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How cities are advancing climate action under the New Urban Agenda

The New Urban Agenda establishes a vision for sustainable urbanization that requires strong action on climate. If we are to eradicate poverty, build sustainable and inclusive economies and achieve environmental sustainability, then mitigating urban emissions and building resilience are critical steps in the process.

After all, cities are responsible for over 70 percent of global energy-related emissions, and are home to dense networks of essential infrastructure and concentrated populations.

Yet cities are also the locus of innovative thinking and serious commitments to act on climate. Cities are openly and transparently showing how their efforts to become more sustainable at home protects their residents as well as our global commons.

Today at Habitat III, the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development – where nations will adopt the New Urban Agenda – the newly formed Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy brought climate change into focus. The session explored how to mainstream the global climate agenda in the New Urban Agenda and the role of cities in securing and implementing this linkage.

Here are some key takeaways from local leaders who spoke about their actions on climate:

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  • Inigo de la Serna, Mayor of Santander, Spain: It is important to set up mechanisms to track and report the results of local climate action. Santander is moving towards an internet of things model, relying on sensor-based system that collects emissions data throughout the city.
  • Libby Schaaf. Mayor of Oakland, United States: Tackling climate change is a great path towards many other ambitions in the New Urban Agenda. The City of Oakland now offers curbside food waste pickup, which is converted to compost and used as fuel for garbage trucks. This creates a closed loop system with benefits across several dimensions of urban life.
  • Helen Fernandez, Mayor of Caracas, Venezuela: Cities need autonomy and funding for climate and sustainability projects to really make change in their cities. The City of Caracas has a strategic plan for sustainability, which can best be executed with decentralization and empowerment.
  • Marcio Lacerda, Mayor of Belo Horizonte, Brazil: It is important to have a climate action plan coupled with mechanisms for tracking implementation. For the last 2 years, Belo Horizonte has used tools available through the Global Convent of Mayors that enables them to compare their progress with other cities around the world.
  • Mercedes Conesa, President of the Province of Barcelona, Spain: Action must come from the bottom up, and solutions must be scaled to match the needs of small municipalities. The City of Barcelona is using hybrid and electric buses and is setting up charging stations for electric vehicles. This model being deployed for a mid-sized city like Barcelona, and it can and should be scaled for smaller cities.

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  • Monica Fein, Mayor of Rosario, Argentina: It is important that cities form a strategic alliance with citizens on the path to fight climate change. The City of Rosario has laid a path for improved mobility, reduced energy consumption, among other transformations, with citizens as active participants in the process.
  • Jose Blandon, Mayor of Panama: To accelerate climate action, it is important to identify share experiences and work jointly across municipalities. Panama City has drafted a joint agenda covering the city and the surrounding region, which represents over 50 percent of the population in the country.
  • Federico Gutierrez, Mayor of Medellin, Colombia: Cities like Medellin face significant environmental issues, with air quality posing a significant problem that requires immediate action. The City of Medellin has taken action by installing metro cars and promoting cycling around the city.
  • Mauricio Rodas, Mayor of Quito, Ecuador: To reduce emission, we need to focus on mobility, which contribute significantly to urban emissions. The City of Quito aims to have a sustainable transport system, and almost 70 percent of the city budget is going toward improving public transport. The most significant project is the development of a metro system the city hopes to finish by the second quarter of 2019.

The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy is a global coalition of more than 7,100 cities that are committed to transparently reporting their climate commitments and actions. It brings together the Compact of Mayors and European Covenant of Mayors, which have shown, through the use of hard data, that cities are contributing to global and national climate goals.

At the present moment, there is a significant gap between the emissions reductions needed to keep the global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius, but the commitments by national governments under the Paris Agreement do not yet put us on this track.