World’s most powerful city mayors join to pledge “no return to business as usual” post Covid-19

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As the world begins to look to defining the ‘new normal’ post-coronavirus lockdowns, mayors from around the world – part of the C40 climate leadership group – have joined together to seize the opportunity to make the recovery one that is defined by sustainability and low emissions.

Mayors from many of the world’s most powerful cities have warned that the recovery from Covid-19 “should not be a return to ‘business as usual’ – because that is a world on track for 3°C or more of over-heating.”

The C40 group of cities released a Statement of Principles (see below) to shape the recovery from the Covid-19 crisis. Mayors, representing millions of people worldwide, pledge “to build a better, more sustainable and fairer society out of the recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.”

The principles were adopted in the first meeting of C40’s Global Mayors COVID-19 Recovery Task Force, supported by C40 Chair, Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, and have been endorsed by scores of city leaders from around the world, including Los Angeles, Athens, Austin, Barcelona, Bogotá, Boston, Buenos Aires, Chicago, Copenhagen, Curitiba, Durban, Freetown, Hong Kong, Houston, Lima, Lisbon, London, Medellín, Melbourne, Mexico City, Milan, Montréal, New Orleans, New York City, Oslo, Portland, Quezon City, Rotterdam, Salvador, São Paulo, San Francisco, Santiago, Seattle, Seoul, Sydney, Tel Aviv-Yafo and Vancouver .

The announcement comes after a series of virtual meetings attended by more than 40 mayors, demonstrating how they are working together globally to overcome both the coronavirus and climate change crises. And at the same time as an announcement that London is already moving to expand cycling and walking infrastructure to promote more sustainable travel

A Global Mayors Covid-19 Recovery Task Force will establish a common framework that all of C40’s global membership can use to create a ‘new normal’ for city economies; agree upon concrete measures they can put in place for recovery; how to communicate about the climate crisis in a post-Covid-19 world; and how can they influence stimulus packages and interventions to support the necessary transition to a more sustainable, low-carbon, inclusive and healthier economy for people and the planet.

The Task Force will draw on the expertise of leading economists, including Kate Raworth, creator of internationally acclaimed framework Doughnut Economics and senior research associate at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute; and heard at its first meeting from Michael Jacobs, professorial fellow at the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) at the University of Sheffield.

Bill de Blasio (left), Mayor of New York City said: “The only parallel to what we’re facing right now is the Great Depression. Against that kind of challenge, 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.”

Steve Adler, Mayor of Austin said: “The Covid-19 crisis is horrible and so many are hurting in so many ways, but it also presents the biggest opportunity no one asked for. The sudden disruption of so many systems at once has laid bare our most pressing challenges as well as the corresponding opportunity to re-imagine the ways we live, travel and go about our lives more sustainably and to the benefit of more of our neighbours. The cities that seize this moment will enter the post-COVID-19 world wiser, fairer and more resilient. Austin will be one of those cities.”

The full list of mayors to have formally endorsed the Statement of Principles follows:

Eric Garcetti, Mayor of Los Angeles
Kostas Bakoyannis, Mayor of Athens
Steve Adler, Mayor of Austin
Ada Colau, Mayor of Barcelona
Claudia López, Mayor of Bogotá
Martin J. Walsh, Mayor of Boston
Horacio Rodríguez-Larreta, Chief of Government of Buenos Aires
Lori Lightfoot, Mayor of Chicago
Frank Jensen, Lord Mayor of Copenhagen
Rafael Greca, Mayor of Curitiba
Mxolisi Kaunda, Mayor of Durban
Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, Mayor of Freetown
KS Wong, Secretary for the Environment, Hong Kong, China
Sylvester Turner, Mayor of Houston
Fernando Medina, Mayor of Lisbon
Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London
Jorge Muñoz, Mayor of Lima
Daniel Quintero Calle, Mayor of Medellín
Sally Capp, Lord Mayor of Melbourne
Claudia Sheinbaum, Mayor of Mexico City
Giuseppe Sala, Mayor of Milan
Valérie Plante, Mayor of Montréal
LaToya Cantrell, Mayor of New Orleans
Bill de Blasio, Mayor of New York City
Raymond Johansen, Governing Mayor of Oslo
Ted Wheeler, Mayor of Portland
Josephina Belmonte, Mayor of Quezon City
Ahmed Aboutaleb, Mayor of Rotterdam
Antônio Carlos Peixoto de Magalhães Neto, Mayor of Salvador
Bruno Covas, Mayor of São Paulo
London Breed, Mayor of San Francisco
Felipe Guevara, Governor of Santiago
Jenny Durkan, Mayor of Seattle
Park Won-soon, Mayor of the Metropolitan Government of Seoul
Clover Moore, Lord Mayor of Sydney
Ron Huldai, Mayor of Tel Aviv – Yafo
Kennedy Stewart, Mayor of Vancouver

Statement of Principles

The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly impacted the world’s cities. It is not just a global health crisis, but a social and economic crisis, the effects of which will be felt for years to come. In many ways it is also an urban phenomenon, with its roots in environmental destruction and humanity’s relationship with nature.

As mayors, we are committed to supporting the residents of our cities and protecting their health, based on the guidance of expert advice. As members of C40 Cities, we are sharing what we have learned over the past months, and the knowledge we have gained in responding to other crises – public health, economic and environmental.

It is clear that the harm caused by COVID-19 has not been equitable. The most vulnerable and the most disadvantaged are being hurt the most by both the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. It is also clear that the world was not fully prepared for this crisis, despite lessons learned from SARS, MERS, Ebola and other recent public health and climate emergencies. This is, in part, a consequence of the undermining of international mechanisms and institutions which were built to bring peace and prosperity to all. It is, in part, a consequence of ignoring science-based knowledge.

We, as leaders of major cities across the globe, are clear that our ambition should not be a return to ‘normal’ – our goal is to build a better, more sustainable, more resilient and fairer society out of the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. Therefore, our joint strategy to support the recovery of our cities and their residents from COVID-19 will be governed by these principles:

  • The recovery should not be a return to ‘business as usual’ – because that is a world on track for 3°C or more of over-heating;
  • The recovery, above all, must be guided by an adherence to public health and scientific expertise, in order to assure the safety of those who live in our cities;
  • Excellent public services, public investment and increased community resilience will form the most effective basis for the recovery;
  • The recovery must address issues of equity that have been laid bare by the impact of the crisis – for example, workers who are now recognised as essential should be celebrated and compensated accordingly and policies must support people living in informal settlements;
  • The recovery must improve the resilience of our cities and communities. Therefore, investments should be made to protect against future threats – including the climate crisis – and to support those people impacted by climate and health risks;
  • Climate action can help accelerate economic recovery and enhance social equity, through the use of new technologies and the creation of new industries and new jobs. These will drive wider benefits for our residents, workers, students, businesses and visitors;
  • We commit to doing everything in our power and the power of our city governments to ensure that the recovery from COVID-19 is healthy, equitable and sustainable;
  • We commit to using our collective voices and individual actions to ensure that national governments support both cities and the investments needed in cities, to deliver an economic recovery that is healthy, equitable and sustainable;
  • We commit to using our collective voices and individual actions to ensure that international and regional institutions invest directly in cities to support a healthy, equitable and sustainable recovery.
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About Author

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs in charge of public agencies around the world as well as chairmen and CEOs of multinational transportation technology corporations. Tom's early career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).