Editor’s Note: 2015 marks the 10-year anniversary of C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group. To celebrate these 10 Years of Results, we will be featuring the voices of C40 principals, partners and other thought leaders throughout the year.
I have some very important anniversaries to attend to this year. March 1st marks the 450th anniversary of the founding of Rio de Janeiro, while 2015 also sees the 10thanniversary of the creation of C40 and the first anniversary of my tenure as Chairman. As one might imagine, I am bursting with pride to lead the 450th birthday celebrations throughout the year – festivities and developments that will last until 2016, when we will welcome the Olympic family for the Games in August and September.
Yet it is with a special sense of occasion that I look back on my last year at the helm of C40. A smooth transition from my old friend and colleague Michael Bloomberg, who stayed on as President of the organization, would set the tone for the year ahead. Our membership grew to 70 cities with a welcome increase in our presence in China and Africa, and we’ll soon see more new cities from the global south join our ranks.
We also launched a competitive process whereby winning cities would gain an additional staff member, paid for by the C40, to work specifically on climate projects. The first eight cities to take home their very own C40 City Advisor were Addis Ababa, Athens, Melbourne, Mexico City, New York, Shenzhen, Sydney and Vancouver. We continue to operate with a secure funding base with strong and generous philanthropic donors who are also very active in their participation and committed to supporting the cause. As a result, our staff continues to grow and we now total 60 dedicated, resourceful and talented individuals who work effortlessly as a team.
2015 will be a critical year for our network, but also for the planet at large. We all hope that a new inter-governmental climate treaty will be agreed at COP 21 this December in Paris. By demonstrating the positive role that city leaders can play on a global scale to tackle climate change, the C40 will hopefully have a positive impact on the outcome of this treaty. One very important step we already have made was the creation of the global Compact of Mayors, the world’s largest effort for cities to fight climate change. Joining the Compact may be voluntary, but our aim is to enable all C40 cities to demonstrate their voluntary commitment to advance climate action in a formal and verifiable way.
But even the most probable agreement will not limit global temperature rise to within the 2 degree C target. That is why as leaders of the world’s great cities, we have a responsibility to show leadership ourselves and help plug the gap that is left in national governments’ emissions reduction commitments. Of course we mayors can only be more ambitious if we know the finance is there to build the low carbon city infrastructure we need. That is why I have asked the C40 team to investigate the existing funding options that are available to cities, and the case for a dedicated cities climate fund.
I, myself, am committed to pushing city diplomacy and international engagement to accelerate action, enhance access to technical and financial resources and align climate change policies. I will continue to make resilience a key priority, develop our organizational expansion strategy, particularly in regions of rapid urbanization and raise the profile of Polisdigitocracy, my concept of employing open data and social and digital media to increase collaboration between governments and their citizens.
2015 offers a great opportunity. Let it be the year that cities clearly assume the mantle of leadership in getting the world on a sustainable path. As I look ahead fifty years, when my marvelous city celebrates its 500th anniversary and C40 its 60 th, I dream of raising a glass at a joint birthday bash, where we would toast the many and varied successes of our children and grandchildren in fighting climate change — instead of looking back and bemoaning the unthinkable: that we wasted the opportunity that we currently hold in our hands.
As we say in Portuguese “Vamos em frente!” which roughly translates as onwards and upwards!