Mayors must join forces to tackle climate change and rising inequalities simultaneously

©Alamy

Cities around the world are taking impressive initiatives to tackle climate change and reduce inequalities, but more can be achieved by aligning these policy agendas in mutually beneficial ways. 

Poorer populations suffer disproportionately from the effects of environmental degradation and the impacts of climate change. They are more likely to live in highly polluted, insalubrious neighbourhoods and to be more exposed to the likes of heat waves, mudslides and flooding, the risks of which will rise with climate change. Clearly policies that tackle poverty and inequality on the one hand and climate change on the other should go hand in hand.

Yet well-intended policies to address climate change can unwittingly undermine measures to promote more social equity. For instance, restrictive land-use regulations that are intended to reduce sprawl and the carbon footprint of the built environment can actually drive up housing costs. On the flip side, policies to promote inner city mobility can boost greenhouse gas emissions.

Cities are on the frontline of dealing with these twin challenges, and fortunately, there are potential “win-win” strategies that local authorities can pursue to deliver on both the climate and equity fronts. Well-planned public transit investments can open up new job opportunities for lower-income workers, just as local job strategies to promote skills and entrepreneurship in green economic activities can equip disadvantaged social groups with the skills needed for a greener economy. Similarly, measures to promote entrepreneurship and start-ups that tap into local public markets and resources can be devised not only in climate-friendly ways, but provide a channel for economic and social integration for everyone, not least marginalised groups.

In short, climate and equity policies must go hand in hand, and there are several exemplary cases to prove that such approaches work, from mobility projects in Rio de Janeiro to eco-friendly “circular economy” programmes in Paris. In fact, as well as being the venue of the historic UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in December 2015 (in which mayors played a prominent role), Paris has been playing a leading role in advancing a more integrated approach to addressing climate and equity challenges.

On 21 November the city’s mayor, Anne Hidalgo, hosted the second meeting of OECD Champion Mayors for Inclusive Growth, in which she was joined by OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, Ford Foundation President Darren Walker as well as mayors from around the world, from cities such as Dakar, Rotterdam, Cape Town, Medellin and Brussels, to launch the Paris Action Plan for Inclusive Growth in Cities. Under the action plan, participants have committed to work together to advance a comprehensive inclusive growth agenda based on four pillars: education; labour markets; housing and urban environments; and infrastructure and public services. The initiative is also supported by a number of institutional partners, including C40, Cities Alliance, Brookings Institution, ICLEI, National League of Cities, UCLG and United Way Worldwide.

The Paris meeting is no isolated event but part of a wave in which cities are well and truly taking a lead. In fact, just a fortnight after Paris, 50 mayors and 27 deputy mayors from the world’s largest cities met in Mexico City for the sixth biennial C40 Mayors Summit: Cities Leading Climate Action, with the aim of advancing efforts towards a low-carbon, resilient urban future.

The trouble is that while many cities have put climate change and rising inequalities at the top of their policy agendas, policy makers still need more tools to help them. This is why the OECD and C40, a network of cities that addresses climate change, are now joining forces to identify knowledge gaps, advance research, and ultimately promote best practices and policy solutions for achieving more inclusive, sustainable cities.

It is a rich and promising venture, but our cities, however determined to work alongside each other, need all levels of government--national, regional and international--to double-down on their efforts and work coherently in the pursuit of climate and equity objectives. National governments in particular must do more to create a strong enabling environment, for instance, by finally putting a price on carbon and taking measures to promote skills and entrepreneurship, and underpin this cross-cutting agenda, which so many mayors from around the world now champion. When it comes to tackling inequality and climate change, better policies will come from working better together.

OECD (2016), “Paris Action Plan for Inclusive Growth in Cities”, see http://oe.cd/1Ff

OECD (2014), All on Board for Inclusive Growth, OECD Publishing

OECD (2010), Cities and Climate Change, OECD Publishing

“Fighting climate change: What city mayors are doing”, OECD Observer Roundtable of City Mayors, 2015, http://oe.cd/1Fe

Visit www.oecd.org/inclusive-growth/about/inclusive-cities-campaign and www.c40.org

www.oecdobserver.org/cities

©OECD Observer No 308 Q4 2016




Economic data

GDP growth: +0.7% Q2 2017 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.3% Sept 2017 annual
Trade: +1.4% exp, +1.7% imp, Q2 2017
Unemployment: 5.7% Sept 2017
Last update: 14 Nov 2017

E-Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive paper editions delivered to you directly


Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • Papers show “past coming back to haunt us”: OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria tells Sky News that the so-called "Paradise Papers" show a past coming back to haunt us, but one which is now being dismantled. Please watch the video.
  • The annual OECD Eurasia Week takes place in Almaty, Kazakhstan 23-25 October. Writing in The Astana Times, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría urges Eurasia countries to stay the course on openness and international integration, which has brought prosperity but also disillusionment, notably regarding inequality. The OECD is working with this key region, and Mr Gurría urges Eurasia to focus on human capital and innovation to enhance productivity and people’s well-being. Read more.
  • When someone asks me to describe an ideal girl, in my head, she is a person who is physically and mentally independent, brave to speak her mind, treated with respect just like she treats others, and inspiring to herself and others. But I know that the reality is still so much different. By Alda, 18, on International Day of the Girl. Read more.
  • Globalisation’s many benefits have been unequally shared, and public policy has struggled to keep up with a rapidly-shifting world. The OECD is working alongside governments and international organisations to help improve and harness the gains while tackling the root causes of inequality, and ensuring a level playing field globally. Please watch.
  • Read some of the insightful remarks made at OECD Forum 2017, held on 6-7 June. OECD Forum kick-started events with a focus on inclusive growth, digitalisation, and trust, under the overall theme of Bridging Divides.
  • Checking out the job situation with the OECD scoreboard of labour market performances: do you want to know how your country compares with neighbours and competitors on income levels or employment?
  • Trade is an important point of focus in today’s international economy. This video presents facts and statistics from OECD’s most recent publications on this topic.
  • How do the largest community of British expats living in Spain feel about Brexit? Britons living in Orihuela Costa, Alicante give their views.
  • Brexit is taking up Europe's energy and focus, according to OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. Watch video.
  • OECD Chief Economist Catherine Mann and former Bank of England Governor Mervyn King discuss the economic merits of a US border adjustment tax and the outlook for US economic growth.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at www.oecd.org/careers .

Most Popular Articles

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2017