Climate Emergency and Cities: An urban led mobilisation?

By Philipp Rode, 14 October 2019

Engagement with climate change was mostly a gradual affair, with occasional peaks in interest at global climate summits, when individual countries made controversial shifts in their carbon reduction commitments, during major climate anomalies or freak weather conditions, or after the publication of a new warning by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  

In the past 12 months, we have seen an acceleration in climate policy debates, consciousness and activism that had long seemed unimaginable. Some might argue that this new momentum is “beyond politics” – that is open for debate. What is undisputable is that over the past year, particularly since the release of the 2018 IPCC report, the global climate policy community has been confronted with a powerful new narrative, put forth by an increasingly vocal and effective global “climate emergency” movement.

This discussion paper unpacks the climate emergency movement from the perspective of cities, examining what has changed over the last year, what the climate emergency framing adds to the well established climate action narrative, and how cities and local governments fit into the climate emergency agenda. It concludes with priorities for policy-oriented research on climate and cities.