Think Local, Act Global: Urban and Business Leaders Take Action for Healthier Cities

By Mark Watts, Executive Director C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, & Hany Fam, EVP Enterprise Partnerships, Mastercard

The successful cities of the future will achieve greater mobility and zero pollution, through innovative, shared transportation models and strong networks. This is the vision of the partnership between C40 Cities and Mastercard.

Transportation is a leading generator of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, making up on average more than one third of pollutants in cities around the world. As urban areas continue to grow, they are becoming more congested, with citizens spending more time in traffic and productivity suffering as a result. Moreover, clogged city centres also cause citizens to breathe in toxic air, with a resulting major impact on public health. Recent data shows that dirty air leads to nearly 4.5 million premature deaths a year and afflicts many more, particularly children, with illnesses such as asthma.

That is why a leading group of mayors from C40 Cities have boldly committed to tackling air pollution and climate change, by creating fossil-fuel-free streets. In October, the mayors of London, Paris, Los Angeles, Copenhagen, Barcelona, Quito, Vancouver, Mexico City, Milan, Seattle, Auckland & Cape Town signed a pioneering declaration pledging to procure only zero-only emission buses by 2025 and to ensure that a major area of their city is zero-emission by 2030. This is an ambitious commitment to investment and innovation that will make their cities greener, healthier and more prosperous.


Mayor of Auckland Phill Goff, alongside (L-R) mayors of Quito, Tokyo, Cape Town, Los Angeles, Paris, Barcelona and Milan, speaks to journalists about the Fossil Fuel Free Streets Declaration, in Paris, Oct 2017.

Signatories to the declaration envision a future where walking, cycling, and shared transport are how the majority of residents and visitors move around our cities. This is a future of urban mobility with:

  • Lower individual vehicle miles but greater mobility for all
  • Seamless access to shared transport
  • The most advanced technology available creating the healthiest streets

Making this vision a reality cannot be delivered by mayors alone. It requires leadership from both the public and the private sector to fundamentally transform how the citizens of the world’s great cities live, work and play.

As a technology leader and partner of C40, Mastercard is working closely with cities and businesses to pioneer new models of collaboration, advancing more connected and more inclusive communities.

Already today, technology is transforming how people move around cities. Mobile devices are used as both a navigation tool and a means of payment. Building off the success in London, cities including New York, Singapore, Sydney and Mexico City, are also working to make the commuting experience easier, faster and more consistent.

The integration of digital and technology solutions across transport networks has helped to make public transport more convenient and more efficient. In London, almost half of all pay-as-you go journeys on tube, bus and train are made with the payment card or a phone people carry with them anyway. This also unlocks better insights into the way urban residents and visitors travel, enabling local city planners to make transportation systems more responsive to shifting demand and individual needs and preferences.

In Chicago for example, Mastercard recently partnered with City Tech, an urban tech accelerator, to test how targeted personalized communication affects transit demand during peak commuting hours. Results show that participant ridership shifted by 17.5 percent between 5 and 6 pm when the local transit operator offered a fare rebate to those commuters travelling earlier or later through simple text messages.


Residents walk through the centre of Chicago.

This type of smart mobility management holds huge potential for cities to optimize existing infrastructure versus making costly investments in new capacity only to cover the peak of peaks. As the barriers to using a bus, tram or train fall away, people are more likely to choose that option instead of their more polluting private car. Once fewer cars are on the road, air quality improves and roads become safer. This encourages more people to walk or cycle which further contributes to the social, health and livability benefits for individuals and the city as a whole. It also helps deliver the steep emissions reductions that cities need to achieve in the years ahead to realize a low carbon urban future.

C40’s Fossil-Fuel-Free Streets Declaration underlines how it is cities that are shaping our collective futures. Both C40 Cities and Mastercard are fully committed to pushing forward initiatives that make our cities, cleaner, greener, healthier and more sustainable. Together, we call on city and business leaders to join this effort, so that urban communities around the world can prosper socially, culturally and economically.

Originally published in the Huffington Post.