Green Cities

World mayors back youth climate activists

Youth climate activists are striking, and mayors are listening. That’s the latest out of Copenhagen, where 94 mayors met in early October to discuss ways to curb greenhouse gas emissions to avoid a climate catastrophe. 

In Copenhagen from October 9–12, mayors from 94 major cities around the world met at the C40 World Mayors Summit to discuss their climate action plans. At the C40 summit, mayors heard from leaders of the youth movement, including 14-year-old Alexandria Villaseñor, the New York-based Fridays for Future organizer and founder of Earth Uprising. Villaseñor called on all mayors to make environmental education a top priority.

At the C40 Summit, mayors announced a campaign to build a broad coalition for a Global Green New Deal. A Green New Deal is a framework for inclusive, equitable climate action that centers around a transition to a clean energy economy, cutting emissions in half by 2030 and investing in green, resilient infrastructure. It has been championed by youth activists and politicians around the world at the local and national level. This was a big win for the youth climate movement because a Green New Deal was one of five demands put forward in September. The C40 Summit signaled strong support will continue to come from mayors to advance the goals of the youth climate movement.

The C40 Summit came on the heels of global climate strikes in September. From September 20–27, the world saw a record-breaking 7.6 million climate change activists, predominantly young people, take to the streets to protest world leaders’ inaction on addressing the climate crisis. Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, inspired the protests, which were announced as part of her Fridays for the Future and school strike for climate movement. 

Mayors of major cities around the world, including Los Angeles, New York, Paris and Copenhagen, have backed the youth-led climate strikes and joined the demand for climate action from national governments. 

Mayor of Los Angeles and chair-elect of C40 Cities, Eric Garcetti, joined students of John Marshall High School on Friday, September 20, to announce the formation of the “Mayor’s Youth Council on Climate Action.” The youth council will “develop plans and objectives for the coming year, influence decisions and raise awareness around climate action, encourage fellow young Angelenos to get involved, and ultimately kick off a coordinated campaign with the Mayor’s Office to address climate change.” 

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio supported youth climate strikes by excusing 1.1 million students from their classes on September 20 to attend climate strike events in Lower Manhattan.  

In Europe, Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris and current chair of C40 Cities, supported the youth climate strikes and called on world leaders to get on track with their commitments from the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change by “step[ing] up and commit[ting] to science-based targets.” 

“Young people are telling us that the climate emergency demands an emergency response. We couldn’t agree more,” she told SmartCitiesWorld

Lord Mayor of Copenhagen Frank Jensen agreed with Hidalgo’s plea for cities to commit to sustainability by signing an open letter with Hidalgo, de Blasio and Garcetti in support of the 2019 climate strikes. The letter encourages cities to prevent the climate crisis by working toward affordable and reliable public transportation, toxin-free air, buildings with zero emissions, decreased waste and renewable energy.  

Between the C40 Climate Change summit in Copenhagen and the multiple demonstrations of support by major cities around the world, youth climate activists are grabbing the attention of mayors and driving positive environmental change. 

Image at top: Lord Mayor of Copenhagen Frank Jensen speaks at C40 Summit. Photo credit C40 Cities