While national negotiators struggle to agree on climate action at the COP21, the mayors of 700 cities have committed to generating 100% of their energy from renewable sources by 2050. EurActiv France reports.
At the end of a difficult first week of negotiations, the COP21 made a significant step forward… with local leaders.
700 city mayors from around the world met in the margins of the COP21 at the Paris town hall on Friday (4 December) to pursue a more ambitious agenda than that supported by their national governments.
Their message was clear: cities, which are responsible for around 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, want to reach beyond the commitments of their national governments and lead the fight against climate change.
“Half of the solutions, half of the work needed to resolve the problems of climate change, depend on the action of mayors,” said Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of the French capital. “Cities are formidable providers of solutions.”
“By 2050, the world will have ten billion inhabitants, the majority of which will live in cities. If this urban growth is not managed […] it will harm the climate,” French President François Hollande warned, during his opening remarks.
Closing the gap
The local leaders present at this summit committed to “exceed the objectives of the 2015 Paris Agreement negotiated at the COP21”. Their additional effort should cut around 3.7 gigatons of CO2 from the atmosphere each year.
The contributions submitted by national governments ahead of the COP21 will limit the average global temperature rise to around +3°C; far from the objective of +2°C.
Scientists believe that if the +2°C threshold is crossed, the effects of climate change will be catastrophic and irreversible. The difference of one degree represents a gap of several gigatons of CO2. The city leaders hope their efforts will close this gap.
Concretely, the mayors committed to a combined reduction in CO2 emissions of 3.7 gigatons per year in urban areas by 2030. If they succeed, this will close 30% of the gap between the national commitments and the +2°C objective.
“700 city mayors from around the world are showing the way with the goal of an energy transition to 100% renewable sources by 2050. It is now up to the states to listen to the local authorities and to integrate the same objective into the agreement that will come out of the COP21,” said Anne Bringault, the head of energy transition at the Climate Action Network.
The 100% renewable energy goal comes with an alternative objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80%, also by 2050.
Some cities, particularly those directly at risk from the effects of climate change, have already integrated these objectives in their development strategies.
“If we do not act appropriately, the city of New Orleans will not exist in 100 years’ time,” said Mitch Landireu, the mayor of the largest city in Louisiana.
“The ocean and rising sea levels are knocking on the gates of the city,” the Mayor of Vancouver, Gregor Robertson said. Like other coastal cities around the world, Vancouver, on the East coast of Canada, suffers directly from the rising sea levels. Recent projections by the think-tank Climate Central show large parts of the city submerged in the near future, if global warming is allowed to exceed +2°C.
Faced with this direct threat, the mayor of Vancouver has put in place an ambitious climate plan, adopted after consultation with the population, which includes an objective of 100% renewable energy by 2050. “35,000 people took part in this project,” the mayor said.