Women Mayors Lead Charge on Climate Change

This worldwide alliance of major-city mayors believe their cities must take the lead on fighting climate change.

| Spring 2017

Clover Moore knows how it feels to want action on climate change when her state and national governments aren’t exactly supportive.

Moore, the lord mayor of Sydney, Australia, has seen six Australian prime ministers and seven state premiers come to power since she was first elected mayor in 2004. There’s been a “profound, even hostile, lack of long-term leadership on climate change” from key state and national legislators, she maintains. Her sense of urgency is fueled by research that suggests Sydney could be as much as 4.8 degrees Celsius hotter by 2070, triggering more extreme heat waves, flooding and storms in the popular tourist destination.

So Moore and her city decided to act on their own.

They created the Sustainable Sydney 2030 plan, drawing upon ideas from residents and businesses for the city’s environmental and economic well-being. Sydney has improved standards for greater energy efficiency in government buildings, developed bike lanes for cyclists to reduce car use, and switched to energy-saving LEDs for its street and park lights. City leaders established a “better buildings” partnership with the owners of more than half the commercial office space in the city center. Members have saved $36 million a year in electricity costs and reduced their emissions by 45 percent since 2006, Moore says.

The results could be a model for U.S. cities at a time when the U.S. president has called climate change a hoax. In Sydney, greenhouse gas emissions are down by 19 percent. Within city offices and functions, they are down 27 percent. The local economy has expanded by 37 percent during the same period.

Moore is part of a worldwide alliance of major-city mayors who believe their cities must take the lead on climate change, with or without their national governments’ help. The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group is a network of 90 megacities, representing more than 650 million residents, that develops research, calls attention to opportunities, and shares what works and could be duplicated elsewhere. U.S. cities involved include Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., New Orleans, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.