As it happened: C40 cities and climate summit in Johannesburg

– Updates by the RTCC team in London
– Follow us on Twitter and Facebook
– Email [email protected] or use the comment form below
– Watch the session live from Johannesburg

The mayor of Rio de Janeiro will chair this year's C40 summit (Source:

The mayor of Rio de Janeiro will chair this year’s C40 summit (Source:

1500 – That wraps up the C40 discussions for today. Delegates are off for cocktails in Johannesburg. But in rainy, tube-srtike-stricken London, we’re still keen to hear what is happening in your towns and cities to combat and adapt to climate change. Please leave comments below, tweet me at @rtcc_sophie, or drop me an email at [email protected]. The fun continues tomorrow, where mayors from Vancouver, Rotterdam and Dar es Salaam, among others, will be discussing more key issues in urban development. Many sessions will be livestreamed, so stay tuned.

1456 – “More than ever, citizens are part of the solution. Cities belong to the people,” says Paes. Social media and technology is part of building an urban response to climate change, he adds. Which means you should probably follow him on Twitter – especially if you can speak Spanish…

1451 – The Rio de Janeiro mayor delivers his vision for 2014. “We are on thh eve on a decisive moment in thh fight against climate change,” he says, referencing the replacement of the Millenium Development Goals with Sustainable Development Goals, along with the ongoing attempts to sign off an international treaty to cut greenhouse gas emissions. “We are engaging in city diplomacy by building concrete results.”

1444 – Handing over the chairmanship of the C40 committee to Rio de Janeiro mayor Eduardo Paes, Michael Bloomberg gives him a little tree, hoping that the city network with “flourish” in his care.

Michael Bloomberg with a little tree.

Michael Bloomberg with a little tree.

1441 – Former US president Bill Clinton has made a video link appearance. He says of Mike Bloomberg: “His results driven and evidence based approach are exactly what we need in this effort” but adds: “while we certainly have a lot celebrate we all know that the work has just begun.” Taking the stage after, Bloomberg says he won’t let the compliments go to his head.

1435 – While Venice may be suffering with its lagoons, the problems faced in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia are different, demonstrating the need for tailored local approaches. In the developing world, the main problems are capacity, financial and technological.

“The conceptual understanding of the problem is well known at government and society level. We know the best solution,” says Mayor Debira Kuma of Addis Ababa. “Sadly, there is a capacity gap, particularly in developing countries, and a lack of financial support from the developed world. This is the main problem in the developing world.”

1425 – “We have sirens that sound. It sounds like in the time of the war. But it is effective in warning our citizens to fight against nature,” says the Mayor of Venice. “At the same time we have also done a lot of work so the city can become more livable on an every day level and made it easier to communicate so we can advance technology to the city.”


1420 – “There are still many in Congress who don’t get this climate change thing. But mayors get it,” says Philadelphia Mayor, Michael Nutter. There’s such a gridlock at the national level, that it must be driven at the local level. He acknowledges that it is difficult for President Obama, who has already pledged to use executive action to stimulate action on climate change.

1412 – The Mayor of Philadelphia reaffirms the earlier idea that citizens are less concerned with putting in place climate adaptation measures than they are about their day to day lives: the appearance of their streets, the facilities for their children, and whether there are jobs. He points out that property values on tree lined streets go up by 10 to 15%.

“Constituents have real lives and they don’t talk about the things we talk about,” he says, and the challenge is about making solutions to disparate problems overlap.

1404 – Venice, an Italian city built on a lagoon, famous for its canals and gondolas, faces particular challenges from rising sea levels. Mayor Giorgio Orsoni explains how he is protecting his city and its rich heritage.

Source: Flickr/lselines

Source: Flickr/lselines

“We have diverted rivers from the lagoon so we can protect our heritage. We have to maintain a very difficult balance between the lagoon and the open sea. This is in danger because sea level is rising.

“We have studied various systems that could defend the city from the water. Today the system is mobile. It will be completed at the inlets to the lagoon. It has been financed by the government and has been combined with work to redevelop the channels inside the lagoon itself and to raise the banks so the city can remain dry even when the high tides arrive.”

1353 – The afternoon session has kicked off. The mayor of Rome is unable to join this panel, due to extreme flooding which has led to a state of emergency being declared. The other panelists include:

Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb, City of Rotterdam
Mayor Debira Kuma, City of Addis Ababa
Mayor Michael NutterCity of Philadelphia
Mayor Giorgio Orsoni, City of Venice

The title of this panel discussion is Climate Proofing the World’s Megacities: Building Adaptable and Livable Cities.

