Mayors representing the Global Mayors Covid-19 Recovery Task Force held a press conference on July 15 to release a detailed agenda that outlines specific measures and principles that are necessary for a sustainable and equitable recovery that addresses the immediate pandemic, as well as ensures preparedness for future shocks.
The task force was launched in April, at the direction of Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti, to establish a joint recovery strategy to rebuild cities and economies in a way that improves public health, reduces inequality and addresses the climate crisis.
The work of the task force is endorsed by more than 40 city leaders globally. The agenda is a greenprint for cities to move forward.
Garcetti says this is a moment in which all global crises demand answers – Covid-19, economic displacement, racial justice and inequality and climate change.
“Returning to normal is not the goal, we want to re-imagine what normal is. If normal means inadequate healthcare, social divisions and pollution, then it is not the answer.
“Crises can confuse or clarify. This should be a moment of global clarity to see what was not working and to not only recover, but re-imagine. We cannot treat our biggest issues as a laundry list that is dealt with one at a time. Instead, we need to look at the whole picture and recognise the interconnectivity between the crises,” he comments.
Task force chairperson and Milan mayor Giuseppe Sala adds that Covid-19 is causing immense hardship in cities, with the pandemic combining with the wider socioeconomic crisis.
“Sustainable recovery is the only way to avoid future health and climate crises. We need green jobs, more resilience and equity, a focus on health and wellbeing.
“Cities are working on these aspects, but cannot do it alone. We need the support of the national and regional governments and other institutions, to support a green and just recovery. End public subsidies for fossil fuels and have support go to sustainable cities,” he suggests.
Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan, meanwhile, says that to fight the pandemic, the world needs to pull together and break some systems that are in place, to come back to a better normal.
“We need to build ‘green’ and resilience into our economies quicker than we would have [otherwise].”
Among the measures mentioned in the agenda are green job creation programmes; increased rights and support for all workers whose efforts have proved essential during the Covid-19 crisis; investments in green industries such as guaranteed access to resilient public services, particularly for the most vulnerable; building retrofit programmes; investing in safe and reliable mass transit systems; and new protected spaces for pedestrians and cyclists.
Recognising that delivering an equitable, low-carbon recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic will require a global effort, C40 Cities and their allies have also called on national governments to support their efforts.
C40 mayors call for commitments to “ensure that all economic recovery funds and stimulus packages support a fair and sustainable transition”.
They are also calling for an end to all public investments in fossil fuels and an increase in investments in a low-carbon future.
C40 Cities is a group of 96 cities globally that are taking bold climate action.
The task force mayors’ agenda makes clear that the Covid-19 pandemic has starkly exposed deep inequalities in cities and across cities in different regions of the world, including by disproportionately impacting indigenous communities and people of colour, low-income communities, isolated elderly, and those living in informal settlements.
Mayors commit to addressing these injustices and call on national governments to ensure stimulus investment and recovery funds create more just and inclusive societies and communities and directly address long-standing inequalities and ongoing discrimination based on race, gender and income.
In short, the task force is urging that the only stimulus should be green stimulus towards a low-carbon transition for climate-resilient industries, while plans and investments for the recovery need to address the root causes of economic inequalities.
This can be done by providing direct and equitable access to green jobs and equal employment opportunities in the low-carbon transition; increasing equitable participation in the labour force through training and upskilling, especially for currently marginalised groups; and developing and applying appropriate regularisation mechanisms.
These mechanisms include formal recognition and documentation, to provide better employment conditions and social protection for essential informal workers.
Moreover, the task force highlights the need to protect and champion mass transit. To keep the air clean and prioritise the health of residents, governments must use stimulus funds to make public transportation more accessible, reliable, frequent, affordable, well-integrated, safe and more resilient in the face of future potential crises.
Governments must also make it easier for cities to procure electric buses while reallocating road space to public transit, cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, and help cities maintain and enhance some of the successful air quality, climate and road safety improvements introduced during lockdowns.
Further, the task force suggests that governments invest in renewable energy and building retrofit city programmes to create thousands of jobs, help residents save on energy bills and protect people’s health and safety with better and more energy efficient, healthier homes and offices.
“Cities have been on the front line of the pandemic and national governments, international financial institutions, multilateral development banks and other relevant financial entities must channel financial support directly to cities and ensure that cities can easily access this finance, recognising the need to combat the existing barriers they encounter,” the mayors state.
“Now is the time for bold thinking and swift action to support jobs and economies by investing in projects that deliver cleaner and greener cities,” says Melbourne mayor Sally Capp.
“In times of uncertainty citizens and businesses turn to government for answers and guidance. It is our duty to involve everyone to achieve our aim - a better, greener, more equal and just society,” says Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb.
“We need a forward thinking approach to accelerate our economic recovery through green, sustainable and inclusive initiatives and to create new industries and jobs that will drive wider benefits for our residents and businesses.
“Economic recovery must first come through investments in infrastructure that will help us rethink a greener and fairer city, including through public transit, parks and social housing,” says Montréal mayor Valérie Plante.
“As London and the rest of the world start to emerge from the Covid-19 lockdown, global collaboration between cities will be key to achieving a recovery that tackles climate change at a local and global level. We have a once in a generation opportunity to rebuild our cities and economies to be greener, fairer, and more sustainable,” notes London mayor Sadiq Khan.
C40 president and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg adds that the new mayors’ agenda provides a roadmap to a greener, healthier and more equitable world and that, with the right leadership, the world can recover in a way that strengthens communities, protects public health and fulfils the goals of the Paris Agreement.