Climate change is an issue to be taken on at all levels of society. Local and regional governments can, and increasingly are, leading the way in reimagining life in their towns and cities. Certain effects of climate change can already be felt on the local level. That is why it makes a lot of sense that local governments are part of addressing them. Making climate change, and climate action, tangible can also help build support for larger-scale action.
One key area in which this is already playing out is air pollution. The WHO has demanded that clean air and its consequences for health are integrated more closely into the national climate plans adopted under the Paris Agreement. However, according to the UN, only 20% of climate plans currently deal with the health consequences of air pollution. At the same time, poor air quality causes 422,000 premature deaths each year in Europe.
At the C40 World Mayors Summit, taking place in Copenhagen from 9-12 October, 35 cities decided to take the lead in addressing this problem. Barcelona, Berlin, Copenhagen, Heidelberg, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Paris, Rotterdam, Stockholm, and Warsaw have all committed to set new air quality standards that meet or exceed existing national targets within two years. Such local leadership is key to success in dealing with climate change. This case also shows that dealing with climate change actually helps us deal with many other issues we want to address.