2018: A Year of Dazzling City Climate Leadership

By Emmanuelle Pinault, C40 Head of City Diplomacy 

Ahead of COP24, C40 looks back at 2018 – a fantastic year of city climate leadership – with several city diplomacy breakthroughs, and calls for national governments to match cities’ climate ambitions at COP24 and beyond. 

Cities are at the forefront of climate change – both its impacts and its solutions. The tone was set in March, at the CitiesIPCC Cities and Climate Change Science Conference held in Edmonton, Canada, which gathered the global urban and scientific communities under the leadership of the Mayor of Edmonton, Don Iveson. Conference participants concluded that more scientific knowledge on climate change and cities is needed to support the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the SDGs at the local level. As a result, they co-created the first Global Research and Action Agenda on Cities and Climate Change Science, identified gaps in research, and defined “The Science We Need for the Cities We Want”. This message was further enhanced during the year-long Talanoa Dialogue, the first global stocktaking exercise with strong engagement of local and regional governments, and voices from Paris, Mexico City, Buenos Aires and Quezon City, among others, calling for urgent action, increased ambition and radical collaboration to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement. 

Cities leading the way towards a 1.5°C future are calling on countries to increase their ambition. In July, C40 cities continued to be vocal on the global stage, with ten European mayors issuing an Open letter to the European Commission, calling for Europe to reach emission neutrality by 2050. Based on their own commitment to 1.5°C within the framework of the Deadline 2020 programme, these cities invited the EU to be the leader the world needs to solve the climate crisis described in the IPCC Special Report of 1.5 degree of Global Warming. 

In September, the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco represented the climax of city climate leadership in 2018. There we announced that 27 cities have already peaked GHG emissions, 72 cities committed to emission-neutrality by 2050, and dozens of new ambitious city commitments were made to 100% renewable energy, zero-emission mobility, net-zero carbon buildings and zero waste. 

This tremendous acceleration of local climate action laid the groundwork towards a strong multi-stakeholder call to action to national governments. Under the leadership of Mayor Rodriguez Larreta of Buenos Aires, the Urban 20 Communiqué, signed by 34 mayors and delivered in-person to the G20 President a few weeks later, echoes these ambitions and launches a similar call to G20 countries to fully and rapidly implement the Paris Agreement. Read more about the Communiqué.

Raising up the voices of cities from the Global South, and making urban adaptation and resilience count. Cities around the world are already facing serious climate impacts, and in 2018 they made their voices heard on the issue of adaptation. In November, Mayor Herbert Bautista of Quezon City and Mayor Adjei Sowah of Accra, two of C40’s Adaptation Diplomacy champions, led the conversation on urban resilience in Global South Cities at the C40 Asian Adaptation Forum and the Climate Virtual Summit, respectively. Paris Agreement goals, vertical collaboration, access to finance, interdependencies and community engagement were hot topics of interest at these forums. Learn more about our work on Adaptation Diplomacy here. 

COP24: an urgent call for ambition and radical collaboration. COP24, kicking off in Katowice, Poland this week, will see this year’s intense diplomatic activity conclude with a final call for increased ambition at the national level, to match the ambitions of cities and deliver immediate, effective solutions to the climate crisis. C40 is heading to Katowice with strong expectations in terms of the Paris Agreement rulebook, NDC enhancement, zero-emission long-term strategies, and the topic of just transition. We will also be launching our own Summary for Urban Policymakers of IPCC SR 1.5. 

Check out our COP24 agenda here. Follow our COP activities on social media or join us in Katowice!