Cities Making Progress in the Fight against Climate Change

A new global network, The Compact of Mayors, was announced at the New York Climate Summit in September, to expand city-level GHG reduction strategies; make existing targets and plans public; and make annual progress reports using a newly-standardized measurement system that is compatible with international practices. The new Compact will work with existing organizations and global networks of cities (C40, Cities Climate Leadership Group, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, and United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG). See a summary at: http://www.iclei.org/details/article/global-mayors-compact-shows-unity-and-ambition-to-tackle-climate-change-1.html, read The Compact document at: http://www.iclei.org/fileadmin/user_upload/ICLEI_WS/Documents/advocacy/Climate_Summit_2014/Compact_of_Mayors_Doc.pdf, or see the World Resources Institute blog at: http://www.wri.org/blog/2014/09/compact-mayors-cities-lead-tackling-climate-change-un-summit/.

At their annual meeting on September 23, the B.C. Mayors Climate Leadership Council reviewed their accomplishments since the group was founded 5 years ago. Climate Action Plans have been established in 50% of municipalities in British Columbia, covering 75% of B.C.’s population. 31 local governments achieved carbon neutrality for their operations in 2012. See the press release at: http://www.toolkit.bc.ca/News/BC-Municipalities-Marching-Ahead-Climate-Action. For more information about action in cities across Canada, see the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Partners for Climate Protection latest National Measures Report at: http://www.fcm.ca/Documents/reports/PCP/2014/PCP_National_Measures_Report_2013_EN.pdf (the PCP is part of the global ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability). See also Best Practices in Climate Resilience from Six North American Cities (from City of Toronto, June 2014) at: http://www1.toronto.ca/City%20Of%20Toronto/Environment%20and%20Energy/Programs%20for%20Businesses/Images/16-06-2014%20Best%20Practices%20in%20Climate%20Resilience.pdf.

The Carbon Disclosure Project surveyed 207 cities worldwide in its new report, Protecting Our Capital: How Climate Adaptation In Cities Creates a Resilient Place for Business. The survey included the following Canadian cities: Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Brandon, Winnipeg, Burlington, Hamilton, London, Toronto, and Montreal. The report attempts to identify the alignment of how companies and the cities in which they operate perceive climate-related risks. It finds most commonality in recognizing risks from increased temperatures and heatwaves, which have immediate impacts across the public and private sectors. It is assumed that cities that develop reasonable risk assessment and reduction strategies will be better positioned to attract and retain business. See https://www.cdp.net/CDPResults/CDP-global-cities-report-2014.pdf.

Canadian Cities Rank High in Climate Change Adaptation – and Some Examples

A newly released survey conducted by the researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology investigates the progress in climate adaptation planning in 468 cities worldwide – 298 of which were in the U.S., 26 were in Canada. Results show that 92% of Canadian cities are pursuing adaptation planning, compared to 68% worldwide, and 59% in the U.S.. The top ranked impacts identified by cities that conducted assessments were: increased stormwater runoff (72%), changes in electricity demand (42%), loss of natural systems (39%), and coastal erosion (36%). Other important issues were loss of economic revenue, drought, and solid waste management. The report, Progress and Challenges in Urban Adaptation Planning: Results of a Global Survey is available at: http://www.icleiusa.org/action-center/learn-from-others/progress-and-challenges-in-urban-climate-adaptation-planning-results-of-a-global-survey, and summarized at: http://www.icleiusa.org/blog/survey_us_cities_report_increase_in_climate_impacts_lag_in_adaptation_planningworldwide-progress-on-urban-climate-adaptation-planning. For a policy perspective, read the David Suzuki blog “Canada’s Success depends on Municipal Infrastructure Investments” (March 13) at: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/science-matters/2014/03/canadas-success-depends-on-municipal-infrastructure-investments/. For a more anecdotal report which names and describes some innovative Canadian municipalities, see “Five Canadian Communities Fighting Climate Change That You’ve Probably Never Heard of Before” from the DeSmog Blog at: http://www.desmog.ca/2014/04/03/five-canadian-communities-fighting-climate-change-you-ve-probably-never-heard-of-before. It describes Dawson Creek, B.C.; Guelph, Ontario; Varennes, Quebec; T’Sou-ke First Nation, B.C.; and Bridgewater, Nova Scotia. An overview of the Upwind-Downwind Conference of municipalities in Hamilton in March, and a summary of Hamilton’s climate action initiatives, appears in “Ontario Municipalities take Action on Air Quality and Climate Change” at: http://www.alternativesjournal.ca/community/blogs/current-events/ontario-municipalities-take-action-air-quality-and-climate-change.