1023 – That concludes the second panel from the first morning of the C40 summit. The meetings will resume this afternoon, with a discussion on how to make the world’s cities “climate proof”.

While you wait, read some of RTCC’s past coverage on some of the most exciting projects being done at city level to reduce emissions. Here are five weird and wonderful projects we’ve spotted taking place around the world in recent months:

Bangkok designers create a bike that absorbs pollutions and pumps out purified air
Suwon swaps all its cars for alternative vehicles for an entire month
New York transforms a landfill site taller than the Statue of Liberty into a solar power station
Fukushima pledges to generate its own energy from 100% renewable sources by 2040
Beijing limits its car quota to 6 million by 2017

We’ve also caught up with Sir David King, the chair of the Future Cities Catapult—a UK scheme to encourage urban innovation—as well as a key climate change diplomat to see what he hopes the C40 summit will deliver. He said:

“I want to see it go beyond being a talking shop. It’s a question of delivering detail on what it means to be a sustainable city, a city that is future proof against anticipatable – is that a word? – extreme events, flooding in Britain is the obvious example there, cities that are futureproof against resource constraints, particularly food. I think we need to be rolling out examples of best practice and demonstrating that it is capable of delivery.”

1021 – Mike Bloomberg says that he can say the following only now that he is no longer mayor: “Mayors that want to take responsibility want the national government’s money, but not their interference. They want the money without strings attached.”

He adds: “Those that are lucky enough to have autonomy do better than those who have another level of government imposing checks and balances.”

1012 – “We need to have a dialogue without competing with each other,” says the Mayor of Lima. “We need to coordinate the work of local and national governments. It doesn’t make any sense that local governments are trying to implement a programme and national governments are trig to prevent it form working. Sometimes we have a situation, like in Peru, where national governments are imposing measures, and we simply have to accept what they say.”

1008 – “Denmark is a leader, but sadly my country is not,” says Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York. He says it is all private sector and cities that are tackling climate change, with only a little bit of help from the federal government. President Barack Obama has emphasised the need to fight global warming, particularly during his second term in office. America’s cooperation will be essential if a climate change deal is to secured in 2015.

1003 – How is your city affected by climate change? Email any examples of city level action being taken where you live to [email protected], or drop me a tweet at @rtcc_sophie. I’ve already had some examples come in, including from Karachi, Pakistan.


0957 – “This is not an exercise of exclusion, but of collaboration and inclusion,” says Christiana Figueres. Local leaders must raise their voices with national leaders.

0951 – “All governors are envious of mayors getting coverage of the big cities in their states,” says Mike Bloomberg. The media is more interested in what is going on at a city-level than at a state level. This can lead to mayors getting blame for things that are not under their remit, but for the state to sort out. “Citizens look to the mayor, even when he doesn’t have responsibility.” Therefore, he says, it’s not surprising that mayors focus on climate change—when streets flood, when the air is unclean, citizens automatically blame the mayor.

0944 – Lima’s Mayor is up now. Lima is hosting this year’s COP meeting. He says he is planting trees that do not consume a lot of water, which has had a positive impact so far. 500,000 trees have been planted so far in four different districts. There are regions of the coast that had become desert and are now green, he says. He hopes that COP could lead to a greater level of coordination even between the different districts in the city.

Lima is becoming a greener city, says Mayor (Source: Flickr/edgar agencies)

Lima is becoming a greener city, says Mayor (Source: Flickr/edgar agencies)

0939 – The Deputy Mayor of Warsaw says that during the UN conference in Warsaw he organised a “city day” that worked with the international partners to work out how to improve the dialogue on how to tackle climate change problems and integrate citizens into the process. It’s not always about money, he says: it’s sometimes about regulations and contributions from citizens.

0930 – The next panel has started. This is on the subject of Cities and a Global Climate Agreement. The panelists are:

Michael Bloomberg, President, C40 Board and former Mayor, New York
Lord Mayor Frank Jensen, City of Copenhagen
Mayor Hernan Nuñez, City of Lima
Deputy Mayor Michal Olszewski, City of Warsaw
Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC)

0929 – Figueres suggests three measures that city leaders can take to create more resilient cities:

1. Use metrics of the global conversation on climate change, by creating clean energy targets that are recognisable to international process
2. Cities should green their current finance, and focus on low carbon and higher resilience, not just cost. This will make them more resilient to market vulnerability
3. Open the door to commercial funding and private investment.

0925 – Christiana Figueres ties into earlier comments made by the Houston mayor that local leaders need to focus on economics as well as climate change. “Addressing climate change cannot be the only, or even the prime, reason for introducing these measures. Governments have an increasing number of competitive goals and challenges. City governments must advance several agendas at the same time.”

