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Green New Deal goes global as nearly 100 cities commit to climate action

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A coalition of 94 global mayors commits to “turning away from fossil fuels” and meeting Paris Agreement targets

A pair of smokestacks set against a sunset in the middle of an urban neighborhood.
Air pollution in Paris; Mayors around the globe announced their intention to support a Global Green New Deal and recognize the “global climate emergency.”

The Green New Deal is going global.

At the C40 Climate Summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, this morning—a gathering convened by the coalition of mayors committed to fighting climate change—leaders announced their intention to support a Global Green New Deal and recognize the “global climate emergency.”

Announced by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the new chair of C40 cities, and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, the new initiative signals that leaders of the coalition will reaffirm their environmental commitment by putting inclusive climate action at the center of all urban decision making, fighting for environmental equity, and working to keep global heating below the 1.5°C goal outlined in the Paris Agreement.

The 94 C40 member cities, which span the globe, contain more than 700 million citizens and one quarter of the global economy, per C40 stats, and have taken a variety of actions around transportation, energy, and building codes.

The idea of a Green New Deal has caught fire in the United States, particularly among progressive politicians and activists. One of the politicians most responsible for popularizing this policy vision, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, will be speaking at the C40 Summit Friday at a session about climate activism and citizen engagement, and voiced her support.

“I am inspired by this coalition and the commitments made for a global Green New Deal,” she said in a statement. “If we work to join forces globally, we will be able to defeat our greatest threat and realize our greatest opportunity.”

However, as David Miller, former Toronto Mayor and C40 Ambassador for Inclusive Climate Action, said, the Global Green New Deal is “separate from U.S. politics” and about “driving real change.”

“International climate action has stalled, and we saw that in New York during the UN climate summit,” Miller says. “International action is needed to move at the pace and scale necessary for the climate crisis, and mayors have decided to show leadership.”

Earlier this week, C40 announced that in more 30 member cities, emissions have already fallen below local peaks, suggesting that these cities have continued to grow their economies despite cutting emissions.

While the global Green New Deal as it currently exists is, much like the U.S. version, more a statement of principles and goals than a plan for concrete action, Miller says that plenty of C40 initiatives are showing that cities are making concrete climate commitments and meeting them. Efforts to purchase electric buses, for example, have “moved markets” and help speed up development and adaptation of the technology.

Other C40 initiatives and agreements include the Green & Healthy Streets Declaration, the Deadline 2020 program (a blueprint for the policy changes needed to meet the Paris Agreement), financing opportunities and purchase agreements for electric vehicles, and plans to be emissions-neutral by 2050. C40 wants all member cities to hit peak emissions by 2020 and halve emissions by 2030.

The Global Green New Deal “gives the world a chance,” from the perspective of Miller and C40, since mayors can lead and take action without the unanimity and consensus needed at the international level, and begin to drive action at the pace and scale the crisis requires. By focusing on equity, mayors and other climate activists hope that political leaders, CEOs, trade unions, investors, and others will support and collaborate on future climate action.

“Cities do have very clear plans, goals, and ambitions, and a history of action over the decade since we had the first climate summit for mayors here in Copenhagen,” says Miller. “We’re driving climate action. If cities can’t do that, they can’t be members of our organization.”