Author | Amaia PorteiroAccording to UN figures, 55% of the world’s population lives in cities and this figure is expected to increase to 68% by 2050. Some organisations even talk of higher figures.It is clear that if we want to combat the climate change challenge, cities must not only take part in solutions, but spearhead them. Because, cities themselves, regardless of size or location, are already suffering the direct consequences; fires, rising sea levels, heatwaves, lack of water… And these extreme weather events are expected to increase in the coming years.Therefore, future generations are going to have to tackle a global problem they didn’t create. They will have to combat climate change, shortage of resources (just in the last 50 years, more resources have been consumed than in the entire history of humanity) and increased water scarcity. But, is there any room for optimism? Can any solutions be implemented?During the Barcelona 2019 Smart City Expo World Congress, some of the most prominent people in climate change discussed future perspectives.The speakers coincide in that there are already scientific and technological solutions available, but there has not been any real commitment to implement them. Despite the climate change phenomenon first being highlighted back in the 80s, hardly any progress has been made to put an end to it in the last three decades. Therefore, it is essential to take immediate action and citizens need to pressure governments into developing the necessary policies.As indicated by Laura Faye Tenenbaum, science and climate communicator and senior science editor of NASA’s climate change website: “Citizens feel overwhelmed; they feel deflated. They need to assemble to become activists who don’t fear change, but rather get excited by change and spearhead it”.
How can cities (and citizens) be the driving force behind a greener future?The well-known saying, “think globally, act locally” is still so apt today, but now that the problems and challenges are visible even at a local level, we should now focus on thinking glocally. That is, both at a macro and micro level.It is also time to change the terminology. “We should be talking, once and for all, about Climate Crisis and not Climate Change, if we are to transmit the urgency of the required changes”, indicated Mauricio Vila Dosal, Governor of the state of Yucatán (Mexico).The “crisis” concept would also be a wake-up call for society, making it more aware of the negative consequences taking place right now in their immediate surroundings. If citizens do not insist that the representatives of their local governments implement long-term solutions to these problems, it will be hard for them to have the budget required to implement them.Laura Faye Tenenbaum firmly believes that residents in cities should begin by organising themselves autonomously: “as citizens, in order to act, we need to be better organised than the polluters, those with economic interests in nothing changing”.At an individual level, the most effective action plan is simple:
- Take responsibility as individuals.
- Join local communities and groups to find solutions to specific problems.
- If you can’t find a local group to join, create one and spearhead it.