Despite pulling out of the Paris Agreement on the federal level, the U.S. accounts for the most cities committed to environmental adaptation and mitigation strategies, a new report says.
On the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement, CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), an environmental non-profit tracking the world’s progress on climate action, released its 2020 “A-list” of the cities across the globe that are demonstrating climate leadership. The list shows that despite the challenges of COVID-19, a racial reckoning, and an economic depression, U.S. cities continue to show commitment to climate action and leadership, and the data shows that these challenges have not deterred cities from climate responsibility, but amplified it.
“Cities increasingly understand that tackling the pandemic and addressing climate change must go hand in hand,” says Katie Walsh, Head of Cities, States & Regions for CDP North America. “By design, many of the tools cities use to protect their communities from the effects of climate change could put citizens at higher risk of COVID-19 infection.”
Cooling centers, for example, that offer vulnerable populations protection during high temperatures, and displacement shelters used during hurricanes and flood events, are now considered health risks due to the inability to socially distance.
30 percent more cities were added to the A-list this year, with the U.S. representing 25 of the total 88 worldwide. Together with Canada, North America accounts for 35 percent of the total A list cities, says the CDP press release.
“As cities worldwide scramble to juggle the overlapping and urgent issues of COVID-19 and climate change, it’s especially impressive that over one third of A-List cities earned this distinction for the first time, including 10 U.S. cities,” says the press release.
The new U.S. cities include San Luis Obispo, California; San Antonio, Texasand Miami, Florida, with their documented climate actions ranging from expansions of electric vehicle infrastructure to investment in green jobs.
Other climate actions recorded in the tracker this year include San Antonio’s 409 completed energy efficiency projects between 2011 and 2018, and Los Angeles’ $8 billion investment in grid upgrades by 2022 as well as additional millions put towards transportation system expansion and cleaner buildings.
The analysis showed that since the Paris Agreement began in 2015, the number of climate-committed cities has more than doubled globally, with 25 percent setting net-zero targets for 2050 or sooner, according to the press release.
In order to gain a “A” rating, the city must have a comprehensive emissions inventory, a measurable emissions reduction target, and a published climate action plan, says the press release. The city must also have a climate action and adaptation plan with a list of specific climate actions.
“As with climate change, we know from the global pandemic that the best time for action is well before the problem becomes severe. The next 10 years mark a crucial time in the climate crisis,” says Walsh.
Claire Marie Porter was Next City’s INN/Columbia Journalism School intern for Fall 2020. She is a Pennsylvania-based journalist who writes about health, science, and environmental justice, and her work can be found in The Washington Post, Grid Magazine, WIRED and other publications.