Without getting cities right, we cannot solve the climate crisis. Contributing to 75 percent of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, they have a central role it is impossible to overstate. Cities’ choices influence and can drive change in every system that needs to be decarbonized and made resilient, from transport to food to energy. As the 2018 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change noted, cities — with their concentration of people, economic activity and infrastructure — are among the most powerful levers we have to drive decarbonization and build resilience fast enough to meet the Paris goals.

The Coalition for Urban Transitions has identified climate action in cities as an opportunity that could net $24 trillion in benefits by 2050, while reducing urban emissions by 90 percent. And cities are acutely vulnerable to climate impacts: 800 million people living in cities are vulnerable to sea level rise of half a meter by 2050, and cities will face the brunt of extreme heat due to heat island effects.

Unfortunately, the national support needed by cities to adapt and seize this opportunity remains largely missing. National delegations naturally take center stage at COPs, and this remained the case at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. The Paris Agreement goals will never be met unless and until the crucial contributions of cities are fully recognized, reflected in climate action plans (or Nationally Determined Contributions, NDCs) and enabled and supported by national governments.

Now that the dust has settled from Glasgow, what does COP26 mean for cities? As we reflect on the outcomes, five priorities stand out for cities and national governments to focus on:

  1. Bridge the gap between city action and NDCs
  2. Use integrated climate action to guide city planning and priority setting
  3. Develop a more comprehensive approach to sustainable mobility
  4. Use nature-based solutions to manage water and build resilience
  5. Put equity and inclusion at the center of city action

Read the full article about climate planning in cities by Rogier van den Berg and Leo Horn-Phathanothai at GreenBiz.