Collaborative city greening is gaining international momentum, most recently with the signing of the Global Cities Covenant on Climate by more than 135 mayors attending the World Mayors Summit on Climate, held on Nov. 21 in Mexico City. Also at the summit, the World Mayors Council on Climate Change launched a web-based city climate registry, a mechanism for municipalities to ensure “transparency and accountability of local climate action,” according to the WMC.

The actions in Mexico City come on the heels of a Low-Carbon Cities for High-Quality Living workshop, held Nov. 5-6 in Hong Kong and organized by another mayors’ consortium, the C-40 Climate Leadership Group. C-40, made up of 40 big-city mayors from around the globe, is bent on providing a network for sharing best practices for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions in urban areas. At the C-40 meeting, New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg took over as chairman for a two-year stint.

Best Practices

The London-based C-40, which also is affiliated with the Clinton Climate Initiative, provides stakeholders a place to seek out successful models of climate-change initiatives, which then can be modified to accommodate local climates and regulations. “If you are spending billions of dollars on an initiative [that others have already done], you do not have to reinvent the wheel,” says Simon Reddy, C-40 executive director.

The group disseminates information on almost every aspect of city life, including transport, buildings, waste, power and lighting. “We already have a building retrofit program that encompasses 250 projects covering 500 million sq ft in 29 cities,” Reddy says.

The next C-40 workshop, set for Jan. 11-12 in Basel, Switzerland, is on sustainable infrastructure financing for energy. The next full C-40 summit is in S�o Paulo, Brazil, from May 31 to June 2.

Reddy calls on architects and engineers to join in the mayors’ efforts. “Cities need to provide the framework,” he says, “but we all need to be thinking about an integrated approach to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.” Designers should consider how a building fits with the rest of the city and with future transportation options, such as infrastructure for electric vehicles, he explains.

Paul Katz, president of the architecture firm Kohn Pedersen Fox, New York City, who attended the C-40 Hong Kong workshop, couldn’t agree more. But he adds that unless governments provide the push, most developers won’t practice sustainable development. “Government incentives or rules create an even playing field,” he says. “There is a need for environmental standards from which laws can be written,” he adds.

Toward the creation of technical standards, the construction and land use faculty at Hong Kong Polytechnic University is holding the first International Conference on Sustainable Urbanization, held on Dec. 15-17 in Hong Kong. The conference, the first in a series, is designed to provide a forum for scientific and engineering communities to examine challenges of sustainable urbanization and find effective solutions for sustainable planning, design, operation and management of cities. “The C-40 conference in Hong Kong was about policy. This one will be about engineering,” says Katz.

United Mayors

The two mayors’ groups, C-40 and WMC, are united under an umbrella organization called the ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability. ICLEI has more than 750 members worldwide, including national and regional governments and their organizations. Local governments are taking the reins in the global fight to achieve climate protection and sustainability goals, says ICLEI. The Nov. 21 covenant, known as the Mexico City Pact, offers the rationale that cities are strategic in combating global warming, and it puts forth a set of voluntary commitments to promote strategies and actions aimed at mitigating greenhouse-gas emissions and adapting cities to the impacts of climate change.

Following up on cities’ commitments and actions is the purpose of the new registry, called the Carbon Cities Climate Registry, which is managed by the Bonn Center for Local Climate Action and Reporting. Signatory cities with no prior experience pledge to take the first steps toward sustainable government, which include preparing carbon emissions inventories, designing and executing a climate action plan and promoting local laws to encourage greenhouse-gas reduction. Cities a bit further along, with climate actions in place that are measurable, reportable and verifiable, will begin populating the registry with their numbers.

The registry provides cities with a “sound and transparent instrument for establishing links and negotiations with multilateral, regional, subregional and national financing agencies by having a common methodology supported by scientific and technical criteria that validates their climate actions,” says the WMC.