City mayor

What can I as a city mayor do to help stop the global warming? As a leader of a city you have an key role in stopping the global warming. The necessary transition affects how cities and societies are planned, the different infrastructures for transports, energy, food supply, nutrient cycles, waste etc. This will also have many positive effects on our lives in the cities with cleaner air, higher quality of food, a richer social life and healthier people. We have an opportunity to leave a better place to live in to our children and future generations.

You are most likely already addressing several of these problems. But we need to speed up the transition. Since the usage of fossil fuels are deeply integrated into our society, many different areas need to be addressed simultaneously. This action list suggests where attention is needed to make this happen in a coordinated way with citizens and other stakeholders such as city mayors and enterprise leaders. Don’t hesitate – take a lead in this! Your city will prosper and people will thank you.

  • Switch the electricity/heating/cooling production to fossil free alternatives (why? how?)
  • Introduce benefits for fossil free transportation to make it the first choice alternative (why? how?)
  • Ensure public transportation is competitive and has sufficient capacity (why? how?)
  • Make biking a privileged transport alternative in the city (why? how?)
  • Provide organic and vegetarian food alternatives in city institutions (why? how?)
  • Enhance the possibilities for markets where local farmers can provide their organic products (why? how?)
  • Close the nutrient cycle – create an infrastructure for collecting food waste and returning it as fertilizer to local farmers (why? how?)
  • Promote new values in the city beyond the traditional growth (why? how?)
  • Stimulate local markets and promote usage of long lasting quality products in all sectors (why? how?)
  • Stimulate the repairs and maintenance sector (why? how?)
  • Stimulate R&D and investments in green technology (why? how?)
  • Network with other city mayors nationally and globally to get ideas and inspiration in reaching the above tasks (why? how?)


When all of us are moving in the same direction, the climate and the future of our kids will be saved in a surprisingly short time. Start working on the check list, engage your staff, find out more, and share with colleagues. We are all in this together. You find some more background and links for further reading here.

“It always seems impossible until it is done.”
                                    -Nelson Mandela

It's about the future of our children and their childrenIt’s about my future heart

“Earth is not a gift from our forefathers,
but a legacy to our children.”
                                    -Ancient Indian proverb

Why?

  • Focusing exclusively on growth is not a viable alternative in a post-fossil sustainable society. Find new values that will support a sustainable society, apply them on your city and the city will prosper.
  • Make sure resilience is part of the new values, to build a city that maintains its stability as the effects of global warming keeps getting severer. Proactive spendings on resilience will be more economic than taking the costs at repetitive disasters. Cities taking action now will be the winners in the coming decades.

How?

  • Promote cultural and social growth as part of the new city values
  • Stimulate a shift from consumption of goods to consumption of entertainment, restaurant dinners, sports, outdoor activities, and richer social lives. Living a “good life” should not be associated with plenty of shopping but plenty of entertainment and social interactions.
  • Make sure people can live their lives with less need for transportation. Shops with basic supply in neighborhoods can reduce transportation needs. Good internet infrastructure may allow working remote and from home.
  • The entertainment sector, restaurants and other functions for social interaction are typically not very dependent on global supply chains. Hence a shift of the economy to these sectors will increase the resilience of the city, and make it possible for the city to function more normal even if disasters strikes other parts of the nation or the world.
  • Stimulate localization of shops closer to where people live to minimize transports. People should be able to do more of their shopping without being dependent on a car.
  • Promote the city as a fossil free environment that increases peoples’ health and quality of life. This may include fresh air, fresh water, a rich offer of organic quality food primarily from farms near the city, parks and urban forests for walking and recreation, possibilities for sport activities, a rich entertainment scene, plenty of restaurants, cafés and other possibilities for social interaction.

Why?

