“Climate change is not just another bad reality show”

Today, the Foreign Policy (FP) Group’s CEO and editor David Rothkopf presented the FP’s annual “Green Diplomat of the Year” award to the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40) for the organisation’s efforts to promote climate action around the world. C40 Chair-elect and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo received the award on behalf of C40 at a ceremony in Washington DC.

868 unknown 1.originalThe award that I’m accepting today means so much. Let me thank you for entrusting me with it.

I am certain that climate change is the most daunting challenge of this century, and it will affect and compound all other challenges. 

Humankind and the planet depend on what we do next. It’s of the utmost urgency, as Leonardo DiCaprio says: here we are, just before the flood.

It is up to us to rise to this challenge, for future generations, for our children. Events in Paris made the news for tragic reasons last year, but it was also there, during December 2015 that the historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change came to be. 

My city was true to its place in history. A place where the world debated, a place where the world confronted opinions and options; a place where the world decided to unite and to push forward for a common destiny.

Paris has always represented the greatest of shared human values, and it has also always stood on the cutting edge of progress.

Victor Hugo said, “Humankind has a right to Paris”.

This is the true identity of my city, empowered by history, shaped by many influences. It is a city that knows how to transform itself, a city not afraid to look to the future and re-invent it.

Now, the time has come to deliver on the promise of the Paris Agreement.

If we fail, average global temperatures will rise by 3 or 4° degrees Celsius, which will inevitably result in many more extreme climate disasters.

We have to take bold action, and take it now. 

Each and everyone of us must take up this challenge, wherever we can be most effective. 

By 2030 cities will be responsible for three-quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions. Our response needs to be concrete. 

We have to build a low carbon economy, close down coal-fired plants, enforce clean mobility, triple the number of high-speed trains, create circular economies and eco-design, and promote environmental education. 

We have to innovate for all of our fellow citizens. This is what we did in Paris: we opted for a radical, concrete and sharing approach to deliver a sustainable future.

We are shifting towards clean energy, we are fighting pollution by promoting electric powered transport, encouraging car sharing and bicycles and banishing diesel. 

But we are also preparing for rising temperatures by adapting: Paris is being transformed with green rooftops and facades, and is opening a new park on the Seine embankments for pedestrians and cyclists.

Paris has a passion to share its achievements and is building bridges instead of raising walls. As the new C40 Chair, this is what we will achieve through our network, that brings together 86 mega-cities, represents 650 million people and one quarter of the global economy.

Cities are rising to the climate challenge. They are engaging with each other, sharing, weaving a web above and beyond national and cultural differences. We know we have to take action, even if some heads of State cultivate scepticism.  

We need to bring in citizens and the business sector. We must reach the leaders of global finance. This a common goal we share with my friend Mike Bloomberg. 

This will be a key theme on the agenda of the next C40 Mayors Summit in Mexico City on December 1st and 2nd - in order to bring about the economic and social transformations needed to create a climate safe world.

Globally the financial means exist - we have to direct them towards clean energy and towards a continent of strategic importance for the future of humankind: Africa.

The world of finance has often been described as groundless, whereas cities are deeply rooted in geography and in reality - as mayors we can bring these two worlds together.

The mayors of the large cities I work with are visionaries. They take risks. They stand firm by their vision and act accordingly. They don’t shrink from taking unpopular steps. They accept not to be populists, only realists and humanists. They know there’s no other path.

I am aware of the weight of responsibility this award carries, and I would like to share it with my fellow mayors from around the world. Especially to my friends and mayors from the United States, because climate change is not just another bad reality show. I am convinced we can count on them, just as they can count on us. In their name I make a plea to the leaders of global finance.

Be visionary and help us in this battle. This combat puts our lives at stake, it is the most important challenge humankind has ever faced. 

Help us out of selflessness and it will be better. Or out of self-interest and that's fine with us too. For this challenge is ripe with opportunities, economic opportunities of course, but also social and political. Help us to change the world.

Be visionary! We can accomplish incredible things together, that will benefit every person on our planet. You won’t regret it. None of us will.

Read the remarks in French here and the press release here