Cities Take the Initiative on Urban Policies to Combat Climate Change

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Jenny Sant’Anna

“In 2014, what will be the most important MOVEMENT, PROJECT, or PERSON making a global impact on sustainable urban policy and community development?”

I believe climate change will have the most important global impact on sustainable urban policy and community development.

With the March releases of the second installment of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2014 – Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability and the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s (AAAS) What We Know report, climate change is on the minds of policy makers across the globe. Unfortunately in the U.S., advancing federal policy on climate change remains stymied by Congressional politics. That, however, doesn’t mean that policy makers aren’t acting, it is just that much of the action is at the local level. Cities are where many of the most significant strides are being made.

And that only makes sense – cities are where climate change impacts can potentially affect the most people; cities are where risks from old infrastructure will be exposed; cities will have some of the greatest adaptation needs; and cities offer the largest mitigation opportunities.

Whether municipal efforts are driven by concerns for local economic stability, city resiliency, risks to infrastructure and residents arising from climate change impacts, or interest in influence and leadership on the way forward, cities are stepping up as both the testing ground and proof of concept models for new actions and policies for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

As the following initiatives demonstrate, mayors and local leaders are supporting these efforts, both within the U.S. and globally, through their willingness to work together and share best practices.

When the US refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol in February 2005, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels launched the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement vowing to get 141 American cities to sign on, the same number as the number of countries signing the Kyoto Protocol. Over 1,000 mayors eventually signed the agreement.

Today, thirteen U.S. cities are also part of the global C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40). “Acting both locally and collaboratively, C40 Cities are having a meaningful global impact in reducing both greenhouse gas emissions and climate risks.”

Just this April, 164 mayors and county leaders signed the new Resilient Communities for America Agreement.

The list goes on.

When you think about it – although globally we all contribute to the issue of climate change, impacts are felt locally. That leaves our local communities not only having to face their contribution to the problem, but also confronting local risks and impacts. Opportunities abound to reduce emissions through energy efficiency programs, planning, public transportation, and public outreach initiatives. Not to mention the economic development opportunities of innovation and the infrastructure work ahead. Sustainable urban policy and community development will most definitely be affected by climate change.

Questions to Consider

·      What is being done in your local region/city/town to adapt to or mitigate climate change?

·      Which programs are having the greatest impact?

·      How aware is the public of your municipality’s action on climate?

·      Has your local leadership signed a climate change agreement?

We’d love to hear how your city or town is responding to the threat and the opportunities of climate change – share your stories on Impact Urbanism.

Resources / Groups:
C40
ICLEI
National League of Cities: Sustainable Cities Institute
Resilient Communities for America

Reports:
(AAAS) What We Know
IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Reports

Jenny Sant’Anna is the social media director of UIX Global. Follow along @UIXGlobal and on FB Urban Innovation Exchange.

Learn more about Jenny San’Anna

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