At this week’s Resilient Cities 2018 congress in Bonn, there was a rousing call to arms by UN Climate Change Executive Secretary, Patricia Espinosa. The time for action is now.
“Never has our work been more urgent or more needed. 2017 was a climate disaster for many people around the world.” Speaking at the plenary session of this year’s ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability) Resilient Cities 2018 congress, UN Climate Change executive secretary, Patricia Espinosa, emphasised the need for urgency ahead of December’s 24th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24), in Poland.
Those climate disasters impacted developed and developing countries alike and all credible scientific evidence only points to things getting worse, said Espinosa. “Cities are where the climate battle will be won or lost.” She cited the likes of Osaka in Japan, Alexandria in Egypt and Rio de Janeiro as cities that are particularly exposed.
Espinosa was a critical figure in achieving the Paris Climate Agreement and believes the worst impacts can still be avoided but only if action is taken now. The ‘Talanoa Dialogue’, taking place during the congress and involving mayors from across the globe, is intended to support this, looking at whether the Paris Climate Agreement goals are being met, what the reasons are where they are not, and what can be done to overcome the issues and accelerate the action.
“It is about seizing the opportunity to craft a better future on a clean, green foundation,” she said. This includes moving from fossil fuels and being better prepared for climate crises.
She took heart from efforts such as the State of California’s target of 100 per cent renewables, Los Angeles’ aim to reduce urban heat, the low carbon initiatives of some Chinese cities, and the broad activities to counter climate change of cities such as Athens, Barcelona and Paris.
“But as much as you are doing, we still need more action,” she told the audience. She outlined three ways that this could be done.
First, cities should incorporate climate change into everything they do, across the board, including infrastructure, procurement, transport, and finance. Resilient city investments should include green bonds and stable clean energy markets, she said. “All financing should be green, there shouldn’t be any other type of financing.”
Secondly, cities must assess the impact of climate change and incorporate the threats into planning, so that all future growth will be more sustainable. This in turn will drive innovation and a dynamic economy.
And thirdly, communication with citizens is vital. This needs to be in ways that matter to them. Clean air, water, sanitation, waste management – there need to be more stories about issues that impact their daily lives.
The audience of 400+, from all corners of the globe, was given no room for complacency by Espinosa. The call to action could not have been clearer.
Photo credits: ICLEI