2020 Cities By 2020 Leading On Climate Change

Cities, not Congress, are leading the charge on climate change. It’s time to accelerate the movement to double the number of cities onboard to 2020 by 2020.


Credit: C40

Climate change is a global problem — but we can solve it starting with the cities. That’s where half of the world’s population already live — a proportion expected to rise to 70% by 2050 — and the places that consume 60–80% of the energy produced worldwide. Urban areas are also the source of most global carbon pollution.

Due to the demographic makeup of cities and their governance structure, metropolitan areas are also where the political will and pragmatic sensibilities can be harnessed to impressive effect.

In short, mayors and city councils hold considerable legal authority over many of the key sectors targeted by climate change advocates: energy supply and power utilities, transportation, industry and manufacturing, buildings, land use and waste management, and adaptation to prepare for global warming’s damaging effects.

Climate-change-demo-sign-our-future-is-in-your-handsSo it’s no surprise that city-level efforts are already underway, in the United States and around the world. Worth noting is C40, a network of large cities across the globe (including a handful in America) that have committed to tackling climate change. Another institutional player taking the municipal approach to climate change is the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which has organized 1060 mayors thus far around its Climate Protection Agreement.

What is still missing is a national, aggressive collaborative effort across the key sectors of the modern political landscape — from elected lawmakers and advocacy organizations to think tanks and the institutional donor community — to seize the opportunity at the city level. It demands a message and agenda, driven by supercharged coordinated political organizing akin to a new Apollo Project.

That is just what this proposal calls for: 2020 cities across America by 2020 that have publicly committed to the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement—all doing more, saying more, and pushing for more.

City leaders should also be pressured to join other coalitions that act through different mechanisms and comprise different sets of members, including C40. Organizing through the U.S. Conference of Mayors, however, offers several advantages: an existing generalist institutional, an unmistakeably and exclusively American imprint, and the fact that 1,060 cities have already signed onto the Conference’s agreement.

As such, a goal of 2020 cities would constitute a doubling of the current signatories by 2020— ideally, with all members driven by their constituents and allied organizations to enact an expanded menu of climate change mitigation policies.

For more information, resources, and policy ideas, see the following:

7 actions for cities to seriously address climate change, GreenBiz

5 Ways Cities Can Prepare For the Carbon Pollution Standards, Center for American Progress

Cities and Climate Change: An Urgent Agenda, World Bank

Cities and Climate Change, OECD

Local Climate Change Law: Environmental Regulation in Cities and Other Localities