Climate scientists and decision-makers at all levels of government around the world agree on this – any approach to tackle climate change must be multi-faceted, with support from the local, state, and federal levels. Cities can aim to reduce their carbon footprint by transitioning their local energy grid, converting public transportation systems, and creating sustainable development. This poses an obvious question: Even in a city of many people, such as Los Angeles, California, with a growing population of over 4 million people, how can one municipality’s actions have an impact on the growing threat of climate change? Mayors and local government leaders all around the world are discovering new ways to form a collective fight against climate change.
The impacts of change at the local level can have a substantial effect on global warming because over half of the world’s population now lives in cities. While agriculture and other rural issues play a huge role in the climate crisis, cities are both creating and enduring the effects of climate change, so they should act to combat it. Local governments have been successful both in the US and abroad. In Copenhagen, a smaller city of just over 400,000, they have changed public transportation, waste management, and their energy grid, all in efforts to reduce their carbon footprint. With plans to be net carbon neutral by 2025, they are fighting against the less progressive agenda of their state as a whole.
Much of this effort stems from a grassroots network of citizens who are passionate about fighting climate change and see the quickest actions occur at the local level. In late 2017, Denver citizens voted to approve a stringent mandate for rooftop gardens, against the preference of their mayor, which would aim to reduce the city’s “heat island” effect from heat-radiating roofs. Even cities that have been less urgent to pursue emissions reductions, such as New York, have set goals reducing greenhouse gas emittance by 75% in the coming decades–creating sources of energy storage throughout their grid. This eases some of the concerns that New Yorkers have about energy reliability as they transition to a more sustainable grid.
At the base of this worldwide commitment to green policy at the local level sits the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy. This organization is an “international alliance of cities and local governments with a shared long-term vision of promoting and supporting voluntary action to combat climate change.” The alliance supports a robust, locally-relevant agenda of policy solutions that reduce carbon emissions and aid in the fight against climate change. It allows cities and local governments to serve as partners, supporting one another and offering solutions to governance issues as they arise. The alliance is made up of cities from both developing and developed nations in 6 continents, serving as a leader in local government effort to reduce the impacts of climate change. This movement is representative of a collective shift towards progressive climate action starting at the local level.
Local efforts to fight climate change have been highly successful and are particularly important in the United States, where environmental initiatives often face partisan challenges at the federal and state levels. Although the issue is multi-faceted and must be approached using a multi-level strategy, the local government of any city, town, or county is a great place to start.
 Sengupta, Somini. “Copenhagen wants to show how cities can fight climate change.” New York Times, March 25, 2019.
 Murray. Jon. “Denver’s green roof initiative may face big changes that provide less-costly options — but its lead backer is OK with that.” Denver Post, May 14, 2018.
 Silverstein, Ken. “New York City aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by using energy storage.” Forbes, September 22, 2017.
 “About the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy.” Global Covenant of Mayors. Accessed March 25, 2019. https://www.globalcovenantofmayors.org/about/