How cities are leading the way in climate change fight

When it comes to solving climate change challenges, city mayors aren't waiting around.

On the eve of this week's Rio+20 event, a group of mayors around the globe announced they have taken steps to slash emissions of greenhouse gases by 248 million metric tons in 2020, and by more than 1 billion tons by 2030.

The C40 Leadership Group, which includes 59 cities producing about 14 percent of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions, have undertaken nearly 5,000 climate-related actions since the network first formed in 2005.

In capturing methane from urban landfills, investing in energy efficiency, retrofitting buildings and streetlights, the city actions reduce the equivalent of emissions produced by Mexico and Canada combined each year.

Some of the projects highlighted include a Los Angeles LED retrofit of of 14,000 streetlights, solid waste collection initiatives by New Delhi, Lagos and Mexico City, and rental bike and EV programs in Paris.

With city mayors overseeing agencies that are responsible for more than three quarters of urban emissions, they're in a unique position to implement policies faster than federal governments, said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as part of the announcement.

"Because of mayors' commitment to action, cities are making great progress in reducing greenhouse gases, which helps beat back climate change and makes our cities better, more liveable places," said Bloomberg.  "The data we are releasing today is more evidence that cities have been and will continue to lead the way."

Cities are largely financing their climate change actions without significant external support. Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) research shows that 64 percent of city initiatives are funded through general municipal funds.

The member cities in C40's leadership group are particularly active in taking steps to reduce carbon emissions, with all of the 45 reporting cities implementing some sort of carbon emission reduction activities, and 71 percent developing city-wide reduction targets.

While touting the idea that "the buck stops at City Hall" for mayors in solving city problems, Bloomberg did point to partnerships with businesses and peer organizations as critical to fulfilling cities strategies in greenhouse gas reductions.

To that end, C40 announced a library of best practices to be shared in the newly launched website. In a partnership with Joint Initiative on Urban Sustainability (JIUS), the publicly available resource offers policy tools, financing strategies and ways to develop partnerships for cities and businesses.