Be she adds: “We have not progressed much in merging efforts of cities and national governments. That my friends is my common cause. We need each other.”

0922 –  “Cities have progressed in their efforts to address climate change,” says Figueres. “Cities do this in a much more granular way than national governments, because cities know what climate change means on the ground. I see cities dramatically improving traffic congestion and air pollution, making cities more liveable and by the way reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

0918 – “I will be frequently knocking on Michael Bloomberg’s door” says Christiana Figueres, referring to his new role as the UN Special Envoy for cities and climate change.

0914 – Christiana Figueres, chief of the UN’s climate change body, is delivering the keynote at the session, indicating the importance that cities are taking on an international level. She’s up now to speak.


0911 – At a global level, all countries are in the process of trying to sign off a global deal in 2015 that will bind all countries to some form of emissions reductions deal. The latest round of negotiations took place in Warsaw last November, will continue in Lima this year, and conclude in Paris in 2015.

In depth: RTCC’s coverage of COP19 in Warsaw

0905 – The next session will focus on the international climate agenda, and how cities fit in. It is an important topic, and one that has only recently gained recognition. Whereas UN and national government legislation can take years to come into effect, on a local level, action can be rolled out quickly to target local problems.

Leo Johnson, whom I spoke to earlier this week, said: “You’ve got cities where you’ve got a different model of leadership and of government that allows you to break through the gridlock of where national and international negotiations find themselves. Cities are where you can get stuff done.”

0844 – Houston Mayor says: “We’re constantly patrolling for ideas from other cities. It’s not stealing when you get it from your peer cities.” Rio de Janeiro mayor says accurate measuring and data is what really allows cities to effectively share ideas with one another. “That’s the beauty of C40 and that’s how we’re going to keep moving.” And that concludes the first panel. The next panel session will resume in about 10 minutes.

0837 – The Mayor of Houston says that she need to couch her efforts to reduce emissions in terms of the economic benefits. “When we start talking about climate change to our citizens, their eyes glaze over.” The Oslo Mayor agrees that, to many, saving money is more important than saving energy.


0834 – Creating a consistent system for cities to measure their emissions is a great opportunities for cities, says Andrew Steer. He says that, by 2016, he wants to see 1,000 cities measuring their greenhouse gases in line with each other, so that they can work out together what offers the best rates of return.

0828 – Rio de Janeiro mayor says: “We see eternal light at the end of the tunnel when we start measuring things. It helps us make plans for the day after tomorrow.” But he says that even within the state department, it is hard to foster a culture of using data, so it is a challenge to transfer its benefits to the citizens. But technology helps, he says – they are using lots of social networks to reach out and show people the things they can do to create a greener city.

0821 – Mayor Stian Berger Røsland, City of Oslo, emphasises that cities do not have unlimited resources, so it is important to know that what they are doing actually works. Oslo has a reputation of being one of the leading cities in the world of climate change. Here’s a video showing some of the initiatives they have taken over the past few years.

0817 – Mayor Annise Parker, City of Houston, is talking now. She emphasises the need to measure results when tackling climate change at a city level. Over the past 7 years, Houston has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 26%. She pledges to reduce them another 5% every two years. It has required action in every major sphere, including energy efficiency, transportation, and waste management.

0813 – Andrew Steer, President of the World Resources Institute, says that the new report is “exhilarating”, and reflects the real sense of excitement in cities about the action being taken to tackle climate change.

“It is the mayors of the world that are closest to the action,” he says. “The fact that the mayors are now leading is good news, because they are the ones concerned about what citizens think. Mayors more than any other leaders on earth are demonstrating that what’s good for the environment is good for the economy.”

0809 – The first panel discussion has started now, featuring:
– Mayor Eduardo Paes, City of Rio de Janeiro & Incoming C40 Chair
– Mayor Annise Parker, City of Houston
– Governing Mayor Stian Berger Røsland, City of Oslo
– Andrew Steer, President & CEO, World Resources Institute

They are to discuss the importance of data in advancing climate agendas.

0803 – Why does all this data matter, asks Mark Watts. The collective input of the C40 network is significant: it has the same population as the US and Brazil combined, the same emissions as Japan, and a combined GDP greater than China. Mayors, he says, will come to rule the world when it comes to tackling climate change.

