Eduardo Paes, Mayor of the City of Rio de Janeiro and Chair of C40
Since the inauguration of his pontificate, in 2013, Pope Francis has been an example of inspiring and courageous leadership, combining strategic vision and practical action to help the Church overcome its major challenges. As a global leader, the Holy Father lives up to the tradition of great Popes that in singular and difficult moments of humanity’s history, convened the population to a more coordinated and thorough action. Francis has just bequeathed to all of us and to future generations what may become the great legacy of his pontificate, the encyclical “Laudato si, on the care of common home.”
This letter is a universal document in which Pope Francis brings to the center of the debate the ethical and moral imperative that every human being has to protect nature, our common home. Beyond the scientific data that unequivocally show the risks to humanity posed by climate change, comes the call for an immediate individual and collective action, a few months before the UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris (COP21) at the end of the year.
Pope Francis’ call will certainly reach, in a special way, the millions of people living in our megacities around the world who feel the often dramatic impacts of climate change every day. In this regard, the next decades provide an excellent opportunity for us to make cities cleaner, healthier, more efficient, and flexible. Collectively, urban renewal around the world can offer significant reductions in carbon emissions and help mitigate the risk posed by climate change, while improving the quality of life for citizens.
As Chair of C40, I emphasize the power that cities have to implement changes that will impact peoples’ daily lives. C40 is a network of megacities engaged all over the world in which mayors work together to address climate change. The 75 cities that have joined the group so far gather more than half a billion citizens, 25 percent of global GDP, and are collectively committed to decisively reducing global emissions of greenhouse gases by 2020. Their potential to reduce annual cumulative emissions in the period is one billion tonnes.
As a mayor and Chair of C40, I have signed the Earth Statement, an appeal to national political leaders for global climate action, which points out eight essential elements that should be discussed at the Paris Conference. Among those is the need to fundamentally transform the economy, with the adoption of a global target to completely eliminate greenhouse gases by the middle of this century.
Pope Francis’ encyclical indicates that we are moving in the right direction when using our leadership skills to mobilize and engage our societies toward the search for climate solutions. I hope that the Pope’s words will be integrated by our leaders and all people, regardless of their religion or faith, so that, together, we can take care of our common home.
Editor’s Note: this article originally appeared in O Globo.