States face off over future of Obama global warming plan

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Two weeks after officials in two dozen states asked Republican President-elect Donald Trump to kill one of Democratic President Barack Obama’s signature plans to curb global warming, another group of state officials is urging Trump to save it.

Democratic attorneys general in 15 states plus four cities and counties sent a letter to Trump asking him to preserve Obama’s Clean Power Plan, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the lead author, announced Thursday.

Source: States face off over future of Obama global warming plan

 

Mapping Tool Aims to Keep Public Spaces Public – Next City

Kathleen Webster lived on Forsyth Street on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the late 1970s, when her neighbors started organizing around Sara D. Roosevelt Park. Everything around it was boarded up and closed.

Source: Mapping Tool Aims to Keep Public Spaces Public – Next City

“This community got on bicycles, did a whistle campaign. They organized themselves to take the park back from pimps and drug dealers,” she says.

The police, and eventually the parks department, were more than happy to work closely with the community, Webster remembers. “At the time, they were happy actually to have anybody take it on, because nobody else wanted to be here,” she says. “As one person told me, a parks employee threw the keys at him for a back gate, and said ‘do you want to take care of this?’”

Take care of it they did, Webster and her neighbors. They focused their initial energies on one section of the narrow but long park and transformed it into the BRC Senior Center, which is now surrounded by the Elizabeth Hubbard Memorial Garden (named for one of the original volunteers). The site became the anchor to gradually wrest the park back to healthy, productive community use. Webster, who still lives in the neighborhood, became president of the Sara D. Roosevelt Park Community Coalition, which continues to organize around the park.

But times have changed. The Lower East Side is now one of the hottest real estate markets in Manhattan. Public assets, including parks, park buildings, former schools, library buildings whether they’re in use or not, community gardens and city-owned vacant lots are suddenly in the crosshairs of developers who once wouldn’t touch the neighborhood. Now the volunteers who worked to make the area safe are left wondering: How can they get the attention of public officials when people with deep pockets are drawing up plans and proposing shiny designs for repurposing public assets that seem otherwise underutilized?

“If you think of development as a race, with a starting line and a finish line, in too many communities, government starts at or slightly ahead of the starting line, the developer’s usually way down the road, and the communities aren’t even at the starting line,” says Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, the state chapter of the national civic engagement and government accountability organization.

Common Cause New York has been collaborating with the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center and 596 Acres on the NYCommons initiative to build a modern set of organizing tools to help grassroots groups compete with private real estate developers when it comes to determining the future of publicly owned assets across the city. One of those tools is a new online map and database of all the public assets that, while hard to define, essentially provide some type of potential real estate development opportunity — something a city agency could potentially sell or lease to someone else.

“The baseline thing we need to do is figure out what the set of things is that we’re trying to include in this conversation,” says attorney Paula Segal, founder of 596 Acres, which supports grassroots organizing around vacant publicly owned lots in NYC. “The truth is, we’re in a city, most of our infrastructure and our assets are shared — the subways, the roads, the sidewalks, the water, something like 30, 40 percent of all housing in the city is some form of cooperatively owned. The list goes on and on to the point where privately owned property can start to seem like the real outlier.”

Residents like Webster and her neighbors have long been organizing around many of these assets. About three or four years ago, Lerner says, Common Cause and the other NYCommons partners started to see a pattern in the organizing against a proposed soccer stadium taking away public park space in Queens, around the Midtown Library in Manhattan, and around the future of the main Brooklyn Public Library Branch and other public assets.

“It seemed as if each one of these particular issues was being attacked as if it was a free-standing issue, and the people working on it were thinking of it as ‘this is a parks issue, this is a libraries issue,’” Lerner says. “We started thinking about the fact that all of these separate challenges had similar underlying policy issues that have to do with how does government think about commonly owned, shared assets.”

Residents were spending huge amounts of time and energy, often to no avail for some of these larger proposals and projects involving public assets.

Meanwhile, when it came to vacant lots, over nearly the same two-year period, grassroots groups in four of the five boroughs successfully organized around 36 former publicly owned vacant lots, which were officially declared permanent public parks at the end of 2015. 596 Acres supported 17 of those grassroots groups.