  • Current food production is industrialized and heavily dependent on fossil fuels. It is also typically more vulnerable to global warmings than organic farming. So to stop the global warming and to secure a stable food supply to the city, it is necessary to switch to organic foods. This would also increase peoples’ health and by that reducing health care costs. It would also generate more jobs.
  • The reason to provide more vegetarian food alternatives is that it takes eleven times as much fossil fuel to raise a pound of animal protein as a pound of plant protein. By freeing up some farmland that used to produce animal feed today, an opportunity opens up to produce bio fuels for areas that can’t easily be converted to electrical energy e.g. special vehicles, specific industry usage, aviation, etc.

How?

  • Introduce organic foods where ever it is in your power to do so, city institutions, schools, hospitals etc.
  • Investigate if it possible to introduce local tax benefits or other benefits for restaurants offering organic food menus
  • Ensure lunch menus have rich vegetarian alternatives
  • Motivate employees and people for using organic and more vegetarian food

Why?

  • The fossil fuel based fertilizers used by farmers need to be replaced. This can be done by reestablishing the natural nutrient cycle.

How?

  • Food waste, but also compostable waste from humans and animals, need to be returned to farmers’ fields as fertilizer.
  • Discuss with local farmers using organic methods to understand their needs and how an infrastructure for returning the food waste and compost to their farms can be established
  • Look at successful infrastructures that are already in place, e.g. in Vermont US, Sweden Europe, and in other places.
  • Establish a project or organization to define and execute procedures and policies for recycling the food waste to local farms. Use help subcontractors can provide.
  • Investigate ways to also return human urine and/or sludge to the farms. If it can be ensured these are not polluted by other waste or chemicals, these are excellent fertilizers too.
  • Try establish a “circular thinking” and a circular economy instead of the “linear” thinking and economy that has dominated the last century.
  • Use Internet to learn more about others’ experiences. Share your successful results on Internet to the benefit of other cities.

Why?

  • Food is our most important product. An increased level of local provision of food, increases the resilience to disturbances to food supply to city inhabitants. This would increase food security and by that stability in your city even as climate disasters as failing crops strikes more often.
  • Local markets facilitates for organic food production – farmers and customers can have a more direct relation, fewer intermediaries and better payed to the farmers’ more labour intensive production, less transports in total. It might also open up opportunities to return food waste as fertilizers to the farmland.
  • Shopping quality food at a local market nearby is also considered as fun by many.

How?

  • Create areas suitable for local farmers markets. Plan them so city inhabitants are able to reach the local market by foot, by bike, or by a short transport. It is more energy efficient to transport the few salesmen than the many buyers.
  • See if it is possible to locate the local market in an area where restaurants serving organic food, cafes, pubs and other local service and shopping are or can be located as well. This will bring more life to that part of the city as well as minimize the need for transports.

Why?

  • If your city has influence on R&D and investments, try attract green technology to your city. That will increase possibilities that those enterprises and institutions can provide useful results for your city. As your city transitions to a fossil-free city with high resilience it will encounter new types of issues that will require new type of solutions.
  • Green tech is a business of growing importance. Having it in your city may create new jobs and be prosperous for your city.

How?

  • Stimulate research within the area “transition to a fossil free society” at research institutions in your city.
  • Introduce tax benefits for certain green tech sectors.
  • Stimulate a close cooperation between the city and universities and other research institutions. Put focus on identifying what “resilience” means for your city and on finding solutions for a faster adaption to new requirements from the transition.
  • Establish and deepen the cooperation between the city and enterprises venturing on green tech. Focus on finding solutions to problems that arise as the city transitions to become independent from fossil fuels, and resilient to climate induced disturbances.
  • Market the city as an attractive location for green tech.
  • Spread the results and advances made with the city, to help other cities and to create more jobs at the city’s green tech companies.
  • Discuss results and problems with other city mayors.

Why?

