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Christiana Figueres says cities are accelerating sustainable development – find out how

Editor’s Note: 2015 marks C40’s 10-year anniversary. To celebrate our 10 Years of Results, we are featuring the voices of C40 principals, partners and other thought leaders throughout the year.

Christiana Figueres is the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC.

Last century was marked by unprecedented growth accompanied by unprecedented urbanization. Knowing now that much of this growth was enabled by enterprise that increases greenhouse gas emissions, this century’s challenge focuses on how to grow using a new model of development.

As home to more than half of the world’s 7 billion people and one of the largest sources of emissions, cities are well situated to reshape social and economic growth and usher in an era of climate-safe, sustainable development.

C40 was created one decade ago in this context. Visionary leaders recognized that megacities are integral to meeting the challenge of our new century. City action and collaboration has already proven powerful in reducing emissions and increasing resilience globally.

I applaud C40 for ten years of excellent work, and I think cities have an even greater challenge and a greater opportunity.

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres speaks at the World Summit on Climate and Territories in Lyon in July (photo credit: Région Rhône-Alpes)

Climate action isn’t just about greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change impacts, it can increase livability, improve community and open opportunity.

In Lima, a bus rapid transit system helps people get to work, to school and to their doctors more quickly and at reasonable cost, while avoiding transportation emissions.

In New York, resilient infrastructure ensures mobility and productivity in the face of climate impacts. And ambitious targets guide building and transportation policy.

In Beijing, a regional carbon market is being tested alongside seven other markets to bring a national carbon market to China, a move that benefits public health and encourages green jobs.

In Paris, a transformational shift in energy generation and use is now incorporated into city planning and policy, and it is already creating clean energy jobs.

These are just a fraction of the innovative, low-carbon solutions cities are using to better the lives of citizens. From green space to bike share programs to clean energy and transit, cities have many options for climate action that improve quality of life.

The eyes of the world will be on Paris this December, where governments will agree a new, universal climate change agreement. National contributions to this agreement reflect the great potential of cities to rapidly move to low-carbon growth.

Implementing the Paris outcomes will require active engagement by cities – and cities are prepared to play a leading role, as clearly shown by recent reports Powering Climate Actionfrom C40 and Seizing the Global Opportunity from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate.

On the Nazca Portal, hundreds of city commitments including those made through the Compact of Mayors point towards a long-term goal that improves cities for the people who live there.

Coalitions like the Compact of Mayors demonstrate the strong leadership role of cities in tackling climate change and measuring progress. To date, more than 80 cities have committed to the Compact—representing more than 280 million people worldwide or over four percent of the global population.

Every day, local leaders make decisions to meet their city’s needs. I ask that these leaders consider climate and seek solutions that are good for their communities, contribute to national goals and take the global economy one step closer to low carbon and high resilience.

On the occasion of the 10th Anniversary of C40, I applaud the wealth of action already under way that shows this is possible. If we can scale up this action, these partnerships and low-carbon lifestyles, we can author a dynamic, climate-neutral growth model of sustainable urbanization that serves for generations to come.

For more information about cities and climate change, visit the C40 blog.