0754 – Mark Watts, the executive director of C40, takes the audience through some of the key findings of the new report. “The big number of the report is a positive one,” he says. Since they last surveyed cities in 2011, the number of actions that cities are taking to tackle climate change has almost doubled, from 4,700 to 8,100. These actions include programmes such as bicycle networks, LED lighting installations and planting trees. And it’s not only the wealthiest that are taking part he says. Middle income cities are some of the most progressive.

mark watts

0749 – C40 has just released its new research, Climate Action in Megacities Version 2.0. More to follow on this later, when there will be a panel discussion of its findings.

0744 – Bloomberg highlights the position of C40 in the world today. It has grown a great deal since it was founded by former London mayor Ken Livingstone in 2005 with just 18 cities. It is now a network of 63 cities: “Today C40 is recognised as one of the key players in the fight against climate change,” says Bloomberg. He says that it has also been integrated into the international negotiations, which are now actively reaching out to incorporate cities into their efforts to cut emissions.

0742 – Up now is Michael Bloomberg, who was until recently the mayor of New York. This year, he is also handing over the chairmanship of the C40 committee to Eduardo Paes, the mayor of Rio de Janeiro. Bloomberg is something of a star in the world of mayors, putting sustainability right at the heart of his agenda during his time in office. As testament to this, he has just been appointed the UN’s special representative for cities and climate change by Ban Ki-moon.


0737 – Mayor Eduardo Paes is up now. He is the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and is chairing this year’s C40 meeting. He congratulates the mayors for already showing their resilience, after dancing the night away at last night’s welcome dinner, and still showing up early this morning. He says that, at this meeting, “new commitments must be made and new partnerships must be sought”.

0735 – Why should you care about this summit? As the century wears on, a growing proportion of the world will call a city their home. In 2008, 50% of the world lived in a city. The UN says that, by 2050, this will have risen to almost 70%. In developed regions, it will be higher, up to a total of 86%.

Cities are also where the majority of greenhouse gases are emitted. A 2011 UN report found that, although cities cover just 2% of the world’s land mass, they are responsible for up to 70% of greenhouse gases. On top of that, they are also some of the most vulnerable areas to climate change, where extreme events cause the most damage. So it is important to get our urban areas right.

Cities like Beijing in China are already suffering from a poor model of growth, where an explosion in population—a 44% increase between 2000 and 2010—has been accompanied by hazardous levels of air pollution, caused in part by the traffic in the city.


As populations grow, cities have to expand. This can either be done as an unplanned urban sprawl, or in a manner that is sensitive to the environment and pleasant to live in. The C40 summit is a space where city leaders can figure out how to make it the latter.

0724  – The mayor of Johannesburg, where the summit is being held, is delivering the welcome speech. He says that South Africa’s history of apartheid means that he runs a city that is “divided by design”, and this presents unique challenges in terms of creating an equal city, where everyone has access to electricity while reducing carbon footprint. In Johannesburg, 87% of electricity is generated by coal. They are already reforming the transport sector, he says. It is important to “create a sustainable environment while creating economic opportunities”.

0701 – Yesterday, I spoke to Leo Johnson, brother of London mayor Boris and author of a book about cities, on the cities of the future, and how mayors can build them. It’s not about large concrete infrastructures, he said: we’re living now in the age of the “massive small”.

“What we want are not smart cities but smart citizens. The cities that will thrive will be the ones that will unleash the capacity of their citizens the best, that attract the most capable and creative citizens and then unleash their capacities.

“The job of a mayor, of a great city leader, is to do that. It’s the enabling state, it’s the government as platform. It’s that which will create this extraordinary flourishing bottom-up city.”

Leo Johnson and his blonder brother Boris are leaders in urban thinking (Source: Flickr/Financial Times Photos)

Leo Johnson and his blonder brother Boris are leaders in urban thinking (Source: Flickr/Financial Times Photos)

0700 – Welcome to RTCC’s live blog of the C40 summit taking place in Johannesburg, South Africa, over the next couple of days. I’m Sophie Yeo, and I’ll be bringing you the highlights of this meeting, which brings together hundreds of mayors and sustainability experts to discuss how to make the world’s most important urban developments more green.

From the agenda, we already know that the summit will cover an exhaustive range of topics, from how sustainable lifestyles can flourish within urban communities, to how the world’s megacities can adapt to the impacts of climate change – and to less glamorous topics such as how to dispose of solid waste without damaging the environment.

What’s it all about? C40 full agenda

The speakers are those who know their cities best: the mayors from the 63 cities represented under the C40 umbrella. We will hear from the mayors of Oslo, Cairo, Rio de Janeiro, from Amsterdam, Milan and Rotterdam, and many others.

We will also hear from Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York who has just taken up the post of the UN special envoy for cities and climate change, along with Christiana Figueres, the head of the UN’s climate change body.

Read more on: Cities | Living | | | |