“We were able to get new parks created by getting people involved very early on before anybody talked about flipping anything in vacant, publicly owned real estate assets in their own neighborhoods, transforming them into community resources that maybe weren’t recognized as permanent when they were created, but they became permanent,” says Segal.

596 Acres has developed a number of tools and found or created resources specifically around city-owned vacant land, including its own online map and database, Living Lots NYC, that provides a useful platform for organizers to connect and maintain records of organizing activity around each lot. NYCommons hopes to create an expanded tool set to serve grassroots organizing around the broader universe of public assets in NYC.

They started by asking. NYCommons went to 10 neighborhoods over the spring and summer where they knew people were organizing. Lerner says they found “a tremendous amount of energy in all five boroughs” for sharing best practices and connecting with others doing similar work.

NYCommons picked three neighborhoods for pilots, and provided them documentation, workshop facilitation and other resources to begin developing a tool kit. Many resources already existed, thanks to groups like the Center for Urban Pedagogy or New Yorkers for Parks. The Sara D. Roosevelt Park Community Coalition was one of the pilot sites.

“Movement happens in funny ways, but the NYCommons materials were very helpful as a draft basis from which to go,” says Webster.

The coalition’s current focus is a former recreation center, currently used as a systemwide parks storage facility, smack dab in the middle of a well-used area of the park. “We’ve been having a conversation about this building since 1994,” says Webster.

The group had already successfully lobbied local Council Member Margaret Chin and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer to earmark $1 million for renovations to the building, but the parks department has yet to propose a new purpose for the building. Webster credits NYCommons for helping get through this most recent round of community visioning for the site. Chin testified at a recent hearing that she supported one of the coalition’s ideas to turn the facility into a daytime drop-in center for the homeless.

Efforts by Webster and the other pilot sites around the city will continue to shape the final NYCommons tool kit and the online platform. Many sites already have data from recent years’ organizing efforts that need to be uploaded. The organizing track records themselves provide vital talking points for future hearings and op-eds and community meetings.

“There’s a real hunger for this in neighborhoods of all different backgrounds,” says Lerner. “Hopefully NYCommons can provide an entrée into a fairly sophisticated, experienced, citywide network of groups who are all thinking along the same lines, putting pressure on government to be responsive, with a similar vocabulary and set of expectations about public assets serving the public.”

Oscar is a Next City 2015-2016 equitable cities fellow. A New York City-based journalist with a background in global development and social enterprise, he has written about impact investing, microfinance, fair trade, entrepreneurship and more for publications such as Fast Company and NextBillion.net. He has a B.A. in Economics from Villanova University.

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Why the municipal movement must be internationalist – Medium

The municipalist movements of the Spanish state can’t ignore the global crisis of neoliberalism. It’s up to us to stand up and defend our idea of bottom up, feminist and radically democratic change.

Article by Kate Shea Baird, Enric Bárcena, Xavi Ferrer and Laura Roth, originally published in Spanish in Público.es on 21/12/16.

The ‘municipal assault’ that’s been launched in many cities in the Spanish state over the past two years has been dizzying. Neighbourhood assemblies. Electoral programmes. Codes of ethics. Party negotiations. Crowdfunding. Electoral campaigns. Coalition deals. Offices. The streets. Administration. Achievements. Contradictions. Mistakes. Lessons learned. It would be easy to get absorbed in the daily victories and defeats if it weren’t for the turbulent global context in which we live. The Umbrella Revolution. Oxi. Refuggees. Nuit Debout. Brexit. Dilma Rousseff. The peace deal in Colombia. Trump. Le Pen. As urgent as the everyday tasks in our neighbourhoods may be, the municipal movement has the responsibility to reflect on our role beyond our cities and the borders of the state.

More at the Source: Why the municipal movement must be internationalist – Medium

Preparing for Trump’s Presidency by Upgrading Municipal Operations

Trump has already threatened that he will limit federal funding to “sanctuary cities” that don’t adopt his immigration policies. Different cities receive different amounts of federal funding, with Los Angeles receiving around 3% of its budget from the Feds, New York and Chicago receive about 10% and Washington DC receives nearly 25%.

