Our work has started, but we are late.

Cities are at the forefront of climate action, says C40 Chair Eduardo Paes at COP22 in Marrakech

Today, C40 Chair and Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes gave the keynote address at the Sustainable Innovation Forum at COP22 in Marrakech, where he highlighted the importance of mayors and cities in tackling climate change. Below are excerpts from his remarks:

Our work has started, but we are late. Time is running out. It's been a year since the boldest climate agreement was signed and I want to congratulate the nations for keeping on delivering that compromise. Over a hundred countries have ratified the agreement, including Brazil. And another hundred or so are about to reassure that commitment.​

As we gather at COP this week, there is concern that the Paris Agreement may be weakened, but I am convinced that climate efforts will continue independently of changes in government, command or political partisanship in Brazil, Europe, Africa or the United States.

Climate change is the most significant challenge of our time, and future times. But we still have a chance to keep global temperatures rise below 1.5 degrees from pre-industrial age and avoid harsher consequences. And for this to happen, we need to accelerate the Paris Agreement implementation and raise the ambition of its commitments.

The UNEP Emissions Report of 2016 [launched at COP22] clearly shows that predicted 2030 emissions, even if the Paris pledges are fully implemented, will place the world on track for a temperature rise of over three degrees this century.

Limiting global warming requires a worldwide effort from state, regional and local governments, as well as businesses, industries and financial institutions. To achieve this, we need commitment to clear and ambitious long-term climate plans. Taking actions on climate change: that is what we are here for.

During my term as Mayor of Rio and as Chair of C40 Cities, I have witnessed how cities have been at the forefront of climate action, setting ambitious targets to reduce emissions, and adapting to the impacts of climate change.

Cities are taking bold actions. But there's more to do to prevent our future from the dangerous consequences of climate change... We need a coordinated collaboration between all levels of society to pave our path towards a climate safe world.

In Rio, we have started to cut emissions by establishing targets and actions. During the preparations for the Olympic Games, we have implemented four Bus Rapid Transit corridors and developed a new waste treatment center which turns biogas into energy. Also, we developed the first resilience plan in Latin America working with Rockefeller Foundation, C40 and Bloomberg Associates.

Carbon intensive industries, traditional businesses need to be reinvented. Traditional business will not have a place in a world facing climate change. This means a great economic opportunity. In the next 15 years, the world is expected to invest around USD $90 trillion in infrastructure. Much of that will happen in cities... Municipal governments cannot leverage those resources alone.

C40’s research shows that urban policy decisions made in the next four years alone could lock-in almost a third of the remaining global safe carbon budget. So, our aim is to support our member cities in developing targets and climate action plans that are aligned with a 1.5 degree pathway. As Chair of C40, I have made access to finance a priority to our members.

The Climate Finance Facility, now in its pilot phase will support cities in low and middle-income countries in preparing climate change projects to attract investments. Our city diplomacy campaign was reinforced by the launch of the C40 Cities Call for Action on Municipal Infrastructure Finance at Habitat III, in Quito.

At the end of this month, at the C40 bi-annual Summit in Mexico City, C40 is preparing to adopt a new four-year business plan which sets out a bold vision for our future. We have placed the ambition of the Paris Agreement at the center of our strategy.

More than ever, the solution for this global challenge is to engage in further collaboration. It means understanding our differences and taking advantage of them. Cities, nations, businesses, and communities alike.”

In addition to hosting the Sustainable Innovation Forum, Climate Action and UNEP launched the 10th anniversary edition of their Climate Action report at COP22. Mayor Paes is a third-time contributing author; in this edition he makes a strong call to finance city climate action. Read the report here: http://www.climateactionprogramme.org/bookstore/book_2016.

Earlier this year, Rio de Janeiro hosted the C40 Financing Sustainable Cities Forum bringing together global leaders in city finance. The Forum formed part of the Financing Sustainable Cities, a joint initiative of C40, the Citi Foundation and WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities to accelerate investment in sustainable urban solutions.