All Cities Lead to Paris — Networked Cities and the Collective Road to Climate Progress

Blog by Anastasia Dellaccio, Director of Marketing and Communications, Sister Cities International. Click here to view original post on Medium. 

In 2015, 50 percent of the world’s population lives in cities, and in 2050 that number will rise to 70 percent. The effects of urbanization are felt all over the globe even though cities cover just around two percent of it. Cities are responsible for the consumption of over 75 percent of the world’s energy and produce a majority of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Cities, although a major culprit of many of these problems, are also becoming a driving force for a majority of solutions. As the world converges in Paris for the COP21 to discuss solutions that will determine the achievement of the new sustainable development goals and climate solutions, all eyes will be focused on the role that cities will play. How cities will react to the bi-products of climate change — safe water to drink, clean energy solutions, natural disaster prevention, sustainable and green building structure, civic planning, and more — will be a game changer.

Cities, the people, corporations, and organizations that thrive within them as well as the mayors that run them have a responsibility to create policies that lead to solutions to climate change. Mayors and cities can take action in firm ways that many countries at the federal level cannot. Financial epicenters that prosper within cities around the world have the power to partner and leverage their vast resources to become leaders as it relates to climate mitigation and energy efficiency. Investment in resilient infrastructure within cities is immensely important as natural disasters become ever more frequent and ever more destructive. Cities’ dense populations and prevalence of major educational institutions also combine to create a greater likelihood for collaboration and entrepreneurship that will spurn change and further mitigate the impact of climate.

Because of our networked and integrated world, city programs can now address emissions beyond their geographical area by working through institutions that bring them together and leverage a collective to share best practices. Organizations like Sister Cities International work to connect cities around the world so that they can work at subnational levels to not only create innovations from within but to also export them or work with other cities to perfect them. This collaboration is mutually beneficial both environmentally and economically. Many sister cities share similar environmental likeliness and therefore problems such as the city of Charlottesville, VA and its sister city of Besancon, France and they continue to leverage their partnership to discuss solutions related to the ever-increasing threat of natural disaster. Anderson, SC and its sister city, Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland both share ports that can be economic drivers and potential hazards, both have shared best practices and are working together to create collective results. Civic drivers of innovation like San Francisco and Bangalore have created their partnership around developing sustainable solutions through the exchange of environmental, economic, cultural, and research ideas and expertise.

As citizens and cities around the world converge in Paris for the COP21, what comes out of the negotiations can be implemented much faster when cities are engaged. When cities are engaged and create governance and policies that are both environmentally friendly and help to propel the new green economy, the citizens that live within them prosper. Mayors need to ensure that their constituents not only act locally but think globally. Connections that are built between cities around the world help citizens to understand that the choices they make in their lives will impact generations to come and people like them that reside on the other side of the planet.

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