The world cannot return to ‘business as usual’ after the Covid-19 crisis if humanity is to escape catastrophic climate breakdown, mayors from many of the leading cities of the world have warned.
A “statement of principles” has been published by the city leaders representing more than 750 million people, which commits them to put greater equality and climate action at the center of their plans for recovery.
Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City and one of the signatories to the statement, said: “Half-measures that maintain the status quo won’t move the needle or protect us from the next crisis.
“We need a new deal for these times – a massive transformation that rebuilds lives, promotes equality and prevents the next economic, health or climate crisis.”
Cities have already announced measures in support of a low-carbon, sustainable recovery, from new bike lanes of hundreds of miles in Milan and Mexico City to widening pavements and pedestrianizing neighborhoods in New York and Seattle.
On Wednesday in London, Sadiq Khan announced plans of giving cyclists and pedestrians more space across the capital to encourage “green and sustainable travel” and prevent a certain increase in car use and pollution after the lockdown is over.
The move came when Transport for London modeling revealed the chances of a 10-fold increase in cycling, and up to five times increase in the amount of walking if people returned to work to avoid public transport compared with pre-coronavirus levels.
Khan, who is vice-chair of the C40 group, said he was determined to “build a better future” after the pandemic.
“Covid-19 has exposed the inequality in our society and deep flaws in our economy, which fail people from deprived communities more than anyone else,” he said.
“We need to come out of this embracing a new normal and with a renewed drive to address the climate emergency.”
Council leaders in Greater Manchester, have unveiled plans to provide more space for people walking and cycling across the region. Local authorities are planning a range of measures from extending pavements to creating one-way streets, removing extra cycle lanes through-traffic from residential neighborhoods, and building with £5m of funding from the mayor.
Last week, in a talk, mayors from cities in Europe, the US, and Africa forming part of a newly formed C40 economic task force agreed to map out plans with coordinated efforts in support of a low-carbon, sustainable recovery from the coronavirus crisis.
Mark Watts, the chief executive of C40, said mayors hold much power to protect their citizens and mold the direction of the recovery. “There is now a hell of a lot of collaboration among very powerful politicians who do think a green economic recovery is absolutely essential,” he said.
“We are talking about collectively creating funds that they all put money into, which would then support electric vehicles, support rollout of cycle lanes, support retrofitting of buildings … C40 cities using the hundreds of millions of dollars in their pension funds for this and getting very good long-term returns.”
Globally, mayors of 33 cities from Los Angeles to Lisbon, São Paulo to Seoul, Melbourne, to Mexico City have signed the statement of principles so far.
The statement warns that the recovery from Covid-19 “should not be a return to ‘business as usual’ – because that is a world on track for 3C or more of overheating.”
It also states that immediate action on the climate will “accelerate economic recovery and enhance social equity through the use of new technologies and the creation of new industries and new jobs.”
Mike Bloomberg, the C40 board president and a former mayor of New York City, said: “This task force is committed to helping city leaders as they work on economic recovery in ways that lead us forward into the future, not back into the past. The principles we’ve outlined will guide our efforts to develop a new normal – one that is greener, healthier, and more prosperous for everyone.”