Cities and regions are key in shaping grand coalition on global climate action

A view of downtown Pittsburgh from the Duquesne Incline on Mt. Washington September 22, 2009. The G20 Pittsburgh Summit will be held in Pittsburgh on September 24 and 25. REUTERS/David A. DeNoma

* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Pittsburgh and Bonn have common industrial pasts and have transitioned similarly to new, green economies

To address climate change we need a full scale global transition. We need a low-carbon global economy and sustainable urban areas – and we need them fast. This will require an unprecedented, coordinated effort at all levels of government, across national borders, markets and societies.

Never before has humankind faced such a global and present threat. Never before have we endeavored to craft such a crucial global response to a global threat of this scale. This calls for a rethinking of existing boundaries and ingrained ways of dealing with policy, governance and resource management. Climate action is a real global project that involves us all.

Cities have understood this for quite a while. For years they have been coming together and sharing knowledge to advance climate action more rapidly and effectively.

They have recently shown, with no degree of uncertainty, how far they are ready and willing to go, even when their own national governments back away from their commitments, as did almost 250 U.S. cities, counties and states – including Pittsburgh -when they pledged to the We Are Still In campaign.

We both believe that cities can show the way forward and call upon national governments to create the conditions to live up to their Paris promises, with city governments and regional governments as core partners. This is the new climate governance. All levels of government need to work together and to reach across sectors, to communities and the private sector, to make things happen.

We carry this message as elected leaders of cities that know very well the power of visionary action and cooperation. Pittsburgh and Bonn have common industrial pasts, and have transitioned similarly to new, green economies.

Pittsburgh’s story is a preview of how the global energy paradigm can be shifted through bold, collaborative action. Bonn’s decade-long role as a center of climate diplomacy is a reminder of how important it is that we unite to get the planet on the right track.

Over the past few decades, Pittsburgh underwent a major transition, shifting progressively away from a fossil fuel-based economy to become the hub for innovation and clean energy that it is today.

But the city is not resting on laurels. Pittsburgh is a leader in energy innovation and signed a unique agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy committing the city to adopting district energy initiatives.

It was an early adopter of the push for green buildings and has hundreds of LEED-certified buildings. And proof is in the regional Pittsburgh economy as well, where it has 13,000 jobs in the clean energy sector, which is more than all jobs in gas, oil and coal combined.

Bonn, too, has long worked at the intersection of community-level action and global ambition. The city has implemented a wide range of climate mitigation projects, such as turning the gas-fired power plant into a steam-powered plant for district heating and establishing a city-level agency to deal with energy in a comprehensive and integrated way.

Bonn is also keen on outreach and awareness raising and education through the Bonn Climate Ambassadors, a program educating primary school children on climate-friendly behavior.

One of the 19 Bonn-based U..N. organisations shaping sustainability is the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat, the agency guiding international climate negotiations, and hosts the world headquarters of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, a global network advancing city-to-city and city-to-region cooperation on sustainability, of which both Bonn and Pittsburgh are active members.

COORDINATED CLIMATE ACTION

This year at COP23, the 23rd UN Climate Change Conference, Bonn and the State of North-Rhine Westphalia are hosting the Climate Summit of Local and Regional Leaders, alongside the region of North-Rhine Westphalia, where cities from around the world will come together and advance the types of coalitions and partnerships that are critical to coordinated local and global climate action.

The Climate Summit of Local and Regional Leaders will be the main venue at COP23 where the voice of local and regional governments will deliver a message to national negotiators as they lay the foundation for implementing the Paris Climate Agreement.

We believe, as local leaders and as champions of climate action, that to achieve our goals of keeping the planet’s temperature increase well below 2°C and safeguarding all the communities that are already being hit by climate change, we need to ensure that all levels of government take action.

The natural place of cities and regions is at the same table with their national governments, where they can provide much needed intelligence on what works on the ground, as well as ensure that communities are involved and mobilized.

In short, we need a new climate governance. COP23 is where we expect this new climate governance to take form.

William Peduto became Pittsburgh mayor in 2014 after 19 years working on the city council and writing the most comprehensive package of reform legislation in its history. He champions Pittsburgh’s reputation for fiscal responsibility, community based development, innovation and green leadership. Ashok Alexander Sridharan, mayor of Bonn since 2015 and first vice president of ICLEI since October 2016, brings 20 years of municipal experience and leads a hub of international cooperation committed to sustainability.

 

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