Today (11/11/21), we promoted an important meeting amongst cities of the Americas at COP26. During the event, organized in partnership with ICLEI and WWFCities, the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy (GCoM) Americas brought local authorities and specialists to dialogue on challenges, solutions, and ways to accelerate climate action in the region.
The presentation of the extensive experience of Barcelona (Spain) in the field of climate change adaptation and mitigation, which was established through the cooperation with local and regional governments for climate action, has demonstrated that the Global Covenant of Mayors works and provides concrete outcomes, as outlined by the president of the Barcelona Provincial Council, Núria Marín.
The experiences presented by the local governments members of the GCoM indicate that climate action is challenging. Yet, it remains the only possible way to allow a sustainable, just, and equitable future. Taking more ambitious actions is especially difficult for small and medium-sized cities, as noted by the Mayor of Brasileia, Brazil, Fernanda de Souza Hassem, and the Mayor of Bell Ville, Argentina, Carlos Briner.
Mayor Mike Kelly of Roeland Park (United States) emphasized the problems are diverse, from the reality of climate migration and the political polarization of the climate crisis to more specific aspects of the day-to-day in cities, such as the lack of training and human resources, high poverty rates, rapid and unplanned sprawl, and competition for financial resources.
To overcome these challenges, the main opportunities are multilevel action and cooperation between cities and regions in the search for technical resources and financial support. The example exposed by Mayor Mike Kelly demonstrates that collaborative climate work is possible. With technical support from the GCoM, a regional climate action plan was developed for the Kansas City Region. Through this regional collaboration, the city currently has a climate plan, a comprehensive emissions inventory, and an assessment for vulnerabilities and climate risk.
The participants indicated the exchange of knowledge and experiences between cities as an essential element to advance local action without the need to start from scratch. Inspiring success stories from other cities offer the possibility of acting more quickly and assertively.
One of the main lessons learned from this encounter is once again that climate connects everything and everyone, ignoring the territorial limits outlined by humans. Therefore, instead of making more individual commitments, we need to generate a unified voice and act together, mainly through the different networks of local governments that integrate and support the implementation of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy in the Americas. As Shauna Sylvester, a professor from Simon Fraser University, highlighted, together, cities can attract investment, find new financing tools, and advocate for local causes on a broader level.
Climate change is already affecting cities in several ways. But as the Mayor of Moncton, Canada, Dawn Arnold, has pointed out, extreme events like Covid-19 show us that we can make substantial changes when we set our minds and should not wait to act when the climate situation becomes even more severe.
As the Mayor of the Metropolitan Region of Lima, Peru, and Member of the GCoM Board of Directors, Jorge Muñoz Wells emphasized, it is necessary and fundamental that we find strategies and solutions that allow small cities to join and scale their climate actions. GCoM’s work is to support cities in the planning and implementation of climate actions.