• ‘From Industrial Cities to a Green Urban Revolution’, jointly hosted by Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham and Glasgow City Council Leader Susan Aitken, held at Glasgow City Chambers
  • City leaders from around the world, including the UK, US, France and Spain discuss shared ambitions on climate action and ground-breaking solutions pioneered in their cities
  • Mayors and city leaders called for more support from national governments to help cities lead action against climate crisis

Global city leaders came together yesterday (Thursday 11 November) on the fringes of COP26 to discuss how they’re taking action to tackle the climate crisis, and to call on national governments for support to meet their ambitions.

‘From Industrial Cities to a Green Urban Revolution’, a panel discussion jointly hosted by Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham and Glasgow City Council Leader Cllr Susan Aitken, was held at the Glasgow City Chambers on the penultimate day of COP26.

City leaders from the UK, US, Australia, France, Spain and Finland spoke about how they are helping their nations to reach their carbon reduction targets by leading climate action and innovation. They also highlighted some of the pioneering actions taking place in their cities to accelerate decarbonisation and deliver on net zero ambitions.

Mayors and city leaders used the event to call on national governments around the world to work more closely with cities and local administrations to support innovation and drive change.

The panel discussion was chaired by David Miller of the C40 Cities group, a coalition of mayors taking action to confront the climate crisis, and supported by ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI).

Speakers at the event were:

  • Mayor Andy Burnham, Greater Manchester, UK, speaking about Greater Manchester’s ambition to become carbon neutral by 2038, 12 years ahead of the national target. This will be made possible through delivering the UK’s first carbon neutral public transport system, and bringing together stakeholders across the city-region to support the large-scale retrofitting of homes and businesses, creating good jobs in green industries.
  • Cllr Susan Aitken, Leader of Glasgow City Council, UK, setting out the ways in which Glasgow and the city-region is leading Scotland’s green and just transition through ambitious projects including the Glasgow Metro, retrofitting 430,000 homes, and planting 18 million trees.
  • President Bruno Bernard, Metropolis of Lyon, France, discussing the ecological transformation of Grand Lyon’s economy, including the development of an impact measurement tool for businesses, and the Metropolis’ proactive industrial policy.
  • Mayor Bill Peduto, Pittsburgh, USA, speaking about the Marshall Plan for Middle America, a strategy for regional cooperation in tackling the concurrent challenges of climate change, social and environmental injustice, and economic crisis. By building a regional, multi-sectoral coalition of stakeholders, it aims to drive investment in infrastructure and energy diversification.
  • Mayor Minna Arve, Turku, Finland, speaking about the city’s ambition to decouple economic growth from the consumption of finite resources, regenerating natural systems, minimizing waste and pollution and creating wellbeing.
  • Lord Mayor Sally Capp, Melbourne, Australia, speaking about the Melbourne Renewable Energy Project 2, whereby the City of Melbourne has facilitated a power purchase agreement, bringing together large energy users with renewable suppliers, empowering users across the city to contribute to Melbourne’s aim of being a 100% renewable energy city.
  • Deputy Mayor Janet Sanz Cid, Deputy Mayor for Ecology, Urban Planning, Infrastructure and Mobility, Barcelona, Spain, discussing Barcelona’s Superblocks – superillas – an innovative approach to urban spatial planning which is reclaiming the streets for residents across the city, removing vehicles and introducing ‘green streets’.
  • Mayor Tracy Brabin, West Yorkshire, UK, speaking about how West Yorkshire is transforming its transport network – including opening the UK’s first ever solar powered park and ride facility, served by electric buses – to help achieve its ambition of being a net zero carbon region by 2038 at the latest.
  • Mayor Steve Rotheram, Liverpool City Region, UK, speaking about how the Mersey Tidal Power project has the potential to produce enough clean, predictable energy to power 1 million homes over its 120 year lifespan.
  • Gino Van Begin, Secretary General, ICLEI
  • David Miller, Director for International Diplomacy, C40

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said: “The focus of the world is on COP26 and the discussions taking place here in Glasgow. Away from the conference halls, however, our cities are taking real action right now to tackle the climate crisis and improve the lives of our residents.

“In Greater Manchester, we’re making good progress towards our goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2038 – 12 years ahead of the UK target. We’re using public control of our transport system to deliver the UK’s largest carbon neutral transport network, and setting out an ambitious plan to retrofit thousands of homes. But to really deliver on an agenda like this, we need clear international targets and investment from national governments.

“By building a broad consensus behind the drive to net zero, we can ensure that the transition is a fair one that delivers social justice as well as climate justice. This is an opportunity for all of us to show how cutting carbon emissions in our cities can make a real difference to our communities – away from the abstractions and rooted in the real world.”

Cllr Susan Aitken, Leader of Glasgow City Council, said: “Cities like Glasgow, Liverpool, Pittsburgh and Manchester have so much in common. Giants of the industrial age, transition is nothing new for us. Over the past decades we’ve overcome the challenges of the past to re-emerge as dynamic, progressive and innovative cities.

“As we stand on the cusp of a decade seismic change, we’ve all learned from our past and will ensure that our citizens aren’t left behind. This time it’s about delivering jobs, skills, prosperity, warmer homes, better transport and thriving communities. We know what’s coming. We’ll be ready.

“And we’ll do so in collaboration. Regardless of geography, political stripe, or the character of the cities we lead, it’s the leaders finding common ground through events like this who will deliver the practical actions and solutions to climate action and improve the lives of ordinary citizens.”

Gino Van Begin, Secretary General of ICLEI, said: “As industrial legacy cities have experienced a fundamental transition of their entire economic and social systems, they have learned climate and equity targets need to be advanced hand in hand. All cities, regions and national governments can learn from these examples. These cities are the beacons of hope that show that cities are the engines of just climate action that national governments are promising here at COP26.”

David Miller, Director of International Diplomacy at C40, said: “While nations deliberate over their climate targets, they should look no further than to cities who are committing to and implementing the climate action that science demands. In order to keep the 1.5°C target of the Paris Climate agreement alive, we need action now that leads to drastic emissions reductions, not in 30 years, but this decade, and cities are delivering on that goal.

“Through the Cities Race to Zero, over 1049 cities from around the world have committed to this immediate, increased level of ambition, demonstrating that cities are critical engines of change, building broad coalitions that showcase the action that needs to be taken.

“By placing inclusive climate action at the centre of all urban decision-making cities are aiming to create healthy, accessible, liveable, and sustainable cities for all, which deliver real, tangible benefits for citizens.”