“Since the 2015 Paris Agreement, it has been clear that we are desperately behind. So forget about dealing with climate change by 2050. We need to aim for 2030. That gives us just 10 years to quickly accelerate and implement the measures agreed to at that summit.”
Coming from Gino Van Begin, Secretary General of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, those words help convey the sense of urgency surrounding the upcoming Daring Cities virtual forum. It’s the first global event of its kind geared specifically for urban leaders, on how to mitigate climate change and build greater resilience at the local level.
Created by ICLEI in partnership with the Federal City of Bonn, Daring Cities 2020 will offer local and regional governments their first opportunity to come together since the onset of the global pandemic, providing capacity building and networking opportunities alongside sessions that focus on the critical importance of climate action as part of a green recovery . “Local governments and their partners will hear from their peers… fellow mayors, local leaders and experts on how to address this planetary problem. And hopefully this will help both with existing and new programs within communities,” observes Van Begin.
Van Begin says choosing the word “Daring” for the title conveys exactly how “we need our leaders and cities to step up.” He says, “Daring means that local governments take exemplary action to tackle the climate emergency. That they adopt highly aggressive mitigation measures. And that they educate and help raise awareness with their communities.”
Contrary to past perceptions that little can be done at the local level in response to climate change – due to realities such as limited resources – city sustainability networks like ICLEI have helped prove there really is strength in numbers. “I’m proud of the work our network has done. Between 2018 and 2021 ICLEI Members have implemented over 250 projects focusing on climate change mitigation and resilience. But there are still tens of thousands of cities around the world that need to act,” stresses Van Begin.
To ensure Daring Cities’ content is both relevant and impactful at the local level, there will be three overarching themes – “know more; act better; and lead together.”
“Cities are in a special and critical position when it comes to science – they need reliable research in order to make informed decisions and craft science-based policy. At the same time, researchers need to be involving practitioners in their approaches. We’ve created a real dialogue between these two spaces at this year’s Forum,” said Van Begin.
To “act better”, sessions are focusing on “replicable and scalable examples from the most ambitious cities around the world,” said Van Begin. “And these are not just mega-cities, although we have many represented at the conference. We are also showcasing a real diversity of experience from smaller cities and global south cities.”
Finally, in leading together, “all levels of government are coming to the table. We have a lot of ‘shoulds’ for cities, but they can’t happen without the support and enabling of national actors and financing mechanisms,” said Van Begin.
Speakers include local, regional and national elected leaders; UN and intergovernmental heads; experts and city partners; citizen activists and youth representatives. And Van Begin says youth have an important role to play both as prospective attendees and as part of the conference line-up. “Young people understandably want to see their future managed in the best possible way. And certainly from ICLEI’s perspective we feel it’s important to bring in various actors concerned about the climate crisis… because it’s a planetary and intergenerational problem.”
The need to dispel the notion that little can be done at the local level when it comes to climate change while at the same time engaging, enlightening and empowering urban leaders to take positive action is what helped give rise to Daring Cities in the first place. Fittingly, Van Begin says Daring Cities 2020 organizers are determined to “get not only those cities who are already ‘daring’ but other communities from around the world excited about the many innovative, bold ways to tackle the climate crisis.”