Inter-municipal groups aimed at increasing urban sustainability have been growing since the 1992 Rio Summit on Environment and Development. Today there are over 30 organizations around the world, ranging from South Africa’s CitiesNetwork, or the European Union based Energie-Cités, to the C40 Climate Leadership group which targets only the largest of cities, providing support to cities like Toronto, New York and Mexico City. Both rapid urbanization and the fact that cities already consume 75 per cent of the world’s energy and produce 80 per cent of its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions mean there’s potential for these organizations to make a big environmental impact.
Spurred initially by frustration with the political deadlock that has surrounded Kyoto, municipal climate policy is asking for, and getting, more time in the spotlight. Last year—for the second UN climate change conference in a row—municipal leaders upstaged their national counterparts by pledging to go beyond the emissions reduction targets negotiated by the international community. While the municipal targets grabbed headlines, it’s the inter-city networks at the heart of last year’s World Mayors Climate Protection Agreement that deserve attention. To deliver on their commitments, cities are going to need the support and resources these networks provide.