Paris (8 December, 2015)The world’s greatest cities are taking decisive action right now on climate change; and they’re just getting started. With increased resources and financing, along with more support from national political leaders, the progress made by cities could increase threefold. Research published today by C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40) and Arup identifies the 27,000 specific activities, programmes, procurements, and policies that cities could implement over the coming years. This shows the vast potential in our cities. Of these, C40 has identified 2,300 high-impact, readily deliverable actions that could save a massive 450 MtCO2 by 2020, equivalent to the annual emissions of the United Kingdom, and could be unlocked with just $6.8 billion.

Published against the backdrop of the crucial COP21 climate negotiations, the findings of Potential for Climate Action are striking because they represent the actions that mayors and civic leaders can and will deliver regardless of the results of intergovernmental efforts to agree a treaty on carbon emissions and before any COP21 agreement kicks in, in 2020.

From the implementation of building retrofit schemes in the Business Energy Challenge in London to new energy-from-waste facilities in Oslo, these 2,300 priority actions represent the projects that will have the highest impact in terms of reducing emissions in C40 Cities, or which can most realistically be implemented, through existing powers or collaboration with other cities.

The next five years are critical. Previous C40 and Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) research showed that, based on current trends of consumption and infrastructure development, within five years the world will have “locked-in” sufficient future emissions to exceed the globally safe carbon budget and take us beyond the 2 degree temperature rise threshold. Cities are key because one third of these emissions will be determined by decisions made in cities, making mayors in office right now pivotal actors in delivering a global solution.

Since the last major COP in Copenhagen, C40 cities have taken 10,000 climate actions – a doubling of actions in just six years – and have committed to reduce their CO2 emissions by 3 Gt CO2 by 2030, equivalent to the annual carbon output of India.

“The road from COP21 is now clear because we understand very concretely the further action cities can take to make a global impact in tackling climate change,” said C40 Chair Mayor of Rio de Janeiro Eduardo Paes. “The leadership of cities is unequivocal, but there is no question that barriers remain – the most significant being access to finance and a need for greater governmental co-ordination. Fortunately, C40 is leading the way on both fronts, providing solutions and a model for collaboration that will enable cities to reach their full potential to slash carbon emissions in the critical years ahead.”

“Our research shows that cities still have many valuable opportunities to scale up their actions and make even greater strides towards emissions reductions and climate resilience,” says Arup Group Chairman Gregory Hodkinson. “As international climate negotiations continue, there is a fundamental role for business and civil society, as well as government at all levels, to facilitate cities’ ongoing climate leadership. This report presents a roadmap on how to achieve this sustainable progress.”

Obstacles to progress

The report analysed the challenges that mayors face in delivering on the climate actions they want to see underway in their cities. 21% of the challenges identified by cities related to resources and financing, including limited budgets and the perceived conflict between economic growth and climate action. Yet the report also found that that implementing the 2,300 priority actions could potentially be unlocked with just $6.8 billion.

In direct response to this challenge faced by cities, C40 this week announced a new C40 Cities Finance Facility to help cities prepare sustainable infrastructure projects for investment. The facility is set to unlock $1 billion of investments in the fast growing cities of developing countries within four years. The initial $3.7 million funding from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany (BMZ) and $2 million from the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) is on course to attract additional funding and deliver as much as $20 million in technical assistance for cities.

20% of the challenges identified by cities related to political leadership, including difficulties in collaboration on climate action with the private sector or national governments. For example, Barcelona highlighted the difficulties of creating climate change plans for a 20-30 year horizon, using climate projections of 100 years, when governments change on a four-year cycle.

Therefore, the report finds that a collaborative approach between levels of government and economic sectors is crucial. In three out of four cases, the challenges cities face today cannot be overcome without involvement of private sector, national government, regional government or civil society.  

Potential for Climate Action was launched today as the Lima-Paris Action Agenda issued its Cities and Region Action Statement. Signed by C40 and other city networks, the Statement’s key objectives by 2020 provide a consistent framework for the implementation of the C40 report’s recommendations, including the need to scale up financing and investments and collaborate across all levels of government. 

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