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Insights, inspiration and opportunities to create a more vibrant and resilient future.

What Does the Chicago Climate Charter Even Mean?

Lyndon Valicenti

Last week, you may have seen your Twitter feed explode with excitement around the #ChicagoClimateCharter, or you were in the room when over 50 mayors from across North America and beyond signed on to the Charter. But what does the Chicago Climate Charter even mean?

On December 4-6, 2017, Chicago hosted the North American Climate Summit convening dozens of Mayors from cities across the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The goal of the Summit was to have Mayors “articulate commitments to the Paris Agreement and recognize the impact cities can have in the fight against climate change.” The outcome of the Summit was a first-of-its-kind international charter on climate change signed by over 50 Mayors. 

The significance and meaning of the Chicago Climate Charter is layered, from the symbolic to the concrete. Its symbolism rests in the fact that dozens of Mayors, on behalf of their tens of millions of constituents, are stepping up to fill a void left at the federal level, as President Trump pulls the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement. In the words of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, “The Chicago Climate Charter represents tens of millions of residents who are committed to confronting climate change head-on. Even as Washington fails to act, cities have the power and will to take decisive action to protect our planet and the health and safety of our residents.” 

What this means, concretely, is that cities are pledging to achieve a percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions equal to or more than outlined in the Paris Agreement. In realizing these emission cuts, some mayors have already specified commitments to expand their public transportation systems and urban tree canopies. The specific pledges in the charter are as follows: 

  • Achieve a percent reduction in carbon emissions in line with the Paris Agreement; 
  • Quantify, track and publicly report city emissions, consistent with standards and best practices of measurement and transparency;
  • Advocate alongside other mayors for greater local authority and flexibility to develop policies and local laws that empower cities to take aggressive action on climate;
  • Recognize and include groups traditionally underrepresented in climate policy;
  • Incorporate the realities of climate change and its impacts into local infrastructure and emergency planning through strategies of adaptation and resilience;
  • Support strong regional, state and federal policies and partnerships, as well as private sector initiatives, that incentivize the transition to a new climate economy; and
  • Partner with experts, communities, businesses, environmental justice groups, advocates and other allies to develop holistic climate mitigation and resilience solutions.

It is such an important and inspiring gesture for Mayors to double down in the fight against climate change. But now the hard work begins in driving unprecedented collaboration in each city—residents across communities and stakeholders across sectors—to realize collective impact on these bold commitments.