Photo credit: PRONico Giraldez


Long perceived as an environmental problem, urban areas are increasingly recognized as a source of solutions. Cities played a major role at the Paris climate summit, joining together in commitments that could keep 740 million tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

From Portland to São Paulo to Delhi and beyond, cities took their place in 2015 to answer the climate challenge. WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities supports city leaders through long-term engagement that promotes local solutions that can inform national and international climate policies.With 85 percent of global GDP generated in cities last year, urban leaders are important voices in the discussion.

Cities are taking action. Portland, Oregon, has made strides toward its goal to reduce carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050. São Paulo leveraged private partnerships to make its transport network more sustainable, while Brazil’s national government allocated funds to 50 cities for sustainable transport, using WRI-developed criteria. In India, WRI Ross Center worked with Delhi’s city government on transit and multi-use development along transit corridors, while in Indore, WRI helped the city fight a push by motorists that would have cut into more sustainable modes of transport.

The Compact of Mayors was launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change Michael Bloomberg. It’s the world’s largest effort to demonstrate cities’ commitment to cut climate-warming emissions, showing the powerful appetite for local leadership. WRI Ross Center works with Bloomberg Philanthropies and other organizations to provide technical advice and support cities in setting ambitious targets, developing emissions-cutting strategies and regularly reporting on their progress.

In Paris, the Climate Summit for Local Leaders showed that city policymakers are essential players in advancing global climate solutions. More than 400 mayors signed on to the Compact of Mayors. WRI research shows that 360 of these cities could collectively avoid 740 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually in 2030. To reach this level, all the Compact cities would need to commit to similarly ambitious targets and implement the necessary policies and actions. By the end of the Sustainable City Forum, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon announced that cities will be recognized formally in future climate negotiations.

“Future historians will write about 2015 as the year cities moved from being a problem to be solved to become a source of experimentation, innovation and solutions.”

Ani Dasgupta

Global Director, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities