What is a Transformative Climate Action?

With the launch of the Transformative Actions Program (TAP), ICLEI and a wide range of partners are showcasing the best of local climate action to drive investment at the local level and to inform the political process surrounding this. The TAP is highlighting how cities, municipalities, and regions have the potential to radically transform our cities and our lives for the better. But what do we mean when we talk about transformative local climate actions?

iStock_000012769748Large(compressed)We are looking for projects that aim to address climate change in an ambitious, inclusive, and cross-cutting way. By ambitious, we mean that they must serve a significant percentage of the jurisdiction’s population, or can be scaled-up to do so. By cross-cutting, we mean that different sections of the population should benefit from the project. And by inclusive, we mean that a variety of stakeholders should be involved.

In practice, these criteria might fit many different projects. Indeed, what is transformative in one city might not be in another. While some cities and regions are developing ambitious strategies and plans to address climate change in a transformative way, other cities may be developing tools that will allow them to develop a climate strategy with citizens’ participation.

The most immediately obvious projects ones that concern greenhouse gas emissions. Many cities are setting highly ambitious targets, like deriving all of their energy from renewable sources by a certain time, or reducing their carbon dioxide emissions by 50%, 60%, or even 80% within a defined timeframe. Reaching these kinds of targets means implementing programs that serve the entirety of a population, engaging a wide range of stakeholders in the process. They benefit everyone by making the air cleaner and energy cheaper.

Other projects might focus on specific aspects of cities, like housing. Green housing or retrofitting can have an enormous impact on emissions and on energy use, as well as providing residents with healthier and happier environments. At the same time, housing projects have great potential to be cross-cutting: regeneration can be a motor for socio-economic development, long-term environmental progress, green growth, and business opportunities.

Cities around the world exist in wildly different circumstances, and what is transformational for one might not be for another. For a city that has recently experienced an earthquake, the implementation of an earthquake reconstruction plan can be truly transformational: it can improve the economic and social conditions of its citizens while building resilience towards future natural disasters. Rebuilding from a disaster can be an opportunity to remake a city in a sustainable fashion, making sure that the changes benefit everyone living there.

Solar-energy-cityscape-iStock(compressed)Similarly, some countries are in the process of building entirely new cities. This provides an incredible opportunity to align every aspect of the city with a sustainable vision, rather than improving what history has produced. If city planners in this situation adopt a holistic approach, they can ensure that the city is resilient and green, transforming not just the lives of citizens but our expectations of the possibilities of cities, giving us a glimpse of the future.

Most of these projects have tangible effects, but some transformational projects might be more subtle. Education, for instance, can be one of the most powerful tools in the fight against climate change. If a city can offer everyone that lives, works, or studies in the city free training on how to reduce their carbon footprints, citizens become not only more knowledgeable; they become more engaged. Education shows people how they can make a difference, and by bringing them together, it makes clear the collective impact they can have.

We are receiving projects of all kinds. What they show is that cities and regions are broadening their horizons. Mayors and leaders from around the world are looking at their cities from a holistic point of view and are seeing how they can best have a transformative effect for their citizens, and ultimately for the planet.

We look forward to showcasing the first round of selected TAP projects in Paris at the COP21!

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