Global Cities Stand on the Front Line in the Face of Climate Change

April 22, 2015
Chicago Forum on Global Cities to Spotlight Unique Role of Cities in Shaping the Global Environment

As growing hubs for people, commerce, industry and transportation, global cities are leading contributors to the root causes of – and many of the innovative solutions to – the environmental factors driving climate change. While cities cover less than 2 percent of the earth’s surface, they produce 60 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions and consume 78 percent of the world’s energy.[1] Global leaders will be addressing this critical nexus between cities and the environment at the Chicago Forum on Global Cities, co-hosted by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the Financial Times May 27-29 in Chicago.
“Global cities have enormous impact and influence when it comes to our shared environment,” said David Miller, former mayor of the City of Toronto and current president and CEO of World Wildlife Fund–Canada, who will speak at the forum. “Many of the world’s top-tier and historical cities are showing tremendous leadership in addressing environmental issues like climate change but still rest on the foundations of century or centuries-old infrastructure. One of the defining questions for many global cities is how do they find the resources to introduce and incorporate modern, sustainable practices into all aspects of city life.”
How to confront the challenges of creating environmentally sustainable cities will be the subject of a discussion at the Chicago Forum on Global Cities, including William Reilly, a senior advisor to TPG Capital, founding partner and CEO of Aqua International Partners, and former Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“As cities adapt to climate change they will confront a new set of challenges: capturing and conserving water; accommodating greater density to promote mass transit and walking; changing the tree species they plant; paying attention to reflective building surfaces; and needing more emergency rooms to deal with heat stroke patients,” said Reilly. “Big changes but all doable.”
Recognizing and responding to these challenges, cities around the world are collaborating to find solutions. At the recent International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives World Congress 2015 in Seoul, city participants adopted a declaration underlining efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 454 megatons by 2020. Related city-centered efforts are tackling issues of environmental sustainability in ways that may not be possible across the entirety of their respective nations.
“Already many major urban networks exist focusing on climate change and other issues independent of their respective nation-states,” said Richard Longworth, a senior fellow at The Chicago Council whose report, On Global Cities, will be issued in advance of the forum. “These formal and informal coalitions exist because mayors and other civic leaders know that they face environmental problems that their national governments can’t or won’t solve.”
Research institutions, a main pillar of any global city, also are contributing to the quest for sustainable solutions as cities tap their great concentrations of intellectual resources for developing new approaches to decades-long environmental issues.
“Global cities need to investigate and deploy new methods to meet their needs for safe energy, a healthy environment and a competitive economy if they are to remain global population hubs,” said Peter Littlewood, director of Argonne National Laboratory, a knowledge partner of the Chicago Forum on Global Cities. “Fortunately, they house the world’s brightest minds and most technologically advanced resources – key requisites to meet this urgent and evolving demand.”
Generous sponsorship for the Chicago Forum on Global Cities is being provided by AbbVie, Aon, The Boeing Company, Hyatt Hotels Foundation, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Motorola Solutions, Northern Trust, UL, United Airlines and Walgreens Boots Alliance. Foundation support is provided by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.
A list of confirmed speakers and panel topics are available online at Updates will be made on an ongoing basis.
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