An international delegation of mayors is conveying an “inescapable truth” to national leaders attending the COP climate summit this week and next—that “the era of fossil fuels is coming to an end.”
The delegation, members of the C40 network of more than 100 cities united for climate action, journeyed to COP28 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, expressly “to call for fossil fuel phaseout,” the organization states in a release. The call is echoed in an open letter to heads of state by C40 co-chairs Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, Mayor of Freetown, Sierra Leone, and Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, UK.
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End Subsidies, Invest in Cities
“To fully meet the challenge and urgency of the climate crisis, we need three key things from you as you gather at COP28,” they write in the letter. “To curb the undue influence of the fossil fuel industry, to move public money from fossil fuels to a just and clean energy transition, and partner with us to accelerate action and prosperity.”
The co-chairs add that “the world must deliver, at the minimum, the calls of the International Energy Agency to halve global fossil fuel use by 2035 and stop any further investment in new fossil fuel projects.”
Pledging to halve emissions across their cities’ network by 2030, the mayoral delegation is asking national governments to invest in cities, where more than half the world’s population is housed.
They also urge their COP peers to register two other “inescapable truths”: that cities have a hand in 75% of global emissions and are thus critical to reaching climate goals, and that cities “face at least a US$3 trillion gap in urban climate finance.”
The gap persists even as fuel subsidies are at “the highest level ever.”
G20 fossil fuel subsidies reached “an alarming US$1.4 trillion last year,” write Aki-Sawyerr and Khan. Such “deeply unjust” allocations must stop, with the money redirected toward accelerating the energy transition.
“The financial benefits of these subsidies are deeply unjust,” they add. “In low- and middle-income countries, the poorest receive only 7% of this benefit, while the already rich receive 43%.” Redressing that balance means at least 40% of public climate investment must go to low-income communities and neighbourhoods and those affected by the energy transition.
‘Work With Us’
The co-chairs list the progress C40 cities have already made and invite heads of state to collaborate on climate action, Mayors have been improving the energy efficiency of their building stock, electrifying transit, investing in public health, creating “good, green jobs” and retraining workers for them, divesting from companies that underwrite the fossil fuel economy, and “sending clear signals that the future of our cities will be clean and just.”
But municipal progress is insufficient without action from national governments, they stress. Cities need “partnerships across all levels of government, the economy, and society to accelerate collective progress, building strong climate and investment plans to end the injustices caused by continued fossil fuel use.”
‘The Writing Is on the Wall’
Speaking at the plenary of the first Local Climate Action Summit on December 1—during the first COP where city officials have had a formal seat at the negotiating table)—United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres applauded climate leadership at the local level around the world. He warned that failures at the national level find humanity at the “brink of climate chaos,” with emissions “still rocketing” and climate impacts “still widening.”
Addressing an audience that included COP28 President Sultan Al-Jaber, Guterres said: “It’s time to throw your full political support behind a renewables revolution.”
“Fossil fuels represent the past, renewables represent the future,” he added, noting that “the writing is on the wall” despite political, financial, and regulatory roadblocks to action.
“The world needs to commit to a clear time frame to phase out fossil fuels aligned with 1.5°C, and the COP28 global stocktake must also result in commitments that will lead to tripling renewables, doubling energy efficiency, and bringing clean energy to all by 2070.”
The urgency is being felt in cities like Rio de Janeiro, where unprecedented heatwaves have brought scorching temperatures and affected all areas of life, Mayor Eduardo Paes said in the C40 release.
“No human on Earth should endure over 50°C heat, but this is the reality that my residents now have to cope with,” Paes said. “We in the Global South personally feel the devastation of unchecked emissions and urge COP28 leaders to hear us loud and clear: without adequate and direct funding to the world’s cities, we will remain dangerously off limiting global temperatures to 1.5°C.”
And “there is nothing greater at stake.”