Posting every Friday at noon is how I act in solidarity with young climate strikers all over the world who want their elders to save their future.
Philadelphia has been a C40 city since 2005. That means my city helped create what many people call the leading edge of climate action: the mayors of large cities. My friend, Chris Puchalsky went to Copenhagen in 2019 for a C40 summit with Mayor Kenney and shared his inspiration with WHYY.
I did not know I lived in a C40 city until I was wandering around city government, exploring what it is doing to take climate action and adding my voice to spur the government on. Turns out Philly has an even bigger government than I thought — even goes global! It does a lot and it gets clogged up a lot. One thing I did not know I give to you, in case you didn’t: we’re C40, Philly people. How about the rest of you?
The C40 cities are deploying a “science-based and collaborative approach to help the world limit global heating to 1.5°C and build healthy, equitable and resilient communities.” In 2006 the Mayors of the C20 invited 22 further mayors, including many from the Global South and became the C40. The name has stuck, even though now the number of member cities is closing in on 100.
The Clinton Foundation’s Climate Initiative was also put into action in 2006 and was an important partner for the Mayors at that point. In 2011, C40 Chair Michael Bloomberg (remember that presidential candidate?) initiated the merger of the Clinton Climate Initiative’s Cities Program with C40. Bloomberg Philanthropies supplied enough funds at that point to make C40 a major climate action organization (choose your chairs wisely!).
C40 member cities earn their membership through action instead of membership fees. Their Leadership Standards set the minimum requirements for all members and ensure the integrity of C40 as a network of climate leaders. That sounds like Jesus telling people his disciples are known by their fruit, right?
What are C40 Cities doing now?
C40 played an important role at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) last year. There, Chair Eric Garcetti from Los Angeles passed the baton to the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. They also announced that more than 1,000 city and local governments around the world have joined Cities Race to Zero. What’s more, they presented a report from the C40 Cities and Mayors Migration Council which deployed a Task Force on Climate and Migration. This warmed my heart, since I got a close-up view of the environmentally-disastrous border wall the U.S. put up on a shocking amount of its Mexican border last year and heard about climate refugees being refused entry.
Part of Eric Garcetti’s work as Chair was to partner with Mayor Gong Zheng of Shanghai to begin building a green shipping corridor between two of the busiest ports in the world. The port businesses and other C40 cities will work with industry partners to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the movement of cargo throughout the 2020s, including a goal to transition to zero-carbon fueled ships by 2030. I drove my VW around most of LA in high school, and it warms my heart to see LA’s mayor subverting the snail-paced national governments
Here are the key decarbonization goals for the corridor, so far:
- Phase in low, ultra-low, and zero-carbon fueled ships through the 2020s, with the world’s first zero-carbon trans-Pacific container ships introduced by 2030.
- Develop best management practices to help reduce emissions and improve efficiency for all ships using this corridor.
- Reduce supply chain emissions from port operations, improving air quality in the ports of Shanghai and Los Angeles and adjacent communities.
A major player in Garcetti’s initiative was the Aspen Institute (for the history of the institute, which is enlightening, here’s the Wiki). Aspen Institute created a collaborative called Cargo Owners for Zero Emission Vessels (coZEV). This platform facilitates action to speed up the decarbonization of maritime shipping and encouraged the C40 to get onboard. The collaborative is a specific application of their Shipping Decarbonization Initiative (SDI).
I did not know most of this stuff until I bumped into it. Now, when I talk to the PEA (Philadelphia Energy Authority), where all my research started, I might sound like I’ve been trying, at least, to pay attention. My city is involved in important steps to save the planet. Things might not work that well, but there is work being done.