“You cannot deny the science, and if you’re not going to do something, we’re going to do something.” – Mayor Tom Barrett

The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy took place in Chicago from December 4 to 6, and welcomed municipal leaders from across the world to its North American Climate Summit on December 5. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett attended the historic event with a pledge of support for climate change action.

Along with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who hosted the summit, Mayor Barrett signed the Chicago Climate Charter, a first-of-its-kind international policy on climate change, representing more than 50 cities, and tens of millions of people across the world.

“Climate change presents direct risks to Milwaukee. It increases public health risks like catastrophic floods and a host of other challenges,” said Mayor Barrett. “In Milwaukee, we understand that investing in energy efficiency, green infrastructure, and renewable energy is important for long-term economic growth and a sustainable environment. I’m calling on our businesses, utilities, Public Service Commission, and State government to acknowledge the importance of climate change and work with us to plan and invest in solutions.”

During the summit, cities discussed opportunities, barriers, and avenues to collaborate over the next two years. Mayor Barrett presented actions taken by Milwaukee on climate change under the city’s Environmental Collaboration Office (ECO), and detailed the City’s comprehensive Better Buildings Challenge. The program works constructively with Milwaukee’s building owners to help them operate more profitably while addressing climate change at the community level.

“While the current administration buries its head in the sand on climate change, it is now up to local leaders to develop a sustainable 21st century economy. Chicago, Milwaukee, and numerous cities across North America understand that protecting the environment and growing jobs go hand in hand,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “I applaud Mayor Barrett for taking aggressive steps to bring down carbon emissions levels.”

Despite President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, more than 377 mayors have committed to the initiative. The Chicago Climate Charter signals that cities are engaged and eager to take steps towards a more sustainable way of living. Some of those actions include investing in public transportation to reduce the carbon footprint, accelerating affordable renewable energy access, and making city infrastructure more sustainable.

The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy is an international alliance of more than 7,400 cities and local governments from 121 countries across six continents with a shared, long-term vision of a world where committed mayors and local governments work to meet and exceed the Paris agreement objectives.

“Rather than burying our heads in the sand, Chicago is working with cities across the country and around the world to address the threat of climate change,” said Mayor Emanuel. “The Chicago Climate Charter represents tens of million residents who are committed to confronting climate change head-on. Even as Washington fails to act, cities have the power and will to take decisive action to protect our planet and the health and safety of our residents.”

The North American Climate Summit showed that cities are taking action to articulate commitments to the Paris Agreement. By signing the Chicago Climate Charter, cities are pledging to:

  • Achieve a percent reduction in carbon emissions in line with the Paris Agreement;
  • Quantify, track and publicly report city emissions, consistent with standards and best practices of measurement and transparency;
  • Advocate alongside other mayors for greater local authority and flexibility to develop policies and local laws that empower cities to take aggressive action on climate;
  • Recognize and include groups traditionally underrepresented in climate policy;
  • Incorporate the realities of climate change and its impacts into local infrastructure and emergency planning through strategies of adaptation and resilience;
  • Support strong regional, state and federal policies and partnerships, as well as private sector initiatives, that incentivize the transition to a new climate economy; and
  • Partner with experts, communities, businesses, environmental justice groups, advocates and other allies to develop holistic climate mitigation and resilience solutions.

Since the Trump administration’s announcement to pull out of the Paris Agreement, cities across the United States and around of the world have shown their commitment to creating a truly sustainable future for their residents

America’s Pledge, led by former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and California Governor Jerry Brown, is part of the overall initiative to compile and quantify the actions of states, cities, and businesses in the United States to drive down their greenhouse gas emissions consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

“This Charter is a great example of how cities are working together and encouraging one another to aim higher, and it will add momentum to America’s progress fighting climate change,” said Bloomberg, co-chair for America’s Pledge. “All the U.S. cities signing the charter are making commitments in support of America’s Pledge – which sends a strong signal to the world that we will keep moving forward toward our Paris goal, with or without Washington. I want to thank Mayor Emanuel for spearheading this effort and for leading by example through his work in Chicago.”

The Summit also featured the fifth-annual C40 Cities Bloomberg Philanthropies Awards, celebrating the most innovative and impactful efforts by mayors to tackle climate change. Recognizing the increasingly important role cities must play in driving climate action in the United States, for the first time ever the awards will celebrate one winner from an American city and one winner from the rest of the world.

C40 Cities connects more than 90 of the world’s greatest cities, representing 650+ million people and one quarter of the global economy. Created and led by cities, C40 is focused on tackling climate change and driving urban action that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and climate risks, while increasing the health, wellbeing and economic opportunities of urban citizens.

Mayors across the globe have been committed to working through existing organizations, including Climate Mayors, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, and ICLEI to develop partnerships with other cities. These commitments, made under the Chicago Climate Charter, will be clustered around central ideas and themes to better aggregate impact and provide guidance for Mayors who are looking to peers for new ideas.

© Photo
  • Office of the Mayor of the City of Chicago / Brooke Collins
  • Office of the Mayor of the City of Milwaukee / Environmental Collaboration Office (ECO)