Cities rise to shape our climate future

07 September 2018 | Mitigation

For a few short days this week, San Francisco will be the environmental capital of the world.

San Francisco will welcome an unprecedented gathering of governors, business leaders, investors, climate activists and mayors to the Global Climate Action Summit being held at the Moscone Convention Center. This international convening will build upon the commitments and progress made at the 2015 U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris and take that ambition to the next level, with cities at the helm.

As the mayors of San Francisco and Paris, we are unequivocal when we say that cities are on the front lines of combatting global climate change. When you consider that cities account for more than 70 percent of global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, it is easy to understand why cities also need to be a part of the solution.

Cities also suffer some of the worst impacts of climate change. From the wildfires threatening California to the dangerous heat wave that broke records across Europe this summer, the tangible reality of climate change is unfolding in front of our eyes. Many coastal cities like San Francisco are preparing for climate-change induced sea-level rise and its effects on critical city infrastructure and neighborhoods.

That is why we, as mayors, have committed Paris and San Francisco to bold new sustainability measures. Alongside other cities, we will accelerate the global transition to zero waste with new reductions in waste generation and a decrease in the trash that our cities send to landfill. We will enact regulations and planning policies that ensure all our buildings switch to 100 percent renewable energy for heating, cooling, and electric needs. This is how our cities achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 — a goal both San Francisco and Paris are working toward.

Make no mistake, these commitments will alter how we all live our daily lives. Their success depends on the support of residents and businesses.

Fortunately, as our communities continue the transition toward a clean energy future, these measures will create jobs that stimulate our local economies and clean the air we breathe. Most importantly, they will ensure that our cities deliver on their fair share of the emissions cuts that scientists tell us will be needed to keep global temperatures within safe limits.

Climate change affects us all, but we also must recognize that it poses significant threats to vulnerable communities — including low-income people and women. Less than five years ago when Paris elected its first female mayor, there were just four female mayors in the C40 global citiesnetwork. Today, San Francisco joins a group of more than 20 cities with inspiring women at the helm. Climate-conscious women are already helping to shape a future that is both more sustainable and more inclusive.

Of course, mayors cannot do it alone, which is why we call upon citizens, CEOs, investors, and businesses to join us in making commitments to secure our future. We know what is possible because of what we have already achieved.

Thanks to unprecedented collective efforts from businesses and citizens, San Francisco has cut its landfill disposal in half and has a material recovery rate almost two-and-a-half times the U.S. average. San Francisco passed the strongest legislation in the country banning polystyrene packaging, commonly known as Styrofoam, which never biodegrades. Paris is eliminating the threat posed to the health of its youngest and eldest citizens from toxic air pollution from internal combustion engine cars, by restricting the oldest, most polluting vehicles from entering the city. But we cannot rest; we need to harness our ambition and take it to the next level.

California and San Francisco have long been climate leaders on the international stage. Gov. Jerry Brown’s decision to choose San Francisco to host the world environmental movement is testament to the climate commitment that the city’s residents and businesses exhibit every day. San Francisco is a place of energy, empathy and idealism, with the technology and scientific know-how to act on climate change.

Time and time again, actions and policies that start in cities just like San Francisco are replicated by nations around the world. Our cities are living laboratories and they can lead the way to environmental sustainability. The future is ours to protect, and that work must begin today. 



Source: San Francisco Chronicle