C40 Cities recently unveiled a raft of radical green proposals
A climate change initiative, spearheaded by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, is recommending against buying more than three items of clothing a year, privately owning a car and flying more than once every three years. The C40 Climate Leadership group comprises, in its own words, “a network of nearly 100 mayors of the world’s leading cities that are united in action to confront the climate crisis”, and has commissioned a report making suggestions for how cities can halve their greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
Khan, who chairs the C40 group, has received backlash from Londoners following this month’s Ulez expansion. Though the C40 Cities initiative, under the guise of the Clean Air Wins campaign, has shared videos in favour of Ulez, the Wall Street Journal this week highlighted the less highly-publicised proposals in its report, authored in collaboration with the University of Leeds, such as “no meat, no dairy and no private vehicles”. Also suggested is travelling by plane only once every three years, which the WSJ compares to the policies of “climate lockdowns”.
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The report prescribes various “consumption interventions”, without outlining how these measures would be implemented. Reducing meat consumption to zero by 2030 is a listed target, but there is little in the way of detail about how this intervention could be achieved.
C40 Cities employs 433 people worldwide, according to LinkedIn, with headquarters in London, New York and Rio De Janeiro. Its website, however, provides few concrete examples of what C40 is actually doing. Real-life activities are buried under idealistic calls for “action now” and essays detailing milestones achieved by member cities. Yet money is pouring into C40. The UK arm of the company alone received £11m in grants and other funding in 2022. More than £7m of that money was spent on its own staff.
In November 2021, the UK Government invested £27 million in C40’s Urban Climate Action Plan (UCAP). While the initiative’s site claims that from 2018 to 2021 it “provided technical assistance and resources to 35 cities to develop climate action plans that effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance climate resilience”, the nature of this assistance and resources is not expanded upon.
The cities involved in UCAP seem equally at a loss. A less-than-clear summary of Accra’s involvement in UCAP can be found on the Accra Metropolitan Assembly website: “the delivery of the programme has included technical assistance for regional and local convenings, the development of knowledge products and a policy framework, capacity building, and informal sector integration advocacy campaigns.”
C40’s financial backers include extremely influential organisations and corporations, including Google, the Clinton Foundation and the World Bank, as well as the businessman and philanthropist George Soros. This support network of ideologically aligned leaders gives the C40 group serious heft, even if its activities aren’t widely known among the broader public.
There is acknowledgement of this undeniable influence in the report, which states that “the network of C40 Cities can use their global spending power to speed up a transition to low-carbon production,” making use of “immediate and ambitious action”. This action won’t just be top-down, however: for the C40 initiative, “it is critical that large-scale behavioural changes occur as soon as possible.”