The more Trump squeezes the finances of a city, the more its residents need to support each other. This support can’t simply be in the form of words posted in print and social media, but in direct actions. Conventional actions such as volunteering to help the needy won’t be enough. Protests that disrupt the operations of the city will be counter productive.

We need city resident to help city government fill gaps left by a federal government that can no longer be trusted. This municipal capacity building work must be done in an open and transparent manner that invites residents to contribute deeply to this effort. Cities have massive human resources, and we need to mobilize them to create cost savings that will offset the dwindling of federal funds.

The best way to do that is to allow residents to see into capacity building processes so they can figure out where they can most effectively plugin. This will enable residents to self organize affinity groups than can supplement the efforts of city governments to increase their capabilities.

There are many ways citizens can help their cities increase capacity. One way is to modernize city administration by helping governments adopt free and open source technology solutions that enable the government to run faster, better and cheaper. This is a task that the civic technology community is passionate about and one that they could certainly perform given the right access and resources.

The process of transforming administration through open technology implementation has been successfully performed by 18F, a unit within the Federal Government’s General Services Administration that helps agencies figure out how to improve their operations using open-source technology and iterative development processes. They’ve been extremely successful, to the point where government contractors lodged an official complaint that 18F was hurting their businesses by saving the Federal government too much money.

Does anyone familiar with the capabilities of new technologies have any doubt that a governance system that incorporates smart phones and open source software into its design couldn’t out perform the centuries old legacy systems we current use? Instead of talking about it — let’s build it. For our cities. And now. As if the lives of our neighbors depends on it. Because it might!

This might sound like overkill, or too much work, but we have to be prepared if we want to defend ourselves and our neighbors from destructive federal actions. And if it turns out we overreacted and mistakenly volunteered to improve our city, so it goes.

Here Are the Sanctuary Cities Ready to Resist Trump’s Deportation Threats | Mother Jones

President-elect Donald Trump still has about two months to go before he is inaugurated, but pockets of resistance to his mass immigrant deportation plan are already emerging across the country. Since his election, local officials in at least 18 major “sanctuary” cities have pledged to limit their cooperation with federal immigration officials. By one estimate, 12 of these cities account for roughly 20 percent of all undocumented immigrants in the United States.

“We have been and always will be a city of refuge, a city of sanctuary, a city of love,” said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee.

Original Source: Here Are the Sanctuary Cities Ready to Resist Trump’s Deportation Threats | Mother Jones

There are at least 364 counties that limit their cooperation with federal immigration authorities, including 39 cities. For years, these sanctuary cities have resisted federal deportation efforts in different ways. Some jurisdictions have policies that prevent police officers from inquiring into the immigration status of residents; in other locales, jails have refused to comply with requests from the feds to hold suspected undocumented immigrants past their scheduled release dates. Immigration advocates argue that that these tactics encourage immigrants in their communities to report crimes or cooperate with police investigations.

But critics of sanctuary cities, like Trump, say these policies run contrary to federal immigration law and risk releasing criminals onto the streets. In fact, the term “sanctuary city” has become so politicized that many jurisdictions have hesitated to accept the label. (It is worth noting that evidence suggests sanctuary cities are actually safer for local residents.)

Trump has vowed to stomp out such local resistance by cutting off federal funding to any sanctuary city. That would mean that in a worst-case scenario, these jurisdictions risk losing anywhere between 1 percent and 25 percent of their total city budgets, depending on how much they rely on federal funds. However, a Trump administration may decide not to withhold all that funding. The Los Angeles Times reported that Trump’s advisors are considering specifically targeting law enforcement funding.

Here are some of the metros that have renewed their resistance to federal deportation efforts since the election—in order of what percent of their budgets they stand to lose if Trump stays true to his threats:

District of Columbia
At risk: 25 percent of its city budget.

DC risks more of its budget than any other jurisdiction on this list. A week after Trump’s election, Mayor Muriel Bowser reaffirmed that DC would remain a sanctuary city by keeping in place its policy of preventing city employees and police officers from asking residents about their immigration status. DC also grants driver’s licenses and other benefits to undocumented immigrants.

