QUITO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Mayors of 85 of the world's cities, representing more than 650 million people, have called for urgent reform of the way low-carbon and climate change projects are financed and funded.
The mayors said it is time that national governments give cities and towns direct access to international and national funds to ensure they are able to sustainability manage burgeoning urban growth and the threats of climate change.
Led by a group of three mayors - Mexico City's Miguel Angel Mancera, Barcelona's Ada Colau and Madrid's Manuela Carmena - the demand for reform was launched Monday on the first day of the U.N. Habitat III conference in Quito, Ecuador.
Thousands of government leaders, academics and planners have gathered in the Andean city to discuss the future of the world's cities.
Held every 20 years, this conference is seen as particularly significant as it comes at the first time that more people live in cities than in rural areas.
In 2014, 54 percent of the world's population lived in cities but by 2050 this is expected to rise to nearly 70 percent.
The six-point plan proposed by the mayors recommends that cities not only be granted direct access to international climate funds but also that they be given devolved power by national governments to directly control climate funds.
Development banks, the mayors say, must reform and respond directly to the needs of city authorities, while national governments should build new and lasting policy and regulatory frameworks to support city fund raising on climate change.
According to Mexico's Mancera, such reforms could revolutionise the way that action on climate change is delivered in cities.
He said cities also need to be supported directly to be able to successfully implement projects to reduce climate-changing emissions and deliver on the New Urban Agenda - a 20-year vision for cities that is expected to be adopted at the summit.
It aims to guide the growth of cities, towns and informal settlements in a bid to ensure that cities are sustainable, do not destroy the environment and protect the rights of the vulnerable.
Barcelona's mayor, Ada Colau, said the agreement could not be allowed to be "just words".
"We need to be capable of implementing the agenda, to put in place practical and concrete programs that will affect the lives of thousands of citizens," she said.
"Cities must have direct access to funds, direct access to financial institutions," she said. "It is cities that for many years have been leading the way on tackling climate change."
Anne Hidalgo, Paris' mayor, said the only way that effective work to create a sustainable future could proceed was with new, autonomous powers for cities.
She is the newly elected chair of the C40 cities group, which focuses on driving urban action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The mayors' call for action is being supported by 27 leading international organisations including the World Wildlife Fund, the U.N. Environment Programme, the World Resources Institute, and the UK-based Overseas Development Institute.
Finding ways to fund climate action in cities is expected to be a major theme of the C40 Mayors Summit which will be hosted by Mexico City in November.
(Reporting by Paola Totaro, Editing by Laurie Goering; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)