How Cities Are Solving the Global Climate Crisis
Climate scientists and their policymaking counterparts around the world agree on this: any approach to tackle climate change must be multifaceted, with support from the local, state, and federal levels. Cities might aim to reduce their carbon footprint by transitioning their local energy grid, converting public transportation systems, and creating sustainable development. However, one may ask: even in a city of many people such as Los Angeles, California — with a growing population of over four million — how can one municipality’s actions have an impact on the global threat of climate change?
The impacts of change at the local level can have an astronomical effect on global warming because over half of the world’s population now live in cities. While agriculture and other rural issues play a huge role in the climate crisis, cities are both creating and enduring the effects of climate change, so they should act to combat it. Local governments have been successful both in the US and abroad. In Copenhagen, a smaller city of just over 400 thousand, public transportation, waste management, and electricity sourcing have all been updated in efforts to reduce their carbon footprint. With plans to be net carbon neutral by 2025, they are fighting against the less progressive agenda of their state as a whole.
Much of this effort stems from a grassroots network of citizens who are passionate about fighting climate change and see the quickest actions occur at the local level. In late 2017, Denver citizens voted to approve a stringent mandate for rooftop gardens, against the preference of their mayor, which aims to reduce the city’s “heat island” effect from heat-radiating roofs. Even cities that have been less urgent to pursue emissions reductions, such as New York, have set goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent in the coming decades — creating sources of energy storage throughout their grid. This eases some of the concerns New Yorkers have about energy reliability as they transition to a more sustainable grid.
At the base of this worldwide commitment to green policy at the local level sits the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy. This organization is an “international alliance of cities and local governments with a shared long-term vision of promoting and supporting voluntary action to combat climate change.” The alliance supports a robust, locally-relevant agenda of policy solutions that reduce carbon emissions and aid in the fight against climate change. It allows cities and local governments to serve as partners, supporting one another and offering solutions to governance issues as they arise. The alliance is made up of cities from both developed and developing nations in six continents, serving as a leader in local government efforts to reduce the impacts of climate change.
Local efforts to fight climate change have been highly successful and are particularly important in the United States, where environmental initiatives often face partisan challenges at the federal and state levels.