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In the next decades, 200 million people could be forced to move due to climate change: “cities become crucial in delivering inclusive and ecological solutions”, explains Caterina Sarfatti, Director the Inclusive Climate Action Program at C40 Cities.
A task force of mayors, one Agenda and a USD 1 million-dollar fund to tackle the climate crisis across the world: these are the actions announced by C40 Cities and the Mayors Migration Council (MMC) at COP26. The climate emergency has global causes and consequences. This Action Agenda on Climate and Migration includes mayors from cities that will increasingly be held accountable by their citizens when it comes to environmental and migratory challenges. “Mayors not always have direct competencies and mandates, yet cities are often on the frontlines of these challenges – both positively and negatively – this is why we decided to activate this Task Force, to pressure national governments and international organizations”, explains Caterina Sarfatti, Director of Inclusive Climate Action at C40 Cities.
“At the local level, mayors deal with extreme hazards such as flooding in coastal areas, or the impacts of migratory flows caused by the Syrian crisis, in Europe and the Middle East. We also need to consider the impact of the climate crisis. For instance, I think about droughts in the Sahel regions, hurricanes in New Orleans, or Bangladesh, where thousands of people move to seek refuge from sea-level rise daily. For now, these movements are within countries, rural to urban”.
But tomorrow? There is a phenomenological component, adds the Director of C40-ICA: “The climate-migration nexus has been investigated also by the World Bank: in the next decades, up to 200 million people might be forced to move due to climate events”.
The C40-MMC Task Force also includes Milan, “a city that has worked with Turin and the Piemonte region, together with Tunisia and Morocco, to foster professional growth programs for young migrants, through ‘green jobs’. These people arrive to Milan to take part in upskilling programs, and they then go back to their country of origins, after acquiring new competencies and skills: it is a pilot project run in partnership with private businesses, through which you can observe the potential for working at a larger scale, including migrant population in a green and just transition”.
Another example is Houston, and its voluntary relocation program launched in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey: the local administration created a buy-in/buy-out program to generate incentives for residents to sell their at-risk properties and relocate to safer areas”. When it comes to climate migration, continues Sarfatti, “we need to be aware that this crisis does not only affect the inhabitants of the Polynesian islands or Kiribati, who are aware that their lands will sink, but also Italy and the United States”.
The goal of this mayoral Agenda is to show that cities can set the global agenda and influence governments: “The next COP, in 2023, will be in Africa – adds Sarfatti – it will be focused on the impacts of the climate crisis in the Global South, but also on the shared responsibilities of the Global North”. This is why a city perspective is absolutely crucial: “The Agenda defines ten principles for inclusive action on climate and migration, a set of practices that mayors are already delivering, and asks for the international community, such as creating mobility corridors for people affected by disasters, or guaranteeing access to essential services, including COVID-19 vaccines”.
Since C40 Cities was created, its member cities have nearly doubled to 97. A clear sign that the urban dimension will be increasingly important in the future: “At the conclusion of the G20 Summit, global leaders declared, for the first time, what science has been saying for years: that to avoid a climate breakdown, global warming must be kept below 1.5 C. While this is a positive result, mayors had already issued this warning in 2016, in Mexico City, during the C40 summit.
Mayors are clearly on the frontline of climate impacts, the Mayor of Houston reminds that hurricanes and storms – which used to take place every 200-300 years, now happen every 2-3 years and this has an immediate impact on the resilience of local communities. According to the UN, 70% of the global population will be living in cities by 2050.
In addition to their Action Agenda, C40 and MMC also launched the first fund for African cities’ direct access to finance, with a focus on inclusive climate action: 1 USD million dollars from the Bosch Foundation. One initial good result for the Task Force.