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Dozens of mayors visited the Pope today – here’s what happened

A Strong Show of Commitment to Papal Agenda on Climate Change & Sustainable Development 

Following the launch of the Encyclical Letter on the Care for Our Common Home, Laudato Si, and in the lead up to the Paris Climate Change Conference, COP21, Pope Francis today convened more than 60 local leaders from around the world – including 20 C40 Mayors – to discuss the pressing topics of climate change and sustainable development in cities.

The two-day event reinforced the importance of addressing the challenge of climate change and its potentially deleterious effects on the social fabric in cities, highlighting the so-called “modern slavery” of social injustice that can be imposed on those most vulnerable to climate impacts.

(Photo credit: Pontifical Academy of Sciences)

The Pope gave an impromptu address in which he reiterated that care for the environment meant, above all, adopting an attitude of human ecology and that “Laudato si’” was not simply a “green” but also a social document.

“And so, why did the Pontifical Academy of Sciences convoke mayors and city governors? Because are aware of how to carry out this important and profound work, from the centre to the periphery, and from the periphery to the centre. They are aware of the reality of humanity. The Holy See may make a good speech before the United Nations, but if the work does not come from the periphery to the centre, it will have no effect; hence the responsibility of mayors and city governors.”

In a packed agenda, which featured C40 Mayors from Johannesburg, New York, Paris, Stockholm, Vancouver and other global cities across the C40 network, Special Advisor to the C40 Chair Rodrigo Rosa made a speech emphasizing the need to further the global agenda on social justice and sustainable development. Speaking on behalf of the C40 Chair, Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes, Rosa promised a sustained commitment in support of the Papal climate agenda:

“Cities are our  “Common Home” and​ we must work together to make them safe, fair and sustainable. As leaders of our communities, we believe in cities as a force for good. By embracing their potential, we can address many of today’s most urgent challenges -​ including threats like climate change and modern slavery.​”

C40 Executive Director Mark Watts and C40 Mayors & representatives took the opportunity to meet today, discussing a common desire to bring today’s declaration to COP21. (Photo credit: Raphael Lima)

As a result of the workshops, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences released two Declarations signed by the mayors released a Declaration signed by the mayors expressing commitment to creating socially inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities.

The first Declaration stated:

“As Mayors we commit to building, in our cities and urban settlements, the resilience of the poor and those in vulnerable situations and reduce their exposure to climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters, including human trafficking and dangerous forced migration”

It further notes that political leaders of all UN member states have a special responsibility to agree at COP21 to a bold climate agreement that confines global warming to a limit safe for humanity, and helps to finance the costs of climate-change mitigation in low-income countries. Indeed, through initiatives such as the Compact of Mayors, cities are doing their part to set ambitious targets, take meaningful action and plan for a sustainable and climate safe future.

The second Declaration, “An Alliance for Sustainable Cities,” looks ahead to the global adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the UN member states at the United Nations on September 25, 2015. In the document, mayors pledge to work towards the success of the SDGs in their own cities, and to launch a SDG Urban Alliance to that end.

For more information, check out the recording of  the Vatican event here and be sure to stay tuned for further developments on this story by following the hashtag #MayorsCare, as well as the accounts @c40cities and @CasinaPioIV.

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