Dozens of mayors want a green pandemic recovery

The coronavirus pandemic is far from over, but some mayors are already planning for a future they hope is a lot more “green and just.”

Mayors of Los Angeles; Hong Kong; Milan, Italy; Rotterdam, Netherlands; and dozens of other cities are pushing for a recovery that’s focused on limiting carbon emissions. Principles and goals guiding recoveries include improved public transit, creating green jobs, and increasing streets that are open to pedestrians and cyclists.

“New Orleans, like many cities, bears the dual burdens of climate crises and COVID-19,” New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said in a statement. Curbing the pandemic without also addressing climate change isn’t just a missed opportunity, the mayors argue; it would exacerbate the inequalities facing vulnerable populations.

The mayors are part of C40 Cities, a group of nearly 100 cities focused on combating climate change. One of the objectives in the agenda they released Wednesday is to transform existing infrastructure in ways that support the “15-minute cities” concept. Everything residents need would be accessible by short walks or bike rides. Some roads would be permanently closed to cars, so robust, zero-emission public transit is also a necessity in such cities.

The agenda says that “the only stimulus should be a green stimulus,” with money going to transit projects, renewable energy, and retrofitting buildings for great efficiency. That’s all easier said than done. Many U.S. transit agencies are currently looking for money from the federal government amid ridership declines.

In Seattle, Mayor Jenny Durkan recently announced 20 miles of residential streets that will be permanently closed to most traffic, according to the Seattle Times. It sounds like a lot, but advocacy groups want 130 miles of “Stay Healthy” streets.

The C40 mayors, who come from all over the world, say the initiative can’t rest on local measures alone. “As London and the rest of the world start to emerge from the COVID-19 lockdown, global collaboration between cities will be key to achieving a recovery that tackles climate change at a local and global level,” said London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan.

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