For over two decades, international negotiations have failed to make substantial gains in the battle against climate change. While many are focusing on how to increase international collaboration, others have begun to refocus their efforts on getting cities to develop and implement bold climate action plans—and for good reason.
Cities now contain over 50% of the worlds population, and are responsible for emitting 70% of energy-related CO2 emissions. These numbers make cities a clear target for climate leaders seeking to advance climate solutions in spite of international inaction. This strategy brings with it some unique advantages. Cities and local governments are typically more dynamic and nimble in their ability to enact new policies, not having to wade through the minutia of national or international law. Groups like the Compact of Mayors and the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative are beginning to leverage their influence, and taking action to implement climate plans that benefit their communities, economies, and the environment.
While international climate talks will remain critical tools in advancing climate solutions, climate leaders will increasingly turn to cities, regional governments, and local communities for their help. By accessing the correct engagement tools and resources, your city can join others on the Path to Positive Communities.
Throughout the past year, countries around the world have announced individual commitments to cutting carbon dioxide emissions in hopes these cuts will keep global temperatures from rising more than 3.6°F (2°C) by 2100. With research showing the pledged emission cuts aren’t anywhere near enough to avoid dangerous climate change, experts say cities and other sub-national governments will be responsible for making up the difference.
The good news is that emissions from cities represent more than 70% of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, and local leaders often have more autonomy to enact regulations—autonomy they are willing to exercise. Earlier this month, cities across the U.S. and China announced commitments to curtail their own emissions by a total of 1.2 gigatons of carbon dioxide annually. (For perspective, the entire U.S. emits between 5 and 6 gigatons each year.) And last week, states, provinces and other regions from Quebec to South Australia announced voluntary commitments to cut carbon emissions leading to a 7.9-gigaton reduction by 2030.
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