World Cities Filling the Gap with Climate Change Initiatives

A February 2014 report from C40, a leading climate action group that links megacities around the world, captures the importance of cities as climate actors. The report highlights the unique potential held by cities where innovations in efficiency and technology are more forthcoming, threats to economic and public wellbeing are often felt more immediately, and leaders have enough local power to respond effectively. The report indicates that mayors worldwide are already doing twice as much to build resilience and reduce emissions than they were in 2011. Nearly half of the 63 major cities surveyed used local green development funds to finance climate action commonly furnished through property, municipal, and local business taxation. Cities that reported addressing climate change as part of economic development commonly did so through the green manufacturing, green infrastructure, and clean technology sectors. The full report is available at:http://www.c40.org/blog_posts/CAM2.

The report was accompanied by the appointment of former mayor of New York and President of the C40 Board of Directors to the position of UN envoy for Cities and Climate Change. Michael Bloomberg pledged to harness the global mayoral power to raise political will and bring “concrete solutions” to the 2014 Climate Summit. Bloomberg, whose contributions in New York included rebuilding aging water mains and creating energy-efficient buildings, asserted that cities are “forging ahead” as progress at international levels stalls. The UN news release on the appointment is available at: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp/story.asp?NewsID=47055&Cr=climate+change&Cr1#.UwaSNIXPxkW. The Guardian coverage including Bloomberg’s reaction is available at: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/feb/05/michael-bloomberg-world-leaders-climate-deal.

According to a new report from the National Municipal Adaptation Project (NMAP) large Canadian cities are keeping pace with the global trend and have climate action plans. However, 65% of smaller communities have no plan in place despite the fact that many have already faced damage from flooding or extreme rainfall in the last ten years. The report is available at: http://www.localadaptation.ca/results-of-the-nmap-survey-of-local-governments.php. An online library of climate change adaptation policies from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities is available at: http://www.fcm.ca/home/programs/partners-for-climate-protection/program-resources/municipal-reports.htm.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has launched an initiative called “Urban Solutions” to help American cities become cleaner and more resilient by tackling food systems and clean energy, transportation, and storm-water infrastructure. Mayors from 10 major American cities also announced their participation in the City Energy Project, a partnership between the NRDC and the Institute for Market Transformation. The cities are expected to save a combined $1 billion in energy bills, cut 5 million to 7 million tons of annual carbon emissions, and create jobs in architecture, engineering, construction, and more. Read more about Urban Solutions at: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/spoticha/reconnecting_america_legacy co.html. The NRDC press release regarding the City Energy Project is available at: http://www.nrdc.org/media/2014/140129a.asp.
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Presidential Executive Order Follows Up on U.S. Climate Action Plan

On November 1, U.S. President Obama signed an Executive Order to implement the goals announced in his Climate Action Plan. The Executive Order establishes an inter-agency Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, chaired by the White House and including more than 25 agencies, to develop, coordinate, and implement priority Federal actions related to climate preparedness. It will supervise a new Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, to be composed of state, local, and tribal leaders, who will advise on how the Federal Government can respond at the community level. In an initiative that Canadians can only dream of, the Executive Order also instructs Federal agencies “to work together and with information users to develop new climate preparedness tools and information that state, local, and private-sector leaders need to make smart decisions.  In keeping with the President’s Open Data initiative, agencies will also make extensive Federal climate data accessible to the public through an easy-to-use online portal.”

Read the full Executive Order at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/11/01/executive-order-preparing-united-states-impacts-climate-change, or the Fact Sheet at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/11/01/fact-sheet-executive-order-climate-preparedness.

New Research Initiatives Underway

1) In the U.S., a new research initiative led by hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer, former U.S. Treasury secretary Henry Paulson, and outgoing mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg aims to calculate the true financial cost of climate change. In a report expected in summer 2014, “Risky Business” will “combine existing data on the current and potential impacts of climate change with original research to reveal the most vulnerable sectors and assist with preparation”. According to Bloomberg Markets Magazine, the team also hopes to show that the eventual consequences of “business as usual” will outweigh its short-term benefits. See http://riskybusiness.org/about or http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-10-01/climate-change-rescue-in-u-s-makes-steyer-converge-with-paulson.html  

2) Launched on September 24, the new Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, co-chaired by Nicholas Stern, will conduct a “year-long, $9 million study to analyze the economic costs and benefits of acting against climate change”. The study will use macroeconomic modeling techniques to analyze possible outcomes, factoring in potential policy mechanisms, economic growth, investment, employment, poverty reduction, income distribution, and the need for improved health, energy, and food security. The commission hopes to uncover pathways to a resilient, resource-efficient, low-carbon economy. See http://newclimateeconomy.net/

3) Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario will launch a Centre for Sustainable Food Systems on November 14, to bring together researchers from the departments of Geography and Environmental Studies, Psychology, Biology, Global Studies, Religion and Culture as well as the School of Business and Economics. From their website at: https://www.wlu.ca/homepage.php?grp_id=13686: “Our vision is to conduct research that is both grounded in practice and theoretically informed, and to disseminate this co-generated knowledge through local, national and global networks to advance opportunities for and educate about more sustainable food systems.”