San Francisco
At risk: More than 10 percent of the city budget, amounting to about $1 billion total.

San Francisco has put in place some of the most expansive sanctuary city laws in the country. In fact, the city has been at the center of the sanctuary city debate ever since 2015, when a young woman was killed by an undocumented Mexican immigrant who had reportedly been deported five times and had just been released from the sheriff department’s custody. Trump repeatedly drew attention to the case during his campaign. After Trump’s election, Mayor Ed Lee and the school district and sheriff’s office, among others, pledged to abide by San Francisco’s current policies. “We have been and always will be a city of refuge, a city of sanctuary, a city of love,” Lee said. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the city attorney is looking into the possibility of suing the federal government should it withhold funds.

Chicago
At risk: At least 10 percent of the city budget, totaling more than $1 billion.

According to the Chicago Tribune, should Trump choose to target law enforcement funding, the city could stand to lose nearly $29 million per year in justice grants. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel vowed that Chicago “always will be a sanctuary city.” He added, “To all those who are, after Tuesday’s election, very nervous and filled with anxiety as we’ve spoken to, you are safe in Chicago, you are secure in Chicago, and you are supported in Chicago.”

Providence, Rhode Island
At risk: Approximately 10 percent of the city budget, amounting to $71 million last year.

Providence does not refer undocumented immigrants charged with low-level civil infractions to federal immigration authorities. Mayor Jorge Elorza, the son of Guatemalan immigrants, does not consider Providence a sanctuary city, but he did declare in a statement, “We are standing with cities like Los Angeles and New York City who have made it clear that we will not sacrifice a single resident and we will continue to protect our communities.” He added, “It is important that every resident can live their lives without fear of being persecuted.”

Denver
At risk: About 9 percent of the city budget in 2015, or more than $175 million.

Justice Department funding, the most vulnerable to attack, amounted to about $5.4 million last year. The Denver Police Department released a statement in the wake of Trump’s election saying it does not plan to participate in federal immigration enforcement.

New York
At risk: About 9 percent of the city budget, totaling just over $7 billion.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has called Trump’s threats against so-called sanctuary cities “dangerous.” He said, “We are not going to sacrifice a half million people who live among us, who are part of our community. We are not going to tear families apart.” Should Trump choose to target law enforcement funding, the city’s police department budget is less vulnerable than the overall city budget. Just over 3 percent, or $185 million, of the police budget comes from federal aid.

Baltimore
At risk: About 8 percent of the city’s budget, or more than $216 million

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake reaffirmed that the city police will continue its policy of not asking about a person’s immigration status, stipulating that she considers Baltimore a “welcoming city” but not a “sanctuary city.”

Oakland, California
At risk: A rough estimate suggests that at least 4 percent of the city’s funds, or $52 million. (The Oakland City Administrator’s Office did not respond to our request for a specific breakdown of the budget.)

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf wrote in an op-ed that Oakland will “proudly stand as a sanctuary city—protecting our residents from what we deem unjust federal immigration laws.”

Minneapolis
At risk: 2 percent of the city budget—more than $25 million.

The police department stands to lose about $2.1 million in federal funding, or about 1.4 percent of its budget. Responding to Trump budget threats, Mayor Betsy Hodges said, “In his quest to scapegoat immigrants, Donald Trump has threatened cities’ federal funding if we do not change this practice. I repeat: I will continue to stand by and fight for immigrants in Minneapolis regardless of President-elect Trump’s threats.”

Los Angeles
At risk: About 2 percent of the city’s budget, or $507 million.

This year, Los Angeles is expected to receive $127 million in federal law enforcement grants. LA became one of the country’s first sanctuary cities, if not the first, back in 1979. Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck declared that his department will not “engage in law enforcement activities solely based on somebody’s immigration status.”

Santa Fe, New Mexico
At risk: About 2 percent of the city’s annual budget, or about $6 million in federal funding.