  • The key cause for the global warming is the burning of fossil fuels. There are no realistic or economic ways to undo the release of the carbon dioxide once it has been released into the atmosphere. The only feasible way to stop the climate from becoming even worse is to leave the remaining fossils in the ground. Simple as that.
  • Electricity generation and production of heating and cooling are main users directly or indirectly of fossil fuels.
  • There are competitive fossil-free alternatives for electricity, heating and cooling today.

How?

  • Stop any new investments in fossil based technology where the city is involved.
  • Replace fossil based production sites, with fossil free alternatives. Start with the ”dirtiest” first e.g. coal before natural gas etc.
  • People are often willing to pay a bit more for sustainable alternatives. This may mitigate the cost penalty for any early close down of existing fossil based investments. Future costs for recovering after weather disasters may also be avoided by replacing fossil based investments prior to their planned end of life.
  • Renegotiate any deals the city has with external suppliers for electricity/heating/cooling. Require fossil free alternatives, primarily wind, sun, and geothermal alternatives. Make deals with new suppliers as necessary. This will stimulate the necessary growth of these alternatives.
  • Please note that wind energy alone has been estimated to have a potential of many times the total energy usage on the planet estimated 2030. That is, not only the need for electrical energy, but a potential corresponding to the total energy need all kinds i.e. electricity, hydropower, coal, oil, natural gas, shale gas, nuclear power and including expected growth until 2030 [see National Academy of Science, USA, 2009]. So don’t underestimate its potential.

Why?

  • Fossil driven cars, trucks, buses etc are a major source of the green house gases that disrupts our climate. They need to be replaced by fossil free alternatives. These alternatives are already available today. However as any new technology initially usually are, these are still a bit more costly. Some benefits for the fossil free alternatives as well as some higher taxation of the fossil based alternatives will speed up the technology shift. And that is exactly what the climate, we and our future generations need.
  • By replacing fossil driven cars and buses with electrical alternatives, the city and its citizens will also benefit from a much better air quality.

How?

  • Eliminate or reduce taxation of electrical vehicles. Even if it is just for a period of some years, this would stimulate the shift to a fossil driven fleet.
  • Add taxation to the fossil driven alternatives to make them less attractive. The motivation is that the costs for climate disasters need to be taken by those who are causing them.
  • If necessary taxation policies cannot be set on a city mayor level, look for other alternatives to differentiate fossil free vehicles from fossil driven. Road toll tickets, e.g. at a perimeter around the city, may for example be used to differentiate and tax vehicles harming our climate higher.
  • Escalate needs for new taxation policies to the responsible policy makers.
  • Promoting fossil free transportation should also be accompanied by enhancing public transportation, which is also more energy efficient. That would facilitate the expansion of the fossil free energy production at a pace with the deployment of electrical vehicles.
  • Investigate how fossil free transportation of goods in the city also can be promoted.
  • Include hydrogen driven electrical cars in your plans, as these require a special infrastructure of hydrogen stations. Electrical cars fueled by hydrogen has a much better range than current battery charged alternatives. In addition hydrogen is an interesting way to solve the problem of storing wind energy and solar energy.

Why?

  • Public transportation is the most energy efficient way to transport people in a city (besides bicycles). As people are looking for alternatives to fossil driven cars, public transportation of sufficient capacity must be available for the transition to happen and the city to continue to function normally.
  • By ensuring the public transportation is competitive and fossil free, people will more quickly abandon their fossil fueled cars. As people adopt public transportation instead, the need for investments and maintenance of the road infrastructure will be reduced and some resources released for enhancing the public transportation. In addition the air in the city will be cleaner.

How?

  • Invest in electrical buses and vehicles when increasing the capacity of public transportation. Make sure new vehicles are comfortable for passengers.
  • Extend the number of priority lanes for buses. The goal is public transports shall never get stuck in traffic jams
  • Consider start using electrical buses based on hydrogen fuel cells. These don’t need to be fueled/charged very often. Establish an infrastructure for hydrogen but make sure the hydrogen is produced based on fossil free generation such as wind power or solar energy. This infrastructure can also be used by electrical cars driven by hydrogen.
  • Make sure all replacements of buses and vehicles are done with modern fossil free electrical vehicles. This means that the fleet of vehicles will be fossil free in some years.
  • Renegotiate the supply of electrical energy used for public transportation in the city to be only fossil free electricity produced from wind, sun, or geothermal sources.

