The 25th United Nations Climate Change Conference kicked off in Spain on Monday, with world leaders gathering to discuss a growing climate crisis. As heads of state and climate activists have their voices heard on the world stage, city and town leaders are working on the ground to make climate resilience a reality in their communities.
Mildred Warner is a professor of city and regional planning, an expert on how to promote environmental sustainability at the local level, and a fellow at the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability. Two of her recent studies show that disaster response and citizen task forces are key elements for successful sustainability policy at the local level.
“Municipalities are increasingly viewed as innovators, laboratories, and groundswell actors of environmental sustainability. Greenhouse gas emissions can be controlled by cities – through their land use policies, building and zoning codes, transit systems and direct governmental action to reduce energy usage. While world leaders meet in Spain to discuss climate change, city leaders are working on the ground to make real change locally.
“Two recent Cornell University studies highlight the role of cities and rural communities across the U.S. While there are some climate change deniers in national leadership positions, cities and rural communities across the U.S. see the links between weather related disasters and the need to change local policy. We find that cities build from their work on disaster management to promote wider sustainability efforts. And they do this with careful attention to the balance between environmental sustainability, economic development and social equity.”