By Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, Chief of Government of the City of Buenos Aires
This week, in the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires (CABA), we will experience a historic milestone in the fight against climate change at a global level. Together with world-leading mayors, we will gather in the capital of Argentina to discuss one of the main challenges of our time: the fight against climate change and the difficult path towards sustainable development and a better quality of life for our residents.
From 19–21 October, the City of Buenos Aires will host the C40 World Mayors Summit. Taking place just prior to COP27 in Egypt, the C40 Summit will convene mayors, philanthropists, climate experts, business and youth leaders from all continents. We will share our experiences of tackling the climate crisis during the COVID-19 pandemic, and stakeholders will have the opportunity to showcase inspiring actions that have helped to mitigate climate breakdown.
At this year’s Summit, the City of Buenos Aires will be the hub of discussions on the solutions that city leaders have at our disposal to transform the environments in which we live, work and spend time into fairer, more inclusive and sustainable urban centres. This transformation will be shaped by the most recent COVID-19 pandemic and climate catastrophes.
A just and inclusive recovery from the pandemic is one of the key pillars of the Summit. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the impact of humans on nature and the catastrophes that can subsequently arise. Once again, it has been proven that our relationship with the environment is intimate. Living in a healthy environment, where there is a state that can guarantee our human right to health and wellbeing, is fundamental to our development.
The pandemic also showed us that inequality and vulnerability exists between countries, regions, cities and neighbourhoods. The city of Buenos Aires continues to work to reduce risks for informal employees, women and young people, all of whom are adversely affected by high levels of national inflation. Green jobs in the transport, energy, and construction sectors are crucial tools to assist these groups to find meaningful and secure employment. The World Resources Institute has already shown that green investments create more jobs per million dollars than non-sustainable investments.
Another Summit pillar puts wellbeing at the heart of policymaking. The city government of Buenos Aires has come a long way regarding infrastructure projects that improve residents’ lives and deliver sustainability. The 11th sustainable development goal reflects our intention throughout the years, since it talks about the positive impact that investment in streets and public spaces has on urban productivity, and access to markets, jobs and public services; the Rodrigo Bueno neighbourhood is an excellent example in this regard.
But, why are cities getting together to discuss this? The United Nations (UN) highlights that global cities represent 3% of the Earth’s surface and contribute to approximately 60% of global GDP. However, cities are also responsible for around 60-70% of global energy consumption, and we produce 75% of global carbon emissions.
The City of Buenos Aires is home to almost 3 million people, and another 3.5 million people from surrounding municipalities visit us each day to work or study. As a highly dynamic centre of economic activity, it has become an urgent necessity to ensure sustainability in every area of government, from transport to culture.
The Metrobús network is a good example of how more and better use of public transport results in lower carbon emissions per person, while ensuring that all residents have access to safe, fast and quality public transport. The same applies to the construction of bike paths; the City of Buenos Aires already has a network of protected bike paths of almost 300 kilometres.
Now, climate action can only be delivered if we have the necessary resources. In Latin America and other countries in the Global South, there is a lack of funding for climate action, which means that cities may end up investing in options that are less expensive but more damaging to the environment.
The third pillar of the Summit addresses this issue by focusing on speeding up the flow of climate finance, especially to the cities of the Global South. Latin America has historically depended on its natural resources; climate phenomena such as droughts diminish harvests by reducing exportable quantities, increasing raw material prices, and as a consequence, diminishing the offering of countries that do not have the same food production capabilities. The UN estimates that 90% of disasters related to weather and climate impose costs to the global economy of US $520 billion dollars a year, and push 26 million people into poverty. Droughts, floods and fires not only increase food insecurity; they also increase the probability of civil unrest due to resource scarcity.
In terms of funding, CABA has received grants from different international organisations dedicated to the fight against climate breakdown. Even so, the city of Buenos Aires must take advantage of its position as a current member of the C40 Steering Committee representing Latin America to accelerate funding to the rest of the cities in the southern hemisphere dedicated to climate action. At this Summit, we, Global South cities, have the opportunity to exchange practices that adapt to our particular contexts, keeping in mind our current social and economic challenges, and also our potential for change. We have the ambition and solutions needed to be leaders in the fight against climate change.
This is a historic Summit at a crucial moment for the environmental agenda. In the City of Buenos Aires, cities have a new opportunity to reach a consensus that can be taken forward to COP27, at a time when climate catastrophes are on the rise. It is only by working together, united in action, that we will be able to ensure a sustainable and healthy future for all.