Action in the time of global change

The triennial ICLEI World Congress represents a unique convening point for the growing global ICLEI network. It is a platform to take stock of our urban world – the challenges ahead of us, past success we can leverage and the path towards global urban transformation.

The pace and scale of global change is unprecedented. On the one hand, humankind has made game changing progress over the past several decades, with rapid technological innovation and advancements in global health and education. On the other hand, rapid growth and human demands have pushed the global commons – our land, the sea, water, biodiversity and the climate system – up to and beyond their limits. We receive daily wake up calls from nature, in many forms, from sea level rise to loss of biodiversity. Scientists tell us humans are the dominant force changing life on earth as we know it.

Plain and simple, business as usual is untenable.

This reality check came from Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility, at the ICLEI World Congress 2018 opener in the heart of Montréal. The challenges she cited are also the ones ICLEI will take on in the years to come. Our network has an eye towards both immediate action and long term change, and the ICLEI World Congress invigorates that momentum.

Mayor Valérie Plante welcomed the more than 1,000 participants – representing local and regional governments and their partners from the private sector, international organizations and research institutions – to this vibrant, multicultural city. Montréal, as host of the ICLEI World Congress, lives the message it sends about sustainability. Montréal is serious about inclusive, bottom up action to spark deep and lasting transformation.

“We are already committed and want to do more and better for our citizens, our planet and future generations,” said Mayor Plante.

This commitment to urban sustainability for all is at the heart of the ICLEI World Congress 2018. It is about local and regional leaders driving change at home and looking beyond borders.

The ICLEI network has just elected its new leadership to shape our strategy and guide action across the network. This group is convening for the first time in Montréal, led by Mayor Ashok Sridharan of Bonn as the new ICLEI President.

“This is a time of great opportunity for local and regional governments around the world,” said Mayor Sridharan. “We live in an increasingly globalizing and interconnected world. This is the era of global sustainability agendas and ICLEI’s holistic approach to sustainable development is more critical than ever.”

Mayor Sridharan takes the reigns from former ICLEI President, Mayor Park Won Soon of Seoul, whose term lasted from 2015 to 2018. Now, as ICLEI President, Mayor Sridharan will lead the ICLEI network, guided by the ICLEI Montréal Commitment and Strategic Vision, recently adopted by the ICLEI Council. He will have the strong support of ICLEI First Vice President, Councilor Cathy Oke of Melbourne, and Vice Presidents Mayor Stephanie Uy-Tan of Catbalogan, Philippines and Mayor Frank Cownie of Des Moines, Iowa, USA.

Now, as the ICLEI World Congress continues over the coming days participants from around the world will answer the call from United Nations Secretary General António Guterres: “Share your experiences and commit to change.”

This blog post is based on the opening plenary of the ICLEI World Congress 2018 in Montréal.

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