Building sustainable cities: A G20 commentary

This article first appeared in the G20 China: The Hangzhou Summit 2016 background book. The full publication can be downloaded here.

By: Eduardo Paes

The G20 summit in Hangzhou will be the first meeting of leaders from the world’s largest economies since the Paris Agreement on climate change was announced in December 2015. This agreement, adopted by 195 states, represents unprecedented global solidarity and commitment to action. Despite the numerous political and economic disruptions the world has seen over the past year, many countries are already taking steps to ratify the agreement as soon as possible. As host of the Hangzhou Summit, China deserves particular recognition for its leadership in implementing the Paris Agreement through long-term domestic policies and for having such a strong, bold focus on sustainable growth in its 13th Five-Year Plan. In China, swift action is already engaging businesses and investors in helping to grow the country’s low-carbon economy. It represents a compelling example for others to follow. Delivering the Paris ambition to limit global temperature increase to below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels requires economic, political and social change unlike anything before. It can only be addressed with the leadership and commitment of the G20 members, with the support of their largest cities.

As Chair of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, a network of the world’s largest cities committed to cutting their emissions and tackling climate change, I recognise the potential for the G20 to replicate the type of collaboration and shared ambition to secure a low carbon future seen in the C40 network. Organisations that are able to bring together the expertise and experience of communities, from the Global North and Global South, to drive progress on climate action at a faster pace and at a lower cost will be key to delivering the promise of the Paris Agreement.

Cutting emissions

More than half the world’s population now lives in cities and 70 per cent of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions are generated in urban areas. Cities play a major role in delivering the cuts to emissions that countries committed to at Paris. In August 2015, Rio became the first city to comply fully with the Compact of Mayors – the world’s largest coalition of city leaders addressing climate change. Through its commitment to the compact and membership in C40, Rio is committed to reducing its emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, compared to 2005 levels.

Mayors in the great cities of the world have the ambition, skills and knowledge to deliver huge cuts in emissions. However, this also requires more collaboration between national, regional and local levels of government. Recent research by C40 revealed that the lack of such support and collaboration remained a significant barrier facing mayors and city leaders. One key announcement at Paris was that at least $100 billion per year will be mobilised from public and private sources to help developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change by 2020. Very little of that will be directly accessible by cities. Initiatives such as the C40 Cities Finance Facility will unlock up to $1 billion in sustainable infrastructure in cities in lowand middle-income countries by 2020.

Sustainable cities

In April 2016, global leaders in city finance met in Rio for the C40 Financing Sustainable Cities Forum, in partnership with the Citi Foundation and WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities. It was the first such gathering to accelerate financing climate action in cities. A lot of progress is being made, but to achieve the scale of investment needed to get all cities onto a low carbon development path G20 leaders should ensure that city governments can directly access the growing green finance funding available through public, private and multilateral sources. As Mayor of Rio de Janeiro I have seen first-hand the devastating impacts of climate change on my city, including the floods and landslides that claimed more than 900 lives in 2011. As the leader of an administration committed to an ambitious climate change agenda, I have also seen the benefits that such action can deliver. Cutting emissions and adapting our city to meet the threats of climate change are not only good for the planet, but will also deliver cleaner air, faster economic growth, more jobs and less inequality. Now is the time for the G20 leaders to recognise the role of cities and empower them to deliver a low carbon and climate-safe future for millions of urban citizens worldwide.737 912 g20 china web.original.original