Major Cities Issue COVID-19 Recovery Warning

Mayors from many of the world’s most powerful cities have warned that the recovery from COVID-19 cannot see a return to old ways.

Instead the mayor’s from 33 of the world’s leading cities have said the recovery need sot go hand in hand with efforts to tackle climate change and global warming, with the world on track for 3°C or more of over-heating.”

The C40 group of cities released a statement of principles that speels out how they wish to see the shape the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

The mayors, have pledged “to build a better, more sustainable and fairer society out of the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.”

The principles were adopted in the first meeting of C40’s Global Mayors COVID-19 Recovery Task Force, supported by C40 Chair, Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, and have been endorsed by scores of city leaders from around the world, including Los Angeles, Athens, Austin, Barcelona, Bogotá, Boston, Buenos Aires, Chicago, Copenhagen, Curitiba, Durban, Freetown, Hong Kong, Houston, Lima, Lisbon, London, Medellín, Melbourne, Mexico City, Milan, Montréal, New Orleans, New York City, Oslo, Portland, Quezon City, Rotterdam, Salvador, São Paulo, San Francisco, Santiago,  Seattle, Seoul, Sydney, Tel Aviv-Yafo and Vancouver .

The publication of the statement follows a series of virtual meetings attended by more than 40 mayors, intent on working together globally to overcome both the coronavirus and climate change crises.

Under the principles the Global Mayors COVID-19 Recovery Task Force will establish a common framework that all of C40’s global membership can use to create a “new normal” for city economies; agree upon concrete measures they can put in place for recovery; how to communicate about the climate crisis in a post-COVID-19 world; and how can they influence stimulus packages and interventions to support the necessary transition to a more sustainable, low-carbon, inclusive and healthier economy for people and the planet.

The Task Force will draw on the expertise of leading economists, including Kate Raworth, creator of Doughnut Economics and Senior Research Associate at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute; and heard at its first meeting from Michael Jacobs, Professorial Fellow at the  Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) at the University of Sheffield.

“COVID-19 has laid bare the systemic inequities too often found at the heart of our communities — and as we start to emerge from this crisis, we must rebuild an economy that truly works for everyone,” said C40 Chair and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “Our C40 statement of principles will provide a framework for a fair recovery — a sustainable and equitable vision that lifts up our most vulnerable residents and advances the work of our Global Green New Deal.”

The statement Said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly impacted the world’s cities. It is not just a global health crisis, but a social and economic crisis, the effects of which will be felt for years to come. In many ways it is also an urban phenomenon, with its roots in environmental destruction and humanity’s relationship with nature.

“As mayors, we are committed to supporting the residents of our cities and protecting their health, based on the guidance of expert advice. As members of C40 Cities, we are sharing what we have learned over the past months, and the knowledge we have gained in responding to other crises – public health, economic and environmental.

“It is clear that the harm caused by COVID-19 has not been equitable. The most vulnerable and the most disadvantaged are being hurt the most by both the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. It is also clear that the world was not fully prepared for this crisis, despite lessons learned from SARS, MERS, Ebola and other recent public health and climate emergencies. This is, in part, a consequence of the undermining of international mechanisms and institutions which were built to bring peace and prosperity to all. It is, in part, a consequence of ignoring science-based knowledge.

“We, as leaders of major cities across the globe, are clear that our ambition should not be a return to ‘normal’ – our goal is to build a better, more sustainable, more resilient and fairer society out of the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. Therefore, our joint strategy to support the recovery of our cities and their residents from COVID-19 will be governed by these principles.”

They include:

  • The recovery should not be a return to ‘business as usual’ – because that is a world on track for 3°C or more of over-heating;
  • The recovery, above all, must be guided by an adherence to public health and scientific expertise, in order to assure the safety of those who live in our cities;
  • Excellent public services, public investment and increased community resilience will form the most effective basis for the recovery;
  • The recovery must address issues of equity that have been laid bare by the impact of the crisis – for example, workers who are now recognised as essential should be celebrated and compensated accordingly and policies must support people living in informal settlements;
  • The recovery must improve the resilience of our cities and communities. Therefore, investments should be made to protect against future threats – including the climate crisis – and to support those people impacted by climate and health risks;
  • Climate action can help accelerate economic recovery and enhance social equity, through the use of new technologies and the creation of new industries and new jobs. These will drive wider benefits for our residents, workers, students, businesses and visitors;
  • We commit to doing everything in our power and the power of our city governments to ensure that the recovery from COVID-19 is healthy, equitable and sustainable;
  • We commit to using our collective voices and individual actions to ensure that national governments support both cities and the investments needed in cities, to deliver an economic recovery that is healthy, equitable and sustainable;
  • We commit to using our collective voices and individual actions to ensure that international and regional institutions invest directly in cities to support a healthy, equitable and sustainable recovery.

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London said: “I welcome the united effort by C40 Mayors to ensure that recovery from COVID-19 is sustainable and confronts the climate crisis. These are testing times for all of us. I want to reaffirm London’s commitment to working with our friends and partners overseas to limit the impact of this pandemic as much as possible, but also to build a better future.
“Covid-19 has exposed the inequality in our society and deep flaws in our economy, which fail people from deprived communities more than anyone else. We need to come out of this embracing a new normal and with a renewed drive to address the climate emergency.
“I will do all I can to harness Londoners’ ingenuity to create a better, greener and more equal city.”

Bill de Blasio, Mayor of New York City added: “The only parallel to what we’re facing right now is the Great Depression. Against that kind of challenge, half-measures that maintain the status quo won’t move the needle or protect us from the next crisis. We need a New Deal for these times-a massive transformation that rebuilds lives, promotes equality, and prevents the next economic, health, or climate crisis.”

“Historical Athens begins its recovery phase from the epidemic with an array of green initiatives aiming to fully take advantage of the lessons learnt from the health crisis; that includes – not exhaustively – increasing its recycling network, enhancing its urban nature and, on the whole, treating this challenge as nothing more – and nothing less – than a unique opportunity,” Kosta Bakoyannis, Mayor of Athens, said. “An opportunity to help our cities and our citizens grow, prosper and enter a new era of environmental awareness and involvement. This should not be a time for us to simply react but to reflect and to blossom.”

Mxolisi Kaunda, Mayor of Durban said: The Covid-19 pandemic has put leadership of cities to the ultimate test as existing vulnerabilities within African societies continue to deepen. During this time we are forced to confront the fragility of the current economic system that has created a vastly unequal society and how that inequality makes it difficult for our social and health relief systems to respond effectively. I therefore fully embrace the economic recovery trajectory of this task team that allows us to approach the future with a new vision, a vision of a prosperous and climate just society for all. As we advance towards a Post Covid-19 future, let us not lose the painful lessons that we have had to learn during this pandemic and use those rather to become cities that are more resilient to future disasters including climate change.

Secretary for the Environment of Hong Kong, Kam-sing Wong said: “The COVID-19 pandemic presents unprecedented challenges to the well-being of mankind and the world economy.  Hong Kong, China has managed to keep the number of confirmed cases at a relatively low level, but we need to remain alert given the volatility of the epidemic.  To protect citizens against future threats, including the threat of the climate crisis, we will continue to share experience and knowledge with C40 Members on measures to promote green economy as part of our economic recovery efforts.”