Addressing Climate Change With City Leaders Who Are Making a Difference

Earlier this week, "Our Cities, Our Climate" brought mayors and city officials from around the world to Washington to discuss the vital role that cities play in leading climate change efforts. As Secretary Kerry emphasized in his remarks at the State Department, the steps that cities take in the coming years can tip the scale toward a successful global response to the challenge of climate change. In partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies, we brought officials to the United States for "Our Cities, Our Climate" because the State Department understands the very valuable role that cities play in addressing a wide range of challenges that often lead to broader policies.

While events culminated in Washington, D.C., this partnership also sent officials from 19 global cities to both Boston and San Francisco through an International Visitor Leadership Program. There, these climate change leaders saw how these two U.S. cities are leading the way through their efforts. For example in San Francisco, the group visited EcoCenter at Heron's Head Park, a LEED Platinum facility and park. It is also the first and only environmental education center in San Francisco that is "off the grid." I met up with the city leaders shortly after the visit, and they raved about the potential of buildings and initiatives like this in their cities, both to draw in the community and to stimulate economic growth.

In Boston, the group visited Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and met with city officials, including the city's chief of environment. In both cities, as well as in Washington, the group told us they took away ideas to implement back home. In the process, they also shared with U.S. mayors and city officials many of the efforts that are working for them and helping to advance their cities. This type of exchange is exactly why the State Department brings people together on initiatives like "Our Cities, Our Climate."

At the State Department event, Michael Bloomberg, UN Secretary General's Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, commented, "Cities are anxious to lead, and more -- the more they learn from one another and they borrow from one another, the more progress the world can make on climate change."

Mayor Fumiko Hayashi of Yokohama, Japan added that addressing climate change is really a business opportunity, as well as a necessity. Speaking on a panel at the event, she said that after the Fukushima nuclear accident, Japan realized it would need to turn to alternative energies to continue to power their cities. As a result, they have increased usage of thermal power. The presenters all made it clear that change must happen.

As Secretary Kerry said, "The answer to climate change is not a mystery. It's not some pie-in-the-sky policy that we haven't discovered yet. It is staring us in the face, folks. It's called clean energy. It is that simple. And we're simply not going to get where we need to be unless we move rapidly towards a global, low-carbon, clean energy economy."

We are proud to support the efforts of cities across the globe, who are helping lead the way.