Practical workshops help cities navigate action in the climate emergency

After Day 1 focused on the approaches cities are taking to mobilize in the climate emergency, Day 2 of Daring Cities brought in practitioners from the field to share their expertise and show urban leaders what tools they can use to propel climate action.

Anna Reynolds, Lord Mayor of the City of Hobart, Australia and Chair of Council of Capital City Lord Mayors offered a rousing call to action for local leaders and practitioners.

“We are the last generation of mayors that can take action against climate change. Instead of fear, we need courage. Instead of despair, we need hope. Instead of powerlessness, we need action. Action is what cities are able to deliver. When it comes to climate change, it’s not game over, it’s game on.” 

Anna Reynolds

The power of communication

Harnessing the power of communicational framing and making it known that you’ve officially declared a climate emergency is key, according to Margaret Henner, Co-Founder of CEDAMIA, Australia, which campaigns for governments at all levels to make official climate emergency declarations.

“In an emergency, people tend to come together and act for the common good in a way that they wouldn’t usually do. But in order to do that, they need to know that it’s an emergency.”

Margaret Henner

The most effective ways in which existing city climate declarations can be communicated are also the simplest: adding banners to municipal websites so citizens familiarize themselves with their city’s ambitious plans, or inviting them to participate in the climate response process. Citizen participation is a key tool for cities to use after declaring a climate emergency. But, how to engage citizens in participatory processes?

Take advantage of your social capital

Knowing your residents, knowing the issues they care about and how to reach them are critical components for cities to exert influence towards climate action. In cities where the national governance system is highly centralized, like in the UK, Stephen Cowen, Leader and Councillor of the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham, advised making the most of soft power. “We don’t have lots of hard power, but we do have soft power, and that’s what we’re using to bring people together in collective action” as he elaborated on the borough’s climate education program in schools.

Target your action areas

As the workshops broached areas where cities do have strong jurisdiction and can take direct control of emissions at the local-level, the buzzword was mobility. Andreas Wolter, President of the Climate Alliance, Cologne, talks about how the city’s urban mobility policy metamorphosed after it signed a Climate Declaration in 2019.

Cologne now has 60 electric buses, has increased public transport frequency, pedestrianized its old town and turned car lanes into bike lanes. “Our city has grown and citizens want to regain polity. That’s been translated into Cologne’s mobility policy”, explains Wolter. Other cities face more resistance in changing mobility policies.

“Transport has become a culture war”

Aaaron Hawkins

With 40 percent of emissions in the City of Dunedin, New Zealand, coming from transport, this is something that Aaron Hawkins, Dunedin’s mayor, is also focusing on, but it’s not easy. “Transport has become a culture war, with all of the entrenched resistance that comes with change”, he said, adding “you hear comments like ‘‘stop trying to make us into Amsterdam’ or ‘pedestrianized city centres will be the death of small business’, so you’re forever building compromises into solutions, even though the solutions are clear”. Other municipalities, like Medellin, Colombia, are concentrating on low-emission mobility to improve air quality, using digital tools to process information, create forecasts and model progress.

Solutions through digitalization

Digitalization offers municipalities an array of opportunities to level up their climate action. Daring Cities participants pitched in ideas of where they thought digital innovation could be a game changer. Discussion ideas included citizen finance, green bonds, emissions tracking, climate entrepreneurship, smart city solutions, early warning systems, fintech tools, digital measurement, reporting and verification. However, Katherine Foster, Community Director of the Open Earth Foundation offered a word of caution:

“There is a lack of digital integration for climate work, what we see instead is fragmentation. We need open collaboration to address this fragmentation and realign processes.”

Katherine Foster

Delivering on a climate emergency declaration requires not just political will, but also adequate financing. Dr. Eszter Mogyorósy, Climate Finance Manager at ICLEI’s Innovative Finance team, recommended cities “be as practical as possible”, noting that sometimes sophisticated tools needed to be left aside for simpler, more easily implementable ones. Giulia Macagno, Head of the City Climate Finance Gap Fund Technical Secretariat at the European Investment Bank, shared her two top tips with Daring Cities listeners:

1. “Share your best practices. Neighboring cities will be applying for the same opportunities, share your experiences with them.”

2. “Is the project already part of the national government priority list? If it’s not, it’s not going to happen, regardless of how good it is”

Want to hear more recommendations on how to drive finance for climate action or find out what other approaches, tools and tips were shared during the day’s workshop? Join the Daring Cities community for round the clock access to the workshop recordings, high-level sessions and much more!

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