The city’s police department relies on federal funding for just 0.25 percent of its budget, or about $62,000. Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales vocally denounced Trump’s proposed policy toward sanctuary cities on Fox and CNN, earning him the title of the latest “public face of ‘sanctuary cities.’” He called Trump funding threats “dangerous.”

Aurora, Colorado, and Seattle:
At risk: About 1.8 percent of each city’s total budget and 2 to 3 percent of Seattle’s police budget.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said that standing by his city’s policies is “the most American thing we could possibly do.”

Portland, Oregon
At risk: Up to 1.3 percent of its total budget and up to 2 percent of its police budget.

Portland Mayor-elect Ted Wheeler said, “We’re saying that we’re willing to sacrifice those dollars and we are willing to live with whatever consequences may come our way.”

Other cities that have vowed to restrict their participation in Trump’s mass deportation plan include Philadelphia, Boston, Newark, and Austin.

Source: Here Are the Sanctuary Cities Ready to Resist Trump’s Deportation Threats | Mother Jones.

Gov. Jerry Brown: California could ‘launch its own damn satellite’ – Business Insider

Source: Gov. Jerry Brown: California could ‘launch its own damn satellite’ – Business Insider

The governor of California, Jerry Brown, gave a fiery speech at a meeting of scientists Wednesday, promising to fight back against attacks on climate science.

Read More:  Gov. Jerry Brown: California could ‘launch its own damn satellite’ – Business Insider.

Rural Areas Lose People But Not Power

Source: Rural Areas Lose People But Not Power

This story is part of a special series on America’s rural/urban divide.

Jim Wheeler represents Gardnerville, a little town of 5,600 people about a half-hour east of Lake Tahoe, in the Nevada Assembly. Last fall, he gained instant national notoriety when a video surfaced in which he said he would vote to support slavery if that’s what his constituents wanted. He was roundly criticized by media outlets both national and local, as well as leaders of his own party. Wheeler soon apologized.

But some of his other remarks on the tape triggered nearly as great a reaction, at least in Nevada. He suggested that Clark County in the southeast corner of the state—home to Las Vegas and 73 percent of Nevada’s entire population—should be split off from the state. “This is the biggest divide in the state, North and South,” Wheeler said. “Las Vegas wants everything, and they don’t care about the rurals.”

Ever since, legislators from southern Nevada have vowed to take revenge, strategizing about how they can get a larger share of state resources. It should be a snap. “Southern Nevada has had a majority of the legislators and now has a supermajority,” says Jon Ralston, a prominent commentator on Nevada politics. “If the delegation [could] stick together, they could get anything they want.”

Read more: Rural Areas Lose People But Not Power

Global Network of Mayors Join Forces to Combat Climate Change and Inequality – Shareable

Source: Global Network of Mayors Join Forces to Combat Climate Change and Inequality – Shareable

Cities around the world face the effects of climate change and wealth inequality. To address these pressing, global issues many mayors are stepping up as powerful, and vital, voices for creating low carbon, healthy cities that address climate as well as social issues.

At the recent C40 Mayor’s Summit in Ciudad de México, which was the largest group of local leaders fighting climate change since COP21 in Paris, mayors gathered to advance a shared agenda, share knowledge, and increase the visibility of climate solutions in cities.

More here: Global Network of Mayors Join Forces to Combat Climate Change and Inequality – Shareable.

 

Mayors WorldWide Will Act on Climate, Whatever Trump Does – Scientific American

Source: Mayors WorldWide Will Act on Climate, Whatever Trump Does – Scientific American

Mayors WorldWide Will Act on Climate, Whatever Trump Does – Scientific American.

Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago, from left, speaks while Wong Kam-Sing, secretory of the environment for Hong Kong, and Gregor Robertson, mayor of Vancouver, listen during a press conference at the C40 Mayors Summit in Mexico City, Mexico, on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016.

Leaders from 90 world “megacities” meeting in Mexico City this week are sending a message that they plan to act on climate change—whatever national leaders do.

The sixth C40 Mayors Summit is occurring one year after the landmark conference in Paris, at which nearly 200 countries agreed to take steps to limit warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius compared with preindustrial levels. But it is also taking place in the shadow of last month’s election of President-elect Donald Trump, who has promised to “cancel” U.S. participation in the agreement.

