This week, the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development kicks off in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Tomorrow, one day before the state-level conference begins, C40 is co-hosting an event with the City of Rio de Janeiro to highlight how local government actions to promote sustainability are creating positive change globally. 

The event is the culmination of year-long effort by C40 and its Chair to steer the conversation towards cities, and to call out the potential for cities to make an even greater impact going forward. In speeches and articles throughout the last 12 months, C40 Chair New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has delivered these messages.

During the C40 Mayors Summit in Sao Paulo a year ago, Mayor Bloomberg made it clear that “cities are on the front line” in the fight against climate change. During the Summit, the C40 Steering Committee looked ahead to Rio+20 and drafted a communiqué for Rio participants to highlight the increasingly important role cities play in adapting to and mitigating the impacts of climate change. The final document submitted to the UN called for cities to receive greater recognition and support, as well as a seat at the table in international negotiations on sustainable development. 

Since then, Mayor Bloomberg has carried these messages forward with an eye toward Rio+20. In December of last year, he delivered a keynote speech on new priorities for the Rio+20 conference during the Ford Foundation’s Forum on Sustainable and Just Cities, hosted in conjunction with the United Nations. The newest key priority for the UN? Cities. 

The reason is simple, as Mayor Bloomberg explained during an address to KPMG International’s ‘Business Perspective on Sustainable Growth: Preparing for Rio+20’ conference in February: cities are where “the majority of the planet’s people now live, and where the future of the world is already unfolding.” Since city governments are so close to the people they serve, he argued, mayors are assuming a leadership role in addressing both the sources and risks of climate change. 

Sustaining this leadership, however, requires that national governments help, not hinder the bold and often innovative actions cities are taking at the local level. In a speech delivered to a C40 and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Roundtable in March, Mayor Bloomberg outlined four targeted proposals and a call to action to Rio+20 to enhance cities’ abilities to measure greenhouse gas emissions consistently; establish informational and economic partnerships between cities; and expand cities’ access to financing for sustainable infrastructure. 

Tomorrow, Mayor Bloomberg will join President Bill Clinton and Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes in discussing these critical issues with urban leaders from around the world. Together, the leaders will announce a major milestone C40 Cities’ fight against global climate change – one that will demonstrate and amplify the important role of cities for participants at Rio+20. We hope you will tune in and join us.