Jun 25, 2016 by


CREDIT: Stephane de Sakutin/Pool Photo via AP

Thousands of cities from six continents united Wednesday to create the largest global coalition committed to battling human-caused climate change and pushing the world into a low-carbon economy.

The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy unifies 7,100 cities encompassing more than half a billion people, the group said in a statement. Created some six months after the Paris accord, this global alliance aims for greater collaboration between cities and increased funding to support sustainable energy development.

As more than half the world’s population lives in urban areas, cities are now major generators of greenhouse gas emissions. About 75 percent of global CO2 emissions come from cities, and most of those emissions are attributed to transportation and buildings, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. The UN has said it is essential for cities to be involved in the fight against climate change. That’s because unlike countries, cities can innovate faster, and are less hampered by national politics when moving towards clean energy and low carbon infrastructure.

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“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,” said former New York Mayor and UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change Michael R. Bloomberg. Bloomberg will co-chair this new alliance between the European Union’s Covenant of Mayors and the United Nations’ Compact of Mayors.

The Covenant of Mayors was launched in 2008 by the European Union after the adoption of the 2020 EU Climate and Energy Package. For its part, the Compact of Mayors was launched in September 2014 by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Bloomberg.

Maros Sefcovic, vice-president of the European Commission, will be other co-chairman. “When mayors share a vision of a low-carbon future and roll up their sleeves, things get done,” Sefcovic said in a statement.

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The group says it will provide a common platform that brings together data on cities’ energy and climate actions, allowing cities and residents to evaluate progress. A website with the data will be launched by January 2017. The alliance will also converge investment powers of the European Union and the nonprofit Bloomberg Philanthropies, all while including the input of organizations like the C40 — a network of the world’s megacities acting on reducing greenhouse gas emissions — and others.

The alliance will also include an advisory group of financial institutions to ensure that cities are attractive for investors, as well as an advisory group composed of global and regional city officials. According to the alliance mission statement, cities participating in this initiative commit to targets that will eventually be more ambitious than those their respective national governments presented in Paris.

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According to a 2015 report that tracked the progress of the C40 network, 30 percent of the climate actions cities have taken since 2009 are the result of city-to-city collaboration. As of 2014, 228 cities around the world have set greenhouse gas reduction goals and targets amounting to a reduction of 13 gigatons of CO2 emissions by 2050.

Another report associated with the C40 network noted that there are at least 27,000 actions that cities could undertake, and found that 2,300 of them could save 450 megatons of CO2 emissions — an amount equal to the annual emissions of the United Kingdom — by 2020.

Pacts between cities to collaborate on climate action efforts have been created in the U.S., too. In December, mayors from the West Coast cities of Portland, Seattle, Eugene, San Francisco, and Los Angeles announced a pledge to accelerate climate action, and reduce carbon emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050. Not long after the city of San Diego announced its goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2035.

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