In a call with reporters ahead of the conference Monday, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg acknowledged that the world has “a lot of concern” about the track Trump is likely to take on warming.

“But mayors, as we know, have never waited for Washington to act here in the United States,” said Bloomberg, who is also the United Nations’ special envoy for cities and climate change. “They’ve never waited for an international treaty to take steps to protect their citizens and improve public health. And whatever happens, mayors will continue leading by example.”

Bloomberg and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who is the incoming chairwoman of the group, released a report this week showing that the world’s large cities would need to peak emissions by 2020 and then nearly halve carbon emissions for every citizen in a decade to avoid the worst impacts of warming. This compares with a business-as-usual trajectory of a 35 percent increase in emissions over the next four years.

The so-called Deadline 2020 analysis proposes that city governments focus on placing key sectors in building, transportation and urban development on a low-carbon pathway. It estimated a price tag of $375 billion over the next four years for new climate-friendly infrastructure in C40’s 90 cities.

It also set ambitious reduction targets for urban centers. While cities would take the same steps over the next 14 years to achieve either the 2 C target or Paris’ more aspirational goal of containing warming to 1.5 C, the difference between the two goals becomes more pronounced after 2030. The report found that the tighter goal would require cities to zero out their emissions on a net basis by midcentury and make them negative in the second half of the century.

Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation and Realdania offered a joint pledge of $40 million toward supporting actions in cities. It’s part of a recent trend in private-sector support for initiatives on research, phasing out chemicals and other climate issues. But Bloomberg sidestepped a question about whether private dollars might replace some or all of the public commitments the Obama administration made to the Green Climate Fund if Trump withdraws U.S. support.

“Since we haven’t been getting a lot from the federal government, it’s hard to argue that they can cut back a lot,” he said.

“But in all fairness to Trump, we don’t know what he’s going to want to do,” Bloomberg added. The president-elect repeatedly said on the campaign trail that he would rescind all funding for climate programs, signaling out U.N. funds in particular as something he would eliminate.

‘Get on with it’

Today at the summit, Hidalgo will launch an initiative aimed at fostering female leadership on climate issues at the city level. Mayors, including Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C., will participate in the rollout of the Women4Climate initiative, which will provide a platform for climate leaders to mentor younger women and provide networking and capacity-building opportunities.

Research has shown that women in low- and moderate-income countries are more at risk than men of suffering from natural disasters or water and food shortages linked to climate change. But data on how warming might affect women in urban environments are scarcer, and Hidalgo’s initiative will support research into that.

Hidalgo, who is the daughter of Spanish immigrants to France and became Paris’ mayor in 2014, has frequently discussed climate change as a social justice issue with gender implications. She’s not alone. The bench of female climate leaders is very deep, including U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change chief Patricia Espinosa and her predecessor, Christiana Figueres; national leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel; and a number of mayors.

“Women are a very determined lot,” said Lord Mayor Clover Moore of Sydney, Australia, who will participate in the rollout. “I think we hang in there, notwithstanding misogyny and notwithstanding, as I have received, attacks from right-wing media in our city. And we do that because we believe that action is critical, and if we don’t take the action, the future could be disastrous.”

Moore offered her city as an example of how municipal governments can continue to make strides on climate action even as the federal government goes a different way. Australia repealed its carbon tax two years ago and has often been seen as a laggard in the international climate process, though it has ratified the Paris deal. Moore noted that Sydney has made climate action a priority.

With 80 percent of world emissions emanating from urban areas, action at the city level can add up to significant reductions, she said.

“I think the message to U.S. cities is that it’s more incumbent than ever that you get on with it, because it’s up to you, notwithstanding your federal leadership,” she said.

Reprinted from ClimateWire with permission from E&E News. E&E provides daily coverage of essential energy and environmental news at www.eenews.net.

