UPDATE December 4, 2015 : For 2015 winners list visit: City Climate Leadership Awards 2015
PARIS, France, December 3, 2015 (Maximpact News) – Cities consume roughly 80 percent of the world’s energy production, and they are responsible for up to 70 percent of global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, according to German government figures. So, while cities are big contributors to climate change, at the same time they offer great potential for emission reductions.
At the UN climate talks in Paris, known as COP21, short for 21st Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, cities and their mayors are playing a leading role.
Demonstrating their commitment to an ambitious global climate solution, the Compact of Mayors is the world’s largest coalition of city leaders addressing climate change. They are pledging to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, tracking their progress and preparing for the impacts of climate change.
The Compact of Mayors operates under the leadership of the world’s global city networks – C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group , ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, and the UCLG – United Cities and Local Governments, with support from UN-Habitat, the UN’s lead agency on urban issues.
Thousands of mayors and local leaders will come together in Paris, from December 3-8, to strengthen the voices of local and regional governments, mobilized by the UCLG network of Regional Sections, Committees and partners.
“In cities, the Road to Paris began more than a decade ago. In 2015, as we come together as a global community around the COP21 negotiating table, cities are factoring into the climate equation in a big way,” said Eduardo Paes, C40 Chair and Mayor of Rio de Janeiro.
In August, Rio became the world’s first city to be fully compliant with the Compact of Mayors, the world’s largest common platform for cities to report their emissions, set targets and develop plans to cut emissions and prepare for the effects of climate change.
“This past year has seen the global significance of cities brought to the fore, with much applause for the decisive work of mayors, and the crucial impact the world’s megacities have on our global future,” said Paes.
Now that Rio has led the way, other cities are following the low-carbon path.
Late last month, ICLEI announced the full compliance of 20 local governments, who join the previous 11 cities that have achieved this status – Buenos Aires, Cape Town, Copenhagen, Melbourne, New York, Oslo, Rio de Janeiro, San Francisco, Stockholm, Sydney and Washington, DC.
These 20 new cities and towns, supported by ICLEI in reporting full compliance, represent 30.77 million inhabitants from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and Oceania.
Among them, Seoul is the city of Mayor Park Won-soon, the president of ICLEI who has been advocating for cities and towns around the globe to join the Compact of Mayors since taking on his presidency in April.
Another highlight is New Taipei City on the island of Taiwan, the first city in Asia to achieve full compliance.
This year’s annual C40 Cities Awards will be handed out during the COP21 meeting in Paris. Their goal is to share replicable best practices across cities, while drawing attention to outstanding performances that have achieved a high level of environmental success in a challenging context.
The C40 Cites Award winner will be announced at the gala event tonight in Paris. Whichever city, wins, each of the 33 finalists, including Paris, is extraordinary in its own way.
The Paris Greening Program is a key part of Paris’s Climate and Energy action plan, its first city-wide adaptation plan.
Creating more green spaces in one of the densest cities in the world is both a challenge and an opportunity to tackle the urban heat island effect, grow food, develop biodiversity corridors and create new social spaces.
The Paris Greening Program requires green roofs on all new buildings. One hundred additional hectares of roofs and facades will be green, and a third of them will be used for the production of fruit and vegetables. There will be 30 hectares of new green spaces, and 20,000 more trees will be planted in Paris.
Cities have been early adopters of low-carbon standards. By June 2015 cities and regions had reported over 1,000 energy and climate commitments, 5,201 climate actions and 1,099 inventories of greenhouse gas emissions.
The aggregated greenhouse gas emissions from local and subnational government operations are greater than those of any of the corporations in the top 10 of the UK Emissions Trading Scheme.
Fifteen local governments have committed to carbon neutrality or 100 percent renewable energy between 2020 and 2050, including Copenhagen, Denmark and Vancouver, Canada.
Mayor Gregor Robertson, just elected for his third term as mayor of Vancouver, says that Vancouver can meet all of its energy needs with 100 percent renewable sources of power, as part of becoming the greenest city in the world by 2020.
Even though Vancouver is already recognized as one of the most livable cities in the world, its environmental footprint is currently three times larger than the planet can sustain. Robertson and his team began their work at the beginning of 2009, when he assembled the Greenest City Action Team.
Today, the Greenest City Action Plan is one of the most rigorous roadmaps of any city in the world, ensuring transparency and accountability as it follows 10 long-term goals, with 15 measurable and ambitious targets for 2020.
Robertson wants to ensure that citizens are guaranteed clean air, a healthy economy, strong communities and energy security.
Robertson’s plan is also a beacon for cities around the world by demonstrating how going green is good for the economy, the community and the environment. Mayor Robertson’s work has received international recognition, as demonstrated by his recent invitation to join Pope Francis and other world mayors at the Vatican to address climate change and social justice.
Vijay Nehra, Municipal Commissioner of Rajkot, India, underlined the urgency of action by citing the recent casulties in his city due to heat waves.
Rajkot is currently addressing the problem by analyzing its greenhouse gas inventory which pointed out that 68 percent of the city’s energy is used in the provision of water, noting that much needs to be done to make the system more efficient. Rajkot is one of the model cities of Urban LEDS Project and District Energy Cities initiative of the UN Environment Programme and has already expressed intent to comply with the Compact of Mayors.
Mercè Rius, president for the environment of Barcelona, Spain said, “Barcelona and Catalonia are committed to further strengthen partnerships and cooperation across cities and regions and various cross-cutting initiatives, including the Compact of Mayors and actively contribute in the global advocacy of local and subnational governments.”
Local and subnational governments are leading the way at COP21 in Paris through the Transformative Actions Program – a new initiative to accelerate ambitious, cross-cutting and inclusive local climate actions by supporting climate investment in urban areas over the next 10 years.
The TAP is acting to create trust among sub-national governments, financing institutions and investors to lower the current perception of risk.
The TAP has selected 100 projects from cities around the world to be presented at the COP21, attracting and increasing funding for transformative actions.
At COP21, the TAP’s first pavilion provides a physical space for exchange, with selected presentations of the first 100 proposed projects to national delegations, private and international donors and financing agencies.
Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.