The Climate Change Agreement You Might Not Have Heard About
Mayors from over 7,100 major cities around the world have joined together to create an alliance to fight climate change. With this unprecedented unity, the hope is that cities can look beyond their own interests to protect the environment and invest in a greener urban future.
Mayors from the world’s largest cities unite to fight climate change
Six months after world leaders met for the Paris climate talks, the E.U. Covenant of Mayors and the Compact of Mayors announced the formation of a global coalition of cities committed to leading the fight against climate change.
Spanning 119 countries and representing more than 600 million people — over eight percent of the world’s total population — this initiative aims to take the experiences of local politicians, who are arguably better able to understand the problems facing their cities, and facilitate wider cooperation.
Called the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, the initiative recognizes UN figures that show major cities around the world spew about 75 percent of total carbon emissions, contributing to man-made climate change. The same cities consume about 70 percent of the world’s global energy output. As such, the coalition recognizes that it is up leaders of those cities to meet the challenge of climate warming reduction head on.
Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg will co-chair the Global Covenant. Bloomberg, who has consistently campaigned on climate change issues, is now the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change and stated:
Today, the world’s cities are uniting their efforts to fight climate change behind a single global organization, something that has never before happened. In unity there is strength, and this new Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy will help accelerate the progress cities are making and magnify their influence on the global stage. This is a giant step forward in the work of achieving the goals that nations agreed to in Paris.
Cooperation on cleaning up the environment while investing in the future
The agreement aims to amplify the unifying voices of the smaller E.U. Covenant of Mayors and Compact of Mayors toward the common goal of reducing man-made climate change, while investing in a greener future.
Another key goal of this initiative is something that the Paris agreement struggled with: including city leaders from smaller nations and giving them an equal voice.
The initiative reportedly intends to highlight cities from Africa, Latin America and regions of Asia that aren’t yet considered affluent but are rapidly developing. The agreement hopes to remain sensitive to the needs of smaller nations, while steering them toward greener energy alternatives.
The initiative also wants to commit to better tracking of city emissions. Currently, the way cities track carbon emissions isn’t generally standardized, meaning that it can be challenging for global bodies to get accurate measures. Because each city is different, even where standardized measures have been used, accessing data on carbon dioxide output and energy use is complicated.
By sharing data more freely between cities and encouraging transparency through this cooperative group, it is hoped that cities will generate more accurate data that, in turn, can be used to evaluate what is working and what needs assistance. The initiative will work in tandem with the goals set during the Paris climate accords because it will allow the UN to track more easily city emissions and offer better support to certain cities.
Of course, this can only work with appropriate funding. Part of the problem with combatting fossil fuel use and carbon dioxide output has always been that it requires upfront investment. Until relatively recently, that has been hard to come by — especially because the return on that investment hasn’t always been tangible.
And it’s particularly difficult to get smaller and/or developing nations to agree to caps and cuts when they don’t want to curtail growth.
To help with this issue, the Global Covenant will rely on an advisory group of global financial institutions. Together, they will be able to evaluate the allocation of funds that were promised during the Paris climate talks and examine how cities can best utilize those funds to meet their needs — all while lowering carbon output, cleaning up city air and generating economic growth.
One other founding principle of the agreement is that cities will hold each other responsible for their climate action. The Paris accords weren’t binding, and the reasons for that decision hinged, in part, on the intransigence of U.S. Congress and an overall leery response to firm caps on emissions from countries like India. However, a mechanism for oversight, strongly advocated by the Obama administration, was ultimately established.
The Global Covenant hopes to use the spirit of cooperation to push for taking back powers from the national sphere and granting cities the autonomy to write their own energy efficiency standards and transport regulations. Ideally, cities will meet — or even exceed — their targets and will be held accountable by both the Covenant and by previously existing national agreements.
While some remain skeptical of this mayoral group and argue that it could water down national oversight and lead to less progress, the spirit of the agreement shows an effort by city leaders to push for more decisive action and responsibility. The initiative is a significant step in the right direction, especially when it has been met with broad approval from the UN and climate change groups.
Photo Credit: Daria Napriakhina/Unsplash