Why?

  • Biking should be the preferred transport alternative in cities. It is the far most energy efficient alternative both in terms of fuel for driving the vehicle and in terms of energy for manufacturing the vehicle. In addition it has positive effects both peoples health and it requires very little space on the streets and for parking. For the city this means reduced costs for infrastructure and maintenance of roads and parkings. In addition the costs for public transportation are reduced and probably also costs related to bad health.

How?

  • Give biking different privileges so that it becomes the first choice when people are selecting between different transport alternatives in the city.
  • Establish an infrastructure for biking with separate lanes, priorities in crossings, special highways for bikes for a faster transport into the city center, protection of biking lanes or clear marking of biking lanes to avoid accidents with cars and pedestrians, plenty of parkings for bikes – some weather protected, rental system for bikes that is easy to use etc.
  • Study cities which already have an advanced infrastructure for biking such as Amsterdam, Copenhagen etc. Use ideas than can be applied in your city.
  • Try biking yourself to get an understanding what problems a biker experiences.

Why?

  • Locally produced goods and services are energy efficient, they will stimulate the local economy and create jobs in the city. A flourishing local market will also make the city more independent from global supply chains and increase the resilience of the city.
  • Quality products with a long product lifetime reduces the energy and resource consumption in the society. As most products today have a high embodied fossil fuel content, increasing the lifetime of products will immediately decrease the usage fossil fuels and other resources.

How?

  • Find ways to stimulate the local economy. Pay special attention to essential products and services, such as food production and supply, provision of water, production of renewable electricity etc.
  • Use internet. Information is important for people to find local markets, local products and services. The city can provide information to facilitate and stimulate the local economy.
  • Promote quality products on the market. Publish tests made by independent institutes with quality and lifetime ratings of consumer products. Provide possibilities for citizens to blog of their experiences of product quality.
  • Stimulate second hand markets oct different kinds since they basically help extending the lifetime of various products. They also help people save money.

Why?

  • Better repair and maintenance possibilities in different products sectors increases the life time of products. That has a direct impact on the energy (today typically from fossil fuels) and resources used in the society. Even if products are imported from other countries, there is still a problem since the global warming is a global problem. Fossil fuel burned and released into the atmosphere in one part of the world affects all parts of the world equally much.
  • More jobs are created. These will to a large extent be jobs in the city as repair and maintenance is often provided by local enterprises.

How?

  • Introduce tax benefits for a repairs and maintenance sector. Lower or remove the VAT on repair and maintenance services or subsidize in other ways.
  • Keep people updated on what repair and maintenance possibilities are available in the city.
  • Encourage local companies to market spare parts for their products.
  • Help establish markets for spare parts. Make sure it is also available on internet, to also benefit other cities and help stimulate the economy in your city.

Why?

  • All cities in the world are facing similar challenges from the global warming and from trying to transition to an independence from fossil fuels. Many of the cities should have the same conditions for the necessary transition as your city and as cities not always are competitors there should be good possibilities for co-operation.

How?

  • Use your existing contacts and take new contacts with other city mayors.
  • Contact organizations engaged in the climate issues, e.g. the Earth Policy Institute New York, Transition Town Totnes & Transition Networks in UK, and discuss the issues and possible solutions.
  • Establish and exchange program to have experienced people from another city to join your team for some weeks or months to share experiences.
  • Use Internet to find and share experiences
  • Use competence within your organization. Hire new people and dedicate them to the new issues.

Questions answered

  • How can I stop global warming
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  • What can I do to help save the climate
  • How to transform a city to meet the climate threat
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