The best available science tells us that our climate is changing. Climate change affects all of us – across all sectors of society – our economy, livelihoods, health, food and water security are at stake. Impacts are already being felt, and the projections are that things are set to get worse – unless we take urgent action now. Successful mitigation and adaptation is up to all of us.
We’re facing a time of unprecedented challenges for all levels of government. In responding to these challenges, it is crucial that the broader context and links to climate change are recognised, including at the local level. We have an unparalleled opportunity to re-shape our local economy for the good of all and address the climate crisis at the same time. We need to build back better.
These types of situations and disruptions to business as usual can provide a rare opportunity to gain insights, and develop new approaches that can improve our lives long after the pandemic is under control. Now is the time to invest stimulus dollars into projects that address climate and social-equity needs, including bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, zero-emission vehicle fleet conversion and infrastructure deployment, green workforce training and job opportunities, urban greening and better access to healthy, local food.
Taking action to reduce the impacts of climate change has the potential to also reduce energy expenditures, improve food and water security, build community health and wellbeing, and stimulate local job creation and economic recovery.
Local government is on the front line and is responsible for taking a wide range of decisions that can make or break the success of any international strategy on climate change. Local authorities are ultimately responsible for making policy a reality. According to UNDP estimates, more than 70% of climate change reduction measures and up to 90% of climate change adaptation measures are undertaken by local government.
Projects delivered locally are designed to reflect local circumstances and it is these tailor-made solutions that allow us to take effective action. The economic and social impact of climate change on communities cannot be understated. Local governments around the world are leading the fight against climate change, taking decisive action on transport emissions, development planning, infrastructure and waste management.
But mitigation is only half the story. The changes that need to be made will have a real impact on people’s daily lives and it is vital to get the public on board. Local government can facilitate public participation and ensure local people understand climate change and its impacts, and are engaged in the process of identifying solutions that will work locally.
One of the biggest economic trends affecting communities will be the global move to a low carbon economy. Resilient communities do not wait for the future to happen. They embrace it by adapting, organising and innovating to ensure that the key factors determining their quality of life are shaped locally. The most resilient communities will be the ones that are most informed, proactive and collaborative.
The sooner we begin our transitions, the more choices we will have in how best to sustain our vibrant regions and communities into the future. Now, more than ever, it is vital that our local governments step up to ensure we are prepared for the challenges we face from our changing climate. The action we take now will determine the future we create for tomorrow.