Cities are key to delivering a sustainable and resilient recovery, and by prioritising urban sustainable solutions, the G20 leaders can tackle the climate, energy and cost-of-living crises simultaneously
Established in 2017, the Urban 20 is led by cities for cities and brings together 38 mayors from G20 members and several observer cities. Convened by C40 Cities and United Cities and Local Governments, U20 offers a platform for cities to form collective positions on G20 priorities and offers local solutions to global problems. In just five years it has created a well-established forum for dialogue between cities and G20 leaders, driving global agendas on issues where even the world’s largest economies fall short, such as on confronting climate change and addressing inequalities.
I have been honoured to co-chair the fifth cycle of Urban 20 in 2022, alongside my colleague Governor Ridwan Kamil of West Java, for Indonesia’s G20 presidency.
It has certainly been a challenging year. National and local leaders alike have been confronted with multiple overlapping crises. Devastating climate events such as droughts, fires and heatwaves on a scale and intensity that scientists did not expect in this decade are wreaking havoc in communities around the world. These same communities are also experiencing an economic and cost-of-living crisis, an energy crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic – interconnected crises that require a united response.
Responsibility to act
As leaders of the world’s largest cities, the U20 recognised our responsibility to act. We made a concerted effort to reaffirm in this year’s U20 communiqué the critical role of city diplomacy in effectively addressing these crises. Cities often find themselves on the front lines and can thus act as key delivery agents at the global level and generate, support and deliver the solutions that we need to ensure a more equitable, sustainable and resilient future for all.
The 2022 U20 communiqué highlights areas where we require more support from G20 governments and reiterates our readiness to work with governments and their major financial partners.
Specifically, our main call to the G20 is to increase investment and direct public funding in three key areas where cities can have the greatest impact in ensuring an inclusive recovery, addressing the climate crisis, fostering social cohesion and addressing inequality:
- Affordable and sustainable housing and fostering a resilient health system;
- Energy transition and sustainable mobility;
- Education and training for equitable access to the job market.
To date, 44 cities have endorsed the communiqué – the most since its inception.
But our work does not stop there. Our engagement with the wider G20 ecosystem is a top priority and our ambition is to continue to be seen as a trusted partner and collaborator. Although still a young initiative, the U20 has successfully increased our presence within the G20 system with each passing year. In 2021, the G20 Rome Leaders’ Declaration recognised cities’ role as enablers of sustainable development for the first time in G20 history. Italy’s G20 presidency invited the U20 to contribute to the climate and energy working groups and formally recognised U20 contributions in the climate and energy ministerial communiqué.
I was delighted to steer the U20 further this year. In September 2022, the U20 collaborated with the Infrastructure Working Group on a seminar focused on sustainable infrastructure investment, where we demonstrated that sustainable long-term investment in public transport expansion has never been more needed to help address the ongoing energy, climate and cost-of-living crises. We shared how in Jakarta we have connected different public transport modes on an integrated ticketing service to make it more convenient and cheaper to travel by public transport uninterrupted. Barcelona’s Mayor Ada Colau has expanded the Superblocks project, reorganising city streets to limit traffic and increase space for recreation and relaxation. London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan has an ambitious strategy to achieve 80% of all trips in the city to be made on foot, by cycle or using public transport by 2041 and has introduced and expanded the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone.
Benefits of investment
The potential benefits of investment in sustainable public transport are substantial. Accessible and reliable public transport can help reduce car dependency, reduce oil demand – thus supporting energy security – and create tens of millions of good green jobs. An increase in active mobility – when supported by adequate infrastructure that accommodates the needs of all users – also improves the quality of life by creating thriving communities, reducing inequalities and further improving public health. More than that, prioritising sustainable mobility and designing cities around it could contribute 20–45% of the total global emissions reductions required to limit global warming to the Paris Agreement goal of 1.5°C.
Our message to G20 leaders is simple: as the world’s largest economies, G20 members have the opportunity to take action and lead by example. Acting on sustainable mobility as a key part of fostering a renewable energy transition and investing in affordable housing, resilient health systems, and education and training for the future of work can be a win-win solution to the multitude of crises facing our societies today. We invite G20 leaders to prioritise urban sustainable solutions and to work with cities – and the U20 – to tackle the climate, energy and cost of living crises and to guarantee a green and just recovery.