by Nic Esposito
(Nic Esposito, the City’s Zero Waste and Litter Director, is reporting from from the Climate 40 (C40) Cities World Mayors Summit in Copenhagen. 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. Here is a blog post from his first day.)
Today was the first day of plenary sessions, which I will write about in more detail in tomorrow’s blog. But I did want to focus on two talks today. The first was Mayor Kenney’s participation on the “Advancing To Zero Waste” panel. Mayor Kenney was joined by the Mayors of Auckland, Venice and Karachi. The Mayor talked about the critical need to educate our youth on reducing waste and consumption. He recounted growing up as the son of a fireman and it being second nature to check that fire alarms were working and the stove was off. He made the point that we need to instill in our kids the same second nature when it comes to reducing waste and keeping our city clean. The Mayor of Venice spoke of the need to balance the need of tourism with the need to protect our environment. The Mayor of Auckland spoke of the incredible work her city is doing to encourage the deconstruction of buildings rather than their demolition. And the Mayor of Karachi made an impassioned plea that the Global North must do better not to put the burden of worldwide pollution and climate change on the Global South.
The second talk was Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti’s first speech as the C40 Chair and where he announced the Global Green New Deal. Not once in his speech did he use the phrase “climate change.” He appropriately referred to this as a “climate crisis” and while he applauded the work of every Mayor in the room doing something to address our climate crisis, he pointed out that what we’re doing is still not enough. His vision as C40 chair is to make the 2020s the decade where we finally take concrete steps to address the climate crisis. To drive the point home, he invoked the image of the letter left at the top of the dead Okjokull Glacier in Iceland written to residents 200 years from now hoping that by the time they read the letter, our generation had done enough to stop the climate crisis. After just two days at this summit, I’m feeling hopeful that the answer will be yes.
Yesterday I attended the Thriving Cities Initiative master class organized by C40 and Doughnut Economics Lab led by Kate Raworth, author of Doughnut Economics. Doughnut Economics is a visualization of 21st century economics. The hole of the doughnut is where all of the social problems exist—homelessness, economic inequality, litter, racism, etc. The outer layer of the doughnut is where we overshoot our planetary boundaries—global warming, ocean acidification, pollution, etc. But the doughnut itself is the sweet spot where we can thrive while taking care of the health of people and planet, hence, Thriving Cities. The end result of the Thriving Cities Initative will be a road map for Philadelphia to reduce its waste and consumption as part of our overall Zero Waste strategy.
During the master class I joined with my colleagues from Portland, the other American city taking part in the Thriving Cities pilot. The pilot began in Philadelphia last month where experts from Doughnut Economics, Circle Economy in Amsterdam and C40 facilitated a workshop with city departments and private/public stakeholders to assess our city’s economics, environmental health, population health, home ownership, homelessness, as well as many more indicators. We then dissected those indicators to get to the deeper understanding of the drivers of why they are happening. The next workshop will explore what Philadelphia is already doing to address these drivers and what we can learn from around the world to aid us in this journey.
The master class was a sneak peek into that process. It was an incredible conversation where I learned that Portland mandated that all annual municipal budget requests must show how that money will be invested in carbon reduction. We also discussed a matrix of thinking where economic analysis of supply vs. demand could be cross checked with social analysis of over-consumers vs. under-consumers in order to understand what is needed so that all residents of a city can live a good life while reducing consumption.
Tomorrow I’ll focus on more talks from the plenary sessions of today and tomorrow. Until then, see more updates on social media by following #TheFutureWeWant.