The Global Parliament of Mayors can lead the devolution revolution | Citiscope

Source: The Global Parliament of Mayors can lead the devolution revolution | Citiscope

As the European Union unravels around the recent “Brexit” vote and right-wing populist nationalism, and the United States engages in a presidential primary that seems as much about whether the republic will have a future as about who will occupy the White House, the challenge to citizens is whether they can survive this daunting new interdependent world.

It is a world of terrorism without borders, climate change without frontiers, immigration without documentation and inequality without precedent — and given that the 400-year-old idea of the nation state is in trouble, the challenge is daunting indeed. For with its stubborn commitment to an archaic idea of sovereign independence rooted in zero-sum international relations, the nation state has become increasingly dysfunctional.

In my 2014 book “If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities”, I proposed that cities may be to the future what nations were to the past — efficient and pragmatic problem-solving governance bodies that can address sustainability and security without surrendering liberty or equality. If, that is, they can work together across the old and obsolete national borders. And if they can assume some of the prerogatives of sovereignty necessary to collaboration.

In fact, cities are doing just this. A few years ago, the United Nations announced that a majority of the world’s population lives in cities, while economists recognize that 80 percent or more of global gross domestic product is being produced in cities. From the United Kingdom and China to the United States and Italy, authority is being devolved to cities.

[See: The New Urban Agenda needs to recognize a future of city-to-city networks and trade]

Out of these developments has come the call for a Global Parliament of Mayors, a new body by, for and of cities to address the crisis in democratic governance. As I suggested in the book, it’s time to think about cities rather than nations, mayors rather than prime ministers. After all, their pragmatic capacity to solve problems and their inclination to transactional cooperation across borders makes cities more successful politically than any other extant political body. And their defining diversity makes them far more like the world to which they belong than the mono-cultural states through which they are governed.

To be blunt, cities are emerging as the de facto sovereigns of the 21st century.

The enduring vitality of the metropolis, now fully restored, is hardly surprising. After all, cities are much older than the nation states to which they belong, and much more open and multicultural — and hence more transactional and tolerant — than mono-cultural states, as well.

Moreover, citizens tend to view the city as the primary source of their identity; it is in the neighbourhood that many of our deepest attachments are rooted. States are in their origin abstract and contrived — more “imagined” than given. Cities are where we are born, grow up, go to school, marry; where we play, pray, create and work (thus “the creative city” in Richard Florida’s phrase); where we retire, cultivate our grandchildren, get old and die.

[See: Cities on the world stage: Players or spectators?]

Little wonder, then, that a devolution revolution is underway. As Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City has said, “When national governments fail to act on crucial issues like climate, cities have to do so.”

Civic trust

Cities have of course been cooperating for millennia, from the ancient Mediterranean League of Cities to the Hansa League of the 10th century (now reborn as the New Hansa). Today, climate and sea-level rise have become particular concerns of cities, 90 percent of which are built on water — on rivers, lakes, oceans and seas.

“On average, only a third of citizens around the world say they trust their national governments, while two-thirds or more trust mayors and other local officials.”

In December, the COP 21 meetings in Paris finally achieved a modest general agreement, calling for nations to prevent temperatures from rising by more than 2 degrees Celsius over average temperatures in the preindustrial era. Still, it appears that real implementation of this cautious and (scientists say) insufficient goal will depend on cities, where 80 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions are generated and the political will is present to act more forcefully than nations are likely to do.

[See: Habitat III must make climate change a top priority]

Indeed, with the work of such networks as ICLEI and the C40 Cities, cities will be a key to the success or failure of the Paris Agreement. Climate change is thus one of the three leading issues the new Global Parliament of Mayors will take up this week in its inaugural session.

And there is no time to lose: Unless COP 21’s modest goals are exceeded by the hard cooperative work of cities, humanity will face a devastating sea-level rise of up to six metres by the end of the century, inundating many great coastal cities around the world. As always, the wealthy will move while women and children, and the poor more generally, will be forced to stay in place and suffer the consequences. Trust in democracy will continue to wither.

Yet polls show that civic trust is city government remains high. On average, only a third of citizens around the world say they trust their national governments, while two-thirds or more trust mayors and other local officials.

