Mayor of Los Angeles Eric Garcetti reflects on his time as Chair of C40 Cities

On my last day as Chair of C40 Cities, I wanted to express my heartfelt gratitude for the opportunity to lead the world’s most effective climate leadership organization.

When I took the helm of C40 two years ago, we gathered in Copenhagen to launch the 2020s as the decade of climate action — and to pledge to abide by a Global Green New Deal endorsed by the world’s mayors.

Picture of Eric Garcetti
C40 World Mayors Summit in Copenhagen 2019

Six months later, everything turned upside down. When the pandemic hit our cities, it brought suffering and loss — and the most profound economic upheaval of our lives. In the face of this unprecedented set of challenges, members of this group didn’t flinch — we doubled down on solutions that saved lives and livelihoods. 

As mayors, we’re responsible for protecting our residents, keeping the water flowing, the lights on, the trains running, and the air clear. Our cities represent over 25% of the world’s economic output — and when C40 members unite around a solution on emissions, a commitment on clean energy, or a promise for a Global Green New Deal, we set the standard for national governments to meet and expand the movement for a green and just future.

In short, when C40 speaks, the world acts — and when C40 leads, the globe follows.

Our unique and powerful role and platform was on prominent display at COP26 in Glasgow earlier this month, when C40 members made the biggest pledge outside the national pledges at COP — announcing that over 1,000 cities had joined the Cities Race to Zero, a campaign to put the world on track to halve emissions within the next decade and reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

The 1,049 cities and local governments in the Cities Race to Zero represent a total of 722 million people across the globe. This collective action has the potential to reduce global emissions by more than the equivalent of the 5th highest emitting country in the world today.

And C40 cities have raised the bar on what it means for local governments to be responsive to the problems their citizens face in their everyday lives. 

During my chairmanship, we launched the Global Green New Deal — a concept embraced by a broad coalition of cities, youth activists, labor, business, and civil society — and established an Inclusive Climate Action Global Green New Deal pilot program to help enable a group of C40 cities to put climate at the heart of urban decision-making, secure a just transition for workers, and correct long-running environmental injustices for those disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis.

During the height of the pandemic, we established the Global Mayors COVID-19 Recovery Task Force, which recognized that the climate and public health crises are intrinsically linked and placed equity at the heart of the recovery.

We called for global assistance from governments and financial institutions to develop green finance mechanisms to help cities deliver on their commitments to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.

We created the Global Youth and Mayors Forum, a first-of-its-kind platform that brings together youth climate leaders and mayors to work together to shape how the Global Green New Deal can be made a reality in cities across the world; launched the C40 Green Ports Forum to challenge the global supply chains that power our economies to make smart, sustainable changes to address this significant source of emissions; and constituted the C40-Mayors Migration Council Task Force, which has developed the C40-MMC Action Agenda to elevate the issue of climate migration.

Two years after we announced a decade of action, it’s clear: this has to be a decade of exponential action. Our next C40 Chair, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, is among those who have shown the most extraordinary leadership and the deepest commitment to meeting our highest ideals. There is no question — I am leaving C40 in the best possible hands.

Mayors Eric Garcetti and Sadiq Khan on the way to COP26. © Maurizio Martorana / C40

All over the world, cities are stretching to meet goals that once seemed out of reach. Because, though we are often referred to as the laboratories of progress, cities are more than that — we are factories for our future, transforming and shaping the world that our children and our grandchildren will inherit. 

Mayors have shown remarkable courage in the most trying of times — and we need exponential courage to make exponential change. As Chair of C40, I’ve seen what cities around the world are already doing — and have never been more confident that this group will continue to pursue a set of solutions that will save our planet, invest in our people, and leave no one behind. 

Thank you for the honor of serving you and of serving alongside you.

Eric Garcetti, Chair of C40 and Mayor of Los Angeles

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