Networking against climate changeMany cities want to go further than their governments in the work against the climate threat and have become active in networks of cities. Växjö, Sweden, is one of the most active, cooperating with other cities through Covenant of Mayors, CNN, and ICLEI, among others. The city also has one of the world's most ambitious climate plans, with the goal of a 65% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 and carbon neutrality by 2030.
Keywords: climate change, networking, carbon neutrality, GHG emissions, renewables
Cities stand for some 80% of global carbon dioxide emissions. In the absence of longterm international agreements many pin their hopes on cities to take the lead in the work against climate change.
In Resilient Cities: Responding to Peak Oil and Climate Change, Newman, Beatley and Boyer argue that “the change, when dealing with global issues like peak oil and climate change, needs to come from cities. Nations can do a lot to help or hinder these efforts, but the really important initiatives have to begin at the city level because there is great variation in how cities cope with issues within any nation. Great leadership and innovation can be found in cities.”
Planning for carbon neutrality
Växjö is a good example of this municipal activist trend. In its latest action plan for sustainable energy, the city has set the goal of a 65% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by as early as 2020, from the 1993 level. And already in 2030, Växjö is to become carbon neutral (see also Adelaide and Sønderborg). Investments in a CHP plant for biomass and green traffic are two of the key elements in the Fossil Fuel Free Växjö program, which began in 1993 and already has reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 35% per capita (see also Växjö local energy). Other elements include an eco budget, smart electric metering, the replacement of street lighting, investment in renewable energy sources, energy efficiency in buildings, and campaigns for engaging residents. Växjö has gained international attention for its work, through the EU Commission's Sustainable Energy Europe Awards, for example.
Climate networks of cities
Växjö is also one of the most active cities in various climate networks established in the first decade of the new millennium. It is a member of several of these networks:
- US Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement. In the absence of a US signature to the Kyoto Protocol, the US Conference of Mayors and the Mayor of Seattle, Greg Nickels, launched this treaty between U.S. cities. The agreement was signed by 141 cities in 2005. By 2011 the figure had risen to 1,210. The cities commit themselves to achieve the Kyoto target, and to try to influence their states and the federal government to do the same.
- EU’s Covenant of Mayors. In 2007 the EU set the 2020 target of "3x20" – to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption by 20%, and to increase the share of renewables to 20%. Many European cities responded the following year with the Covenant of Mayors. This is a treaty in which they pledge to exceed these goals and take concrete steps through action plans for sustainable energy. In 2011, the Covenant of Mayors reached 3,000 signatories representing more than 120 million people.
- Climate Neutral Network (CNN). CNN was started in 2008 by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). Cities and even countries, companies, associations, and NGOs participate in a network for sharing experience and know-how. Some requirements for joining up are: making an inventory of carbon dioxide emissions; producing a reduction plan; and filing reports to the CNN website. To date, 19 cities have joined, Växjö being one of them.
- carbonn Cities Climate Registry (cCCR). Launched at the World Mayor's Summit on Climate in Mexico City in 2010 by the World Mayors’ Council on Climate Change, ICLEI and Mexico City, among others. cCCR is administered by the Bonn Centre for Local Climate Action and Reporting (carbonn), which is also working to develop a standard for measurements of GHG emissions. The project’s pilot cities are: Calgary, Cape Town, Copenhagen, Mexico City, and Nagpur in India. As of 2011, some 47 cities were reporting their emissions.
- C40 - Cities Climate Leadership Group. This network of the world's 40 largest cities was formed in 2005 with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In 2006 they began collaborating with the Clinton Climate Initiative in a number of areas: lighting, waste management, transport, renovations, and green building construction.
There are also older associations of cities for sustainability:
- Eurocities is a network of more than 140 larger cities in 30 different European countries. It was formed in 1986 and works in close cooperation with the EU. Climate mitigation is one of the organisation’s three prioritised areas.
- US Conference of Mayors is an organisation of American cities with populations exceeding 30,000. In recent years the organisation has increasingly prioritised the climate threat and has focused on renewable energy sources, emission regulations, transportation, and building standards.
- Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) is a global network which includes more than 1,200 cities from 70 nations engaged in sustainable development. It was founded in 1990.
- On a final note, there are several networks of cities committed to more specific environmental issues, for example the CIVITAS Initiative, aimed at helping European cities create more sustainable, green and energy-efficient transport systems, and the Green Digital Charter, a cooperation network on ICT and energy efficiency (see also Manchester).
Peter Newman, Timothy Beatley, Heather Boyer, 2009, Resilient Cities: Responding to Peak Oil and Climate Change, Washington DC: Island Press
Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI), “Växjö, Sweden: Becoming Fossil Fuel Free with citizen and stakeholder involvement”, May 2010, http://www.iclei.org/fileadmin/user_upload/documents/Global/case_studies/ICLEI_Case_Study_Vaxjo_116_May_2010.pdf
Covenant of Mayors, http://www.eumayors.eu/home_en.htm
The U.S. Conference of Mayors, http://www.usmayors.org/climateprotection/about.htm
Clinton Climate Initiative, http://www.clintonfoundation.org/what-we-do/clinton-climate-initiative/
C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, http://live.c40cities.org/
Climate Neutral Network, UN's Environmental Programme, http://www.unep.org/ClimateNeutral/Default.aspx?tabid=349
The carbonn Cities Climate Registry (cCCR), http://citiesclimateregistry.org/
Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI), http://www.iclei.org/index.php?id=about
The Green Digital Charter, http://www.greendigitalcharter.eu/
Statistiska centralbyrån, Befolkningsstatistik, http://www.scb.se/Pages/Product____25785.aspx
Text by: Martin Jacobson