From the rapid rate of urbanisation to the digitalisation of the economy and the effects of climate change, our societies and environment are being transformed. These trends are felt most acutely in the fast-growing cities of the world, where persistent problems such as climate change, economic and gender inequality, migration and air pollution have huge impacts on how urban societies advance and develop.
Traditionally, tackling these challenges was the exclusive responsibility of nation-states. Some of the world’s largest states discuss these and other problems at the meetings of the G20. However, as the effects of these trends are increasingly and disproportionately played out in our urban centres, it is now time for cities to also act together to address global challenges.
As the mayor of Buenos Aires, I witness these challenges and their impact on porteños (as people from Buenos Aires are called) daily.
Our city is part of a fast-growing metropolitan area, with an astounding 3.2 million people commuting into the city every day. We are therefore working to promote an efficient, connected and sustainable transport system. At the same time, Buenos Aires is mitigating the risks arising from climate change by promoting hydric public works to reduce floods.
A strategy of resilience
To face challenges and tensions to which cities are exposed, Buenos Aires recently launched its resilience strategy, the first one to include the future of work and gender equality among its priorities.
We must also prepare for the future: 65% of children who are now in school will work in jobs that do not exist today. As a diverse city, with world-class human capital, Buenos Aires is adapting its education system to promote teaching the skills that future jobs will demand. This is an urgent challenge for cities, and one that we need to address in order to remain as innovation hubs with the ability to improve the quality of life on a large scale.
We also know that women and men do not experience the city in the same way and that gender-based inequalities persist in the public space, at home and at work. This year, Buenos Aires launched the Gender Indicators System, the first at the subnational level in Latin America, which integrally measures the physical, decisional and economic dimensions of women’s autonomy. Among other initiatives, we also launched a new parental leave system that encourages shared care, and we are working with the private sector to promote equality in the labour market.
Moreover, in 2006, we joined the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, the leading network of cities committed to addressing climate change. We have been making bold and ambitious commitments to address climate change since then. In 2015, we became fully compliant with the Global Covenant of Mayors on Climate and Energy, having successfully completed the necessary actions to address emissions and improve resilience in our city. We are now striving to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 in order to deliver our share of the Paris Agreement. We are also committed to implementing inclusive climate action, ensuring that the benefits of making Buenos Aires cleaner, healthier and more prosperous are shared equally among our residents.
Local solutions for global issues
We believe that global development issues must also be addressed through local solutions. With Argentina chairing the G20 this year, we seized the opportunity to launch the Urban 20 (U20) – the first ever diplomatic initiative to facilitate a dialogue between cities and the G20.
The U20 was officially launched in Paris in December 2017 during the One Planet Summit, where Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, and I invited cities located in G20 countries to join us. From two, we quickly became 26 cities determined to make our voice heard in the G20 forum on specific policy areas: climate action, the future of work, social integration, sustainable food systems, women’s empowerment and access to finance. Each is crucial to cities and paramount to ensuring sustainable, fair and prosperous urban development worldwide.
Our recommendations for each policy area are encapsulated in the first ever U20 Communiqué, shared with Argentina’s president Mauricio Macri, who is chairing the G20, during the inaugural U20 Mayoral Summit, held in Buenos Aires on 29–30 October 2018. This document crystallises best practices at the city level, and makes recommendations to the G20 in terms of enabling national government policies that could help scale up these city commitments and accelerate their implementation for more rapid and transformative results.
Cities are on the front line of the many challenges that define our present, and that will mark our future. They are also incredible sources of talent, innovation, vibrant communities and dynamic economies. Cities are microcosms of our globalised world, and as G20 leaders seek to create a fairer and more sustainable future, they need not look further than their own great cities to find solutions. In turn, cities must embrace their potential to help shape the future of the whole world, with unique perspectives and solutions to global challenges. That is why I believe the U20 can create a new space for dialogue among the world leaders and the mayors of large cities. In the end, the responsibility is also ours.
Urban 20 is convened by the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group in collaboration with United Cities and Local Governments.