mayors we commit to building, in our cities and urban settlements, the resilience of the poor and those in vulnerable situations and reduce their exposure to climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters, including human trafficking and dangerous forced migration”

The declaration further notes that political leaders of all UN member states have a special responsibility to agree at COP21 to a bold climate agreement that confines global warming to a limit safe for humanity, and helps to finance the costs of climate-change mitigation in low-income countries. Indeed, through initiatives such as the Compact of Mayors, cities are doing their part to set ambitious targets, take meaningful action and plan for a sustainable and climate safe future.

The second Declaration, “An Alliance for Sustainable Cities,” looks ahead to the global adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the UN member states at the United Nations on September 25, 2015. In the document, mayors pledge to work towards the success of the SDGs in their own cities, and to launch a SDG Urban Alliance to that end.

A recording of the final declaration session can be found at:

1The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, now in its 10th year, connects more than 75 of the world’s greatest cities, representing 2550+ million people and one quarter of the global economy see