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Tackling Climate Change: Give Cities a Voice

Tackling Climate Change: Give Cities a Voice

The mayor of London oversees decisions regarding energy, transport and housing for the city's nearly 9 million inhabitants, more than the total population of Austria. At the same time, local governments have little influence on short- and long-term climate policies taken at national and supranational levels. As the role of global cities is put to test by the Covid-19 pandemic, the need for an urgent and coherent management of the emergency in urban realities places further emphasis on the quest for sustainable urbanisation processes and strategies worldwide. Ewa Iwaszuk (Ecologic Institute) provides a commentary on the contribution of global cities to meeting the SDG13: "taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts" within the ISPI Dossier "Global Cities in the Age of Covid-19: Agenda 2030 and Sustainable Development".

In the global effort to slow down and eventually halt anthropogenic climate change, local governments have been important drivers of action, setting ambitious decarbonisation targets and translating them into comprehensive, local, long-term climate strategies. Although there are inevitable limits to mitigation efforts coordinated by local governments, cities serve as a key site to engage vast amounts of population with climate change action, show its co-benefits, and test and implement innovative, participatory and cross-sectoral governance arrangements.

The commentary finds that despite their limited ability to influence the national and international climate policy decisions, global cities play a crucial role in mitigating climate change. Actions taken by local governments are essential elements of the distributed effort to reduce emissions globally and many cities around the world have proven to be ambitious, fast-paced actors that engage with their citizens and peers around the world to take meaningful steps towards mitigating climate change. Ewa Iwaszuk argues that given the cities’ important role in this multilevel governance arrangement, it is essential that local governments are more closely involved, engaged and consulted in the emerging national and supranational processes, such as the European Green Deal, that aim to stimulate far-reaching transformative processes to achieve carbon neutrality.