No wonder cities are not only cooperating within nations through national municipal associations but also are collaborating across borders in successful global urban networks such as United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), Eurocities, Metropolis and the Compact of Mayors, as well as the United Nations’ Habitat programme, which will convene its third world meeting of cities next month at Habitat III. All of these go far beyond the beguiling but modest “sister cities” programme, proving not just that cities can collaborate — but that they are doing so.

[See: Habitat III should bolster city-to-city cooperation and learning]

Building on this foundation, mayors from around the world will convene this week in The Hague for the Global Parliament of Mayors, which aspires to become a capstone governing body in the broad arch of urban networks. Hague Mayor Jozias van Aartsen will host more than 70 cities large and small, from the Global North and Global South, developed and developing, seaside and land-locked. They will be joined by 30 urban networks and municipal NGOs committed to urban cooperation.

Glocal self-government

The Global Parliament of Mayors will make real the heady idea of empowering cities to speak in a common global voice and develop a platform for common global action. It will aim at common action on crucial global challenges that manifest themselves as urban crises.

“The Global Parliament of Mayors arises from the fundamental impulse to secure a “glocal” (global and local) means of effective self-government, and hence to empower cities and their citizens to act forcefully, consensually and in unison.”

The parliament will focus on two issues in particular. First, it will seek to address the crisis of climate change. Here, cities need to help realize the modest goals of the Paris climate agreement by acting as the engines and enablers of national states whose divisive ideological politics can stand in the way of climate action.

Second, the gathering will focus on the crisis of refugees — economic refugees seeking jobs and political refugees fleeing war and oppression. As with so many other issues, it has been cities that have borne the real burden of the movements of millions of people seeking sustainability and survival.

[See: Habitat III can help migration drive city development]

The Global Parliament of Mayors arises from the fundamental impulse to secure a “glocal” (global and local) means of effective self-government, and hence to empower cities and their citizens to act forcefully, consensually and in unison.

Its aim is neither to compete with nor to encroach upon sovereign nations. On the contrary, it aspires to cooperate with them and with the United Nations in solving common global problems that traditional governing bodies have found difficult to address. At the same time, however, the parliament will insist that cities have not just a responsibility but a right to act on behalf of their citizens, who represent a growing majority of the world’s population and more than 80 percent of its wealth generation.

The Global Parliament of Mayors cannot pretend to represent everyone. But it will manifest the ultimate right of urban majorities across the globe to take action together, beyond the confines of the borders of the states to which they belong — above all, in domains where the global agenda has been stalled or thwarted.

[See: Citizens are telling cities and national governments to cooperate]

After all, the social contract entails an agreement between individuals and a popularly empowered government in which individuals consent to obey the sovereign in return for the sovereign’s guarantee to secure life, liberty and property for those individuals. When a sovereign can no longer assure the ends for which government is established — when, in modern terms, sustainability and security are at risk — that sovereignty is in default.

In such a context, citizens have a right to reassume their natural rights and shift their obedience to such governing bodies as can assure sustainability along with life and liberty.

Municipal sovereignty

We are a long ways from having to embark on a municipal revolution. But the empowerment of cities today and the claim of the Global Parliament of Mayors to legitimacy ultimately do rest on a logic of rights: the right to life and liberty.

[See: The United Nations risks stifling its own progress on sustainable urbanization]

It is unlikely that this logic will need to be invoked to undertake the common urban work both states and cities are likely to welcome. Yet in the face of a sovereign default by nations, there is a new legitimacy for cities to act rooted in a version of municipal sovereignty. Cities acquire the right to govern by virtue of their capacity to do so, whether they act (ideally) in harmony with nations and international bodies like the U. N., or act despite resistance from such bodies.

Ultimately then, the founding of the Global Parliament of Mayors this week will be an experiment in democratic global governance by cities that will depend on the vision, prudence and courage of its founding mayors and those who come to join them in The Hague. This innovative cross-border exercise in democracy and responsibility — rooted in the leadership of visionary mayors and their engaged citizens, and founded on the right of citizens everywhere to sustainable and free lives — represents a historic and constructive moment in unruly and destructive times.

The Global Parliament of Mayors can lead the devolution revolution | Citiscope.

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