How Cities Are Leading The Charge

How Cities Are Leading The Charge


What do places like Shropshire (United Kingdom), Hawkes Bay (New Zealand), Sydney (Australia), New York (USA), and Krakow (Poland) have in common?

They are just some of the 822 (and counting) cities, councils and jurisdictions worldwide to have declared a climate emergency. With record temperatures gripping Europe, widespread drought in South America, and ever-decreasing ice coverage in Greenland, the effects of climate change are being felt globally. As some nations drag their feet on enacting environmental policies or are slowed down by politics, some cities worldwide are taking matters in their own hands.

See also: Renewable Energy Provides Growing Source Of Skilled Jobs For Africa And Asia

The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is extremely likely (greater than 95% probability) to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over decades to millennia.

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One Small Step

By declaring a climate emergency, cities are adopting more powers to help curb the effects of climate change . In New York, the city council has set new carbon reduction targets for its major buildings, Sydney have added climate considerations in any new policy or infrastructure decisions, while Shropshire Council, a rural district in the English Midlands, has committed to being carbon-neutral by 2030. In each case, these local governments have also used their declarations as a means to exert pressure on national decision-makers. There is no single definition of a climate emergency declaration, but many see it as a drive for carbon neutrality and a mandate for further political action.

Bristol councilor Carla Denyer, who helped her city pass one of the United Kingdom’s first local climate emergency declarations in November 2018 explains: “We are acknowledging we are in an emergency situation. The national government needs to declare an emergency and put resources in place to enable councils to help reduce carbon emissions . It’s the first step to radical action.” Six months after Bristol made its initial declaration, the United Kingdom became the first country to announce a climate emergency and pledged to dedicate more resources towards mitigating climate change.

See also: Mini-Grids Are Ready To Change The World (Again)

In many cases, smaller political structures and more power over local policy have enabled cities to make more ambitious goals for themselves than national governments. The town of Chico in California declared a climate emergency after witnessing the most destructive wildfire in state history. Chico has pledged to eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2030 and intends to adopt many of the resolutions outlined in the Green New Deal. Rocked by a heatwave that sent temperatures soaring to 47 degrees, Paris is the latest major city to declare a climate emergency. With major emission reduction projects already in place in the French capital, the city council has expanded its environmental plans by announcing it will open a “climate academy” geared to educating the public about the risks of climate change.

Student climate activists hold banners and shout slogans during a Fridays for Future event near the Houses of Parliament in London, U.K. Teenagers across the world have mobilized for climate action. Swedish activist Greta Thunberg said the continent’s policymakers – including environmentalists – are all failing to heed the climate crisis.

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Deal Or No Deal

Despite a vast array of pledges and policy changes, many declarations have been made in a more symbolic way. Pope Francis recently declared a worldwide climate emergency and urged nations to do more to tackle the issue head-on. Meanwhile, the declaration made in Krakow was led by local environmental groups with the support of councilor members and was made in a bid to apply pressure on Poland’s conservative government. Progressive lawmakers believe the government should increase budget allocations towards fighting climate change, while the ruling party advocate private businesses finding their own, for-profit solutions. 





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