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“How can great ideas that are happening somewhere, happen everywhere?”

This provocative question was posed yesterday in former Toronto mayor David Miller’s presentation at the Rising Economy 2022 conference. Miller is the Managing Director of C40, a global network of nearly 100 mayors committed to taking urgent action to confront the climate crisis and create a future where everyone can thrive.

Miller cites many examples of how cities can collaborate in developing and sharing solutions in his book Solved:How the world’s great cities are fixing the climate crisis. While cities around the world operate in a wide range of legal and constitutional frameworks, there are many commonalities that enable the transfer of good ideas that can be adapted and adopted elsewhere. 

This exchange is well displayed as cities try to do their part in the race to zero greenhouse gas emissions. Over half of the world’s population now live in urban settings. These cities now account for over 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions. And both of these measures are accelerating – fast. Working within their respective scopes of authority, cities may have regulatory and taxation responsibility for a number of huge emitters including buildings, public transit transport, waste management and electricity.

Meanwhile, global warming is wreaking havoc on municipal infrastructure as cities try to respond to extreme weather events that bring on floods and sustained soaring temperatures. Clearly, cities have a clear role and vital interest in addressing climate change. But how?

Here is where sharing and scaling of solutions come into play. One example C40 is promoting is the establishment of clear climate action plans that cities can adopt to meet common targets of a 50% reduction in emissions by 2030 and ‘net zero’ emissions by 2050. Then, modelling from established municipal processes that determine and allocate financial budgets, cities can establish carbon budgets for each department that are spent and managed as they are in the more conventional financial budget mode. Municipal leaders in this space such as Oslo, Norway have developed and evolved this model to the point that it can be scaled and adopted by others and deployed in their settings. 

The role of city governments goes beyond climate planning and carbon budgets in areas within their control. It extends much more broadly through what Miller calls the “amazing convening powers” that mayors can exercise in bringing together a wide range of parties to advance climate solutions. These are powers of the ‘bully pulpit’ – where municipal leaders can exercise influence well beyond their statutory authority. And mayors from Los Angeles to London, Shanghai to Stockholm are rising to the occasion. 

As Mary Rowe of the Canadian Urban Institute told the conference, there are many points of light that can help develop shareable and scalable solutions.

These points of light form a network through a diverse web of cities where experiences and lessons learned in dealing with climate disasters can be shared for future contingency planning.  She noted that the present municipal composition of the South Island offered an interesting opportunity for collaboration. For example, one or two of our thirteen municipalities could undertake to build a model or try out a solution which, if successful, could be ported up and scaled out for regional deployment – either in individual municipalities or collectively. In this respect, our presently unamalgamated region may not be a liability but a diverse laboratory for solution building. 

There are many compelling reasons to get behind collaborative initiatives where great ideas that are happening somewhere can be translated to happen everywhere. C40 is a growing collaboration with demonstrated success in sharing solutions. While Vancouver is a member in good-standing of this group, there is no representation from any – or collectively, all – of our southern Vancouver Island municipalities. The many points of light shining throughout this network could help bring more clarity and more transparent accountability to what our region must do in adopting and advancing climate solutions.