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Climate change happens at home. It happens where we live and not just some faraway place halfway around the globe. Over half of the world’s population lives in an urban region. And so it follows that ending climate change starts at City Hall. Cities, towns and local leaders are best positioned to #ActOnClimate.

Ending Climate Change Begins In The Cities, Below2C

Source: C40 Cities

The relentless warming of the planet is not fake news. It’s a fact. And we must act now. The transition to a low-carbon society is no longer an obscure and insoluble concept that will somehow just happen. It is the path of the future. And cities are taking the lead.

Making Cities Inclusive, Safe, Resilient and Sustainable

In 2015, countries adopted the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals. One of the 17 goals for sustainable development is to make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable (Goal 11). The role of cities in addressing climate change cannot be overstated as illustrated in the facts and figures that follow:

Facts about Cities (Source: Sustainable Development Goals)

  • Half of humanity – 3.5 billion people – lives in cities today
  • By 2030, almost 60 per cent of the world’s population will live in urban areas
  • 95 per cent of urban expansion in the next decades will occur in the developing world
  • 828 million people live in slums today and the number keeps rising
  • The world’s cities occupy just 3 per cent of the Earth’s land, but account for 60-80 per cent of energy consumption and 75 per cent of carbon emissions
  • Rapid urbanization is exerting pressure on fresh water supplies, sewage, the living environment and public health
  • The high density of urban areas can bring efficiency gains and technological innovation while reducing resource and energy consumption

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Published on Dec 1, 2016

C40 Cities is the leading global network of cities engaged in fighting the impacts of climate change. Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver are C40 members which collectively have tremendous power to raise climate ambitions and climate hope for millions of their citizens.

US Cities and Towns

Earlier this month, New York City announced that it is divesting $5 billion from fossil fuels and suing five major oil companies for climate damages. While appearing at the press conference headed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, Naomi Klein said “this could change the world.” Could it be that the tide is starting to turn against fossil fuels?

This recent announcement by NYC follows other significant events undertaken by cities elsewhere. On June 1, 2017, 385 American mayors from towns and cities both big and small pledged to “adopt, honor, and uphold the commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement” through the Climate Mayors effort. Representing more than 68 million Americans, the initiative has mayors from across the country taking the lead to strengthen local efforts for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The pledge has been signed by the leaders of some of the nation’s largest cities, including Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Houston, Chicago, and Philadelphia (Source: Climate Reality Blog, Reasons for Hope).

Canadian Cities

With a goal to be the greenest city in the world by 2020, Vancouver is actively working to reduce its carbon footprint by 33 per cent. Montreal has just boosted its carbon reduction target from 25 per cent  to 35 per cent —by 2020. Montreal and Vancouver were two of the signatories among nearly four dozen mayors from five countries, who committed to track their carbon emissions quarterly.

Limited Ambition in Ottawa

Below2°C is based in Ottawa, the nation’s capital and one of the wealthiest and best-educated urban centres in Canada. As a proud resident of this city, I expect strong climate leadership from Mayor Jim Watson, councillors and the administration. But such is not the reality. “So why the limited ambition in Ottawa?” asked Ken Johnson (Below2°C co-founder) in his December 2017 Ottawa Citizen OpEd. The City of Ottawa 2018 budget “allots a paltry $500,000 – a pathetic 54 cents per resident, with no dedicated staff – to implement a plan (Energy Evolution) that was supposed to be a city priority through the end of 2018,” added Johnson.

In another OpEd relating to Ottawa’s December budget deliberations, fellow climate activist Mitchell Beer of The Energy Mix wrote that “a budget is the most revealing policy document any public body produces, the acid test for its true intentions.”

As the majority of future humans will live in cities, it just makes sense that our solution to climate change will reside there too ~ C40 Cities website.

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