By David Miller, Managing Director of International Diplomacy at C40 Cities 

The G20 plays a decisive role in world politics but will have to look to cities, their leadership, and the concrete actions they are taking on the ground in order to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. Working in coalitions and partnerships with other stakeholders, cities create the political space to engage in global and national discussions on climate change, COVID-19 recovery, ending fossil-fuel investments, and economic development. Mayors are increasingly showcasing their leadership and promoting the Global Green New Deal as a principle of action.

G20 countries are putting forward the biggest COVID-19 recovery plans, stimulus packages, and budgets – an estimated $12 – 15 trillion. It is imperative that this recovery funding go towards a green and just recovery based on the principles of the Global Green New Deal, with a particular focus on urban priorities such as mass transit, clean energy, energy efficient buildings, and walking and cycling infrastructure. Only that approach will allow emissions to fall rapidly enough to realise our ambition of halving global emissions in the next decade. To achieve the necessary scale of emission reduction, stimulus funding from the G20 has to be green, substantial, and made available quickly.

With the aim to raise ambition ahead of COP26, mayors are actively engaging with the G20 nations. They do so primarily through the Urban 20 (U20), a platform that brings together mayors from major G20 cities to inform the discussions of national leaders at the G20. This year, 28 mayors have endorsed a bold and ambitious U20 communiqué that focuses on green and just recovery and contains a powerful call for vaccine equity, shifting investments away from high-carbon infrastructure, climate ambition ahead of COP26 (championing 1.5°C as a goal, halving emissions by 2030, 100% renewable energy by 2040, and 100% EV sales no later than 2035), and a just transition for fossil-fuel workers. These messages are reiterated in an op-ed co-authored by the current U20 Chairs, Mayor Sala of Milan and Mayor Raggi of Rome, and upcoming 2022 U20 Chair Governor Baswedan of Jakarta, that stresses the importance of listening to and investing in cities as the engines of a local, green, and just recovery in this make-or-break-year for the climate.

In addition, C40 has been engaging with the G20 Presidency to bring the experiences of mayors and their municipal administrations to the fore of the G20 Climate and Energy agenda. In April 2021, C40 co-hosted a seminar with the G20 Climate Sustainability and Energy Transition Working Groups, in which cities from across G20 countries were invited to share best practices related to decarbonizing buildings and energy, promoting green and healthy streets, and building with nature. These experiences are now amalgamated into a C40 policy brief directed at G20 governments. It showcases cities as laboratories for innovation to inspire other actors, especially national governments, to follow suit, while putting forward recommendations based on C40’s most recent work on Recovery, Buildings, Energy, Transport, Consumption, Nature and Finance. This document aims at further informing the negotiations of the G20 Climate and Energy Working Groups around delivering a sustainable recovery from COVID-19; promoting smart, resilient, and sustainable cities; and steering global financial flows to deliver a green and just recovery that is aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Mayors are leading the way in keeping global warming to 1.5°C and governments should acknowledge their important role. Investing in cities is the key to delivering a global sustainable recovery from COVID-19. This can only be achieved through a close collaboration with national governments and channelling green finance to equitable and resilient cities that leave no one behind.

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