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.

Read Time: 1 minute

August 26, 2019, 7:00 AM PDT

By Camille Fink


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


Redesigning Streets for Livability: A Global View

An excerpt from the introduction of the recent book, “Streets For All: 50 Strategies for Shaping Resilient Cities,” edited by Vinayak Bharne and Shyam Khandekar.

January 18, 2023 - Vinayak Bharne

Chicago Commute

The Right to Mobility

As we consider how to decarbonize transportation, preserving mobility, especially for lower- and middle-income people, must be a priority.

January 26, 2023 - Angie Schmitt

Aerial view of Bend, Oregon with river and old mill district

Bend Eliminates Parking Minimums

The city is complying with an Oregon state mandate that some cities have challenged in court.

January 20, 2023 - KTVZ

Pedestrians and people on bikes on Atlanta BeltLine multiuse trail

How To Prevent ‘Green Gentrification:’ Lessons from the BeltLine

For one author, the key is focusing on affordable housing from the start.

January 27 - The Conversation

View of stone-paved street with pedestrians and "Farmers Market" neon sign on left and old buildings on right in Seattle, Washington

Push and Pull: The Link Between Walkability and Affordability

The increased demand for walkable urban spaces could make them more and more exclusionary if cities don’t pursue policies to limit displacement and boost affordability.

January 27 - Smart Cities Dive

Rendering of freeway deck over Interstate 10 in El Paso

El Paso Freeway Cap Linked to Road Expansion

A deck reconnecting neighborhoods divided by the interstate is part of a controversial freeway expansion proposal.

January 27 - Smart Cities Dive