How America's cities are fighting climate change

Donald Trump may not believe in climate change — but these U.S. cities are acting without him.

U.S. cities are showing American leadership on climate change

Cities consume over two-thirds of the world’s energy, are responsible for over 70% of global CO2 emission and are on the front lines of the effects of climate change.

This is why they need to take action

“Here in New York City, we’ve lived through climate change. We had to experience Superstorm Sandy. And so we know how important it is for us to take climate change, climate action seriously. And we have been doing that for the entirety of the De Blasio administration, including when he announced last year the Green New Deal, where New York City is committing to a very ambitious plan to ensure that we cut emissions by 40% percent by 2030,” Penny Abeywardena, NYC Commissioner for International Affairs tells Brut.

Under the Paris climate agreement, the U.S. pledged to cut emissions by 26-28% below its 2005 level before 2025. But President Trump withdrew from it in 2017. “Here in New York City, we knew he was going to do that. So we were prepared. Within 24 hours, New York City signed its own executive order, committing us directly to the Paris climate accord,” Abeywardena explains.

The formation of the Voluntary Local Review

Now, more than 400 city mayors have committed to uphold the agreement's goal to limit global warming to 1.5 °C. Beyond local measures, New York City started a global platform for cities to share ideas — the Voluntary Local Review. Cities report their progress toward the United Nations’ sustainable development goals.

She continues, “We are asking cities and states around the world to look at what they're doing in their communities. Use that Sustainable Development Goals framework and then how do we exchange best practices on this platform? Because this is not a time for finding new things and that we need to replicate ideas that have worked…We work closely with London. We saw how congestion pricing was working in London. And the mayor recently announced that New York City is going to be doing congestion pricing where cars are moving in a certain period, a certain period of time and area in New York City, will get charged a fine, and that that money is essentially going to go to boost our public transportation. There are a number of different cities that are also now considering congestion pricing like Seattle.”

Cities can also flex their collective economic power

“We believe in climate justice and climate accountability. So, New York City is divesting $5 billion of its pension funds from the big fossil fuel companies. And we partnered with London's mayor, Sadiq Khan, to create the Divest/Invest network to encourage other cities and states and other regional authorities to think about how we put our money, where our mouth is, especially on climate change,” Abeywardena concludes.