Cities at the Forefront of Climate Change Policy

As cities around the world face the effects of climate change head on, they have been pushing policy forward and taking action at the local level. But they are also creating networks that have a much broader impact beyond individual cities.

August 26, 2019, 7:00 AM PDT

By Camille Fink


Miami

Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

Cornelia Colijn considers the reasons cities are leaders in climate change policy. One reason is that cities are not mobile and compared to individuals who can relocate to avoid threats. "This means that as the effects of climate change take root in our urban areas, cities are forced to be early adopters to cutting edge adaptation strategies. In other words, cities cannot run, but must stand and fight,” says Colijn.

At the city level, it would make sense for cities to focus on adaptation rather than mitigation. But they tend to institute mitigation strategies because residents and public officials view the universal value of climate change policies and because cities participate in fair-share agreements like the Paris Agreement. Cities might also pursue mitigation efforts because of the related benefits, such as improvements in public health.

In addition, networks of cities are a way to challenge national and global governments and institutions to address climate change. "In a future where it is all-too-likely that climate action will be insufficient, creating a network of like-minded urban areas may be the key organizing challenge facing cities that want to do something to respond to climate change," notes Colijn.

Friday, August 16, 2019 in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

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