C40 Voices: Terri Wills, Director of Global Initiatives

Avoiding catastrophic global climate change requires collaboration – and C40 cities are showing the world how it’s done.

Last week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its Working Group III report on mitigation, the product of more than six years of research and input from hundreds of scientists. Two key findings stand out. The first is that we have only 15 years left to start making the changes required to limit the catastrophic consequences of a global temperature increase above 2 degrees. Second, the issue of climate change is a global commons problem so unparalleled in history that it can only be addressed through unprecedented global cooperation.

While this may seem daunting, C40 knows that the scale of the collaboration required is entirely possible – by acting locally we are having an impact globally and our cities are showing us how.

C40 Bus Rapid Transit Network Workshop, Jakarta, November 2013

C40 tracks how cities are engaging through C40’s networks to collaborate and scale-up local climate actions. C40 megacities have the power, the political will, and so often the public support to implement the actions the world needs to tackle climate change – but cities must also overcome significant financial, technical, political, and social hurdles. The strategy underlying our network model was that cities could overcome these hurdles by accessing the depths of knowledge and experience garnered by other global cities who themselves have worked day-in and day-out, trying, testing, succeeding and sometimes failing, in overcoming the very same hurdles.

Our data now tells us that this theory of change is no longer just a theory: our cities are embracing C40’s model of problem solving at an unprecedented scale.

Through 140 interactions during the last year, C40 networks have brought together more than 54 cities in 50 countries -- spanning six continents, 20 time zones, and 26 languages -- to share, question, learn, brainstorm and collaborate.  In all, we held nine workshops, 30 webinars, over 70 conference calls, as well as numerous email exchanges and in-person meetings.  And for cities operating in every corner of the world, this type of global exchange is no mean feat. Cities have extended themselves graciously by hosting their counterparts from around the world.  In certain parts of the world, city officials have overcome limited communications infrastructure to dial in to webinars to share their lessons. City staff can spend hours painstakingly drafting presentations in English so as to share with counterparts around the world, and they join webinars in the middle of the night that all can participate. Most importantly, these cities have openly and honestly shared the problems they face, placing great trust in colleagues half a world away.

What we are seeing now is that these herculean efforts are paying off. Through over 20 webinar surveys, C40 cities tell us that what other cities and partners present on webinars is not only valuable to their cities, but the ideas and tactics shared are highly replicable and practicable to implement.  Through data collected, we know that cities are using these networks to make real changes on the ground: 30 cities have identified how interacting with other cities and partners like CCAC, EMBARQ, and ITDP have directly informed or influenced approaches within their city – enabling them to implement climate action better, faster, and at a lower cost.

C40 has learned a great deal about the way that climate change can be addressed. Our cities are the experts, they are the implementers, they hold the knowledge required to tackle problems locally and globally. By championing and supporting international city-to-city exchange, C40 and our cities hold the potential to help solve one of the biggest challenges humanity has ever faced.

To learn more about C40’s initiatives and networks, click here