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Mayors Leading an Urban Revolution

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 With presidents and prime ministers failing to take meaningful action to avert a planetary-scale climate crisis, the mayors of cities and towns are increasingly stepping up to enact changes at the local level.

"Cities are on the front lines of climate change," Richard Register, founder and president of Ecocity Builders, an organisation that pioneered ecological city design and planning, told IPS.

With the backing of their residents, many cities and towns around the world are becoming cleaner, greener and better places to live by banning cars, improving mass transit, reducing energy use and growing their own food while adding public and green spaces.

"Getting cities right solves many problems," Register said.

Cities are truly ground zero for action on climate change, protection of ecosystems, biodiversity, energy use, food production and more because that's where most people live today, he said. Cities consume about 75 percent of the world's energy and resources. They are directly or indirectly responsible for 75 percent of global carbon emissions.

By 2050, 75 percent of the world's 9.5 billion people will live in cities. The urban areas to house this huge increase amounts to more than all the building humanity has ever done. Nearly all of this new building will be in the developing world.

"All of this new urban infrastructure must be done right," said David Cadman, a city councillor from Vancouver, Canada and president of ICLEI, the only network of sustainable cities operating worldwide and which counts 1,200 local governments as members.

ICLEI members have committed to reduce their carbon emissions by 20 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.

"Cities are major players in issues like energy, climate, sustainable food production," Cadman told IPS.

Climate change is a "five-alarm fire and hardly any national government is taking the needed actions", he said. On top of that, national governments largely ignore the role of cities and only recently granted them 10 minutes of speaking time at the annual U.N. climate negotiations to create a new global treaty.

"We continue to have the political courage to act," said Anna Tenje, deputy mayor of the small Swedish city of Vaxjo, which slashed its carbon emissions 40 percent and aims to be Europe's greenest city.    


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