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Exploring Overlooked Opportunities for 1.5°C Alignment

During the recent UNFCCC COP26, WWF held an event that explored overlooked opportunities to support cities’ 1.5°C alignment, such as investing in nature based solutions, urban food systems and public engagement. The event celebrated 10 years of WWF’s One Planet City Challenge (OPCC)  which has engaged over 700 cities since its inception in 20, and underscored the growing need to invest in cities and push for stronger, integrated climate action. The event also saw the official launch of WWF’s new Public Engagement Guide: Transforming Cities Together.

Mayor Sara Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh of Malmö, Sweden, the winner of the very first Challenge opened the event via video. Mayor Jammeh shared the city’s journey and commitment to creating a more sustainable Malmö. Subsequently, Agathe Cavicchioli, Head of Advocacy at C40 and Lead, Cities Race to Zero (RTZ) shared an update from the Cities RTZ, offering innovative examples of how cities are meeting ambitious goals to achieve 1.5°C. She stated 1000+ cities are now committed at the highest political level to follow a 1.5°C trajectory, which means halving emissions by 2030, and achieving net zero by 2050. Cavicchioli shared innovative ways to reach these objectives, highlighting resilience and sustainable energy systems, zero carbon buildings, and less wasteful sustainable food systems. The event then moved to the local level, where three OPCC cities shared their commitment to ambitious climate action and challenges to reach cities’ goals.


Claudio Castro Salas, the Mayor of Renca, Chile, opened the discussion by highlighting issues that Renca faces related to environment and socioeconomic aspects: inequality, heat island effect, air pollution and public litter. Home to a major power plant for the Santiago region, he explained how the city suffers disproportionately from air pollution. He commented on the importance of measuring data, including the role of the OPCC, the RTZ and the Chilean Alliance for Climate Action (ACA) launched at COP26.

Cities Race To Zero is an important monitoring system, and the Alliance for Climate Action will help bring together local government and the private sector, the latter being responsible for 92% of consumption in Renca.’ – Claudio Castro Salas


The Lord Mayor of Belfast in Northern Island, Kate Nicholl,shared Belfast’s efforts to address citizen behaviour, and its connection to efforts to reduce the city’s pollution, noise and GHGs from buildings. According to Nicholl, the most difficult challenges are: trying to convince all politicians to act on climate change; the lack of strategic direction; and the need for legislation and investment. She discussed the One Million Trees Initiative, which engages people who are not necessarily climate activists but care about nature, inviting them to indicate in online maps where they would like to see more trees.

Mario Ramón Silva Rodríguez, Director of the Institute for Planning and Development in the Guadalajara Metropolitan Area, Mexico, discussed the importance of collaboration – locally, regionally, and globally – to learn, share experiences and increase cities’ climate ambitions. He underlined the urgency to take action, including on transport, waste, circular economy and water supply. Financing activities locally is challenging – hopefully one that the RTZ will address asapplying climate ambition is faster and more effective.


The discussion, moderated by WWF’s Jennifer Lenhart,  asked city leaders to dream big and suggest  1-3 key actions that could be implemented now to scale ambitions –  if they were no  financial or legal constraints. Nicholl suggested developing the cycling infrastructure, and creating local pride, which, according to her, doesn’t match the extraordinary work underway in Northern Ireland. Castro Salasshared key actions were to develop a ’15 Minute City’, which would bring opportunities and services closer to people, to transform the Renca hills into a metropolitan park and to turn the local power plant into one that runs on green energy. Silva Rodríguez expressed 3 goals for 2030: reducing solid waste disposal in landfills; increasing the number of bicycle lanes and pedestrian walkways by over 40%; and generating 38% of electricity from clean sources.

Toward the end of the session Seth  Schultz, the CEO of Resilience Shift, reflected on overlooked opportunities to help cities align to 1.5°C. He stressed the urgency, and the need for optimism, pragmatism and implementation, and to think holistically and not just ‘in spreadsheets’. He reflected on how far governnace has developed in cities, saying 20 years ago there were no directors of sustainability or resilience. According to Schultz, integrating cities’ climate plans with science is important. He underscored the importance of resilience, stating: ‘We have to be careful that in transforming our societies to decarbonise, we need to do so in a way that is future-proofed. If we don’t embed adaptation and resilience into the decarbonised infrastructure and policies, this will become the 21st Century’s stranded assets, like fossil fuels assets of the last century’. He closed on the importance of failure, and how is ultimately helps progress:

‘It is important to learn to lean into innovation and how to lean into failure. We are going to get a lot wrong, and it’s okay, but as as long as we have metrics and processes to track how we are failing and succeeding,   we can more forward faster together.’ – Seth Shultz


In closing, the speakers highlighted the importance of collaboration and sharing knowledge. In Guadalajara, it was noted how importnat this is, especially in a metropolitan system of governance, given different systems and rules. Schultz ended the session highlighting a positive aspect about collaboration: cities naturally collaborate, often creating a race to the top that benefits everyone.  

Watch recorded session here.



Victoria Olausson

Program Coordinator, One Planet City Challenge, WWF Cities

Barbara Evaeus

Global Communications Manager, One Planet City Challenge, WWF Cities