What does the US-China handshake on climate change mean for our Planet of Cities?
On the one hand it should give them confidence that they are the seed beds of global change – for it is cities who took the initiative on the climate file. While the US nation both denied and ignored the issue of climate change, over 600 US cities took action in support of the Kyoto Accord to reduce greenhouse gases. While China refused to take climate action seriously at any of the global tables assembled to address the issue, her cities became the stage for the undeniable evidence that denying this truth killed people and productivity.
It is in cities where the sciences of sustainability, resilience, eco-footprints have been enunciated, explored and extolled. Cities have always been Earth’s acupressure points, where evidence accumulates about the impacts and costs of living beyond our ability to renew resources, failing to understand the interconnection of planetary systems and refusing to accept responsibility for our out-sized energy eco-footprints.
The individuality of city life conditions coupled with the universality of the human condition has allowed us to see that we have to value and evaluate the impacts of climate change in unique ways for each city – but with the benefit of a growing collective intelligence about geographical and ecological contexts, integrated (even transcultural) strategies and evolutionary foresight.
What the US-China handshake on climate change may mean for cities, is that finally the national policy cloak that covers – and more usually chokes – city access to finances to act on the climate change file may be lifted and loosened. The natural competitiveness between nations, who have used the US-China reluctance to commit to a global climate change agreement, as an excuse for their own inaction, will be pressured both externally and internally to join the norming process that is finally emerging on the climate change file at a global scale.
The handshakes that cities may now make with each other on climate change can accelerate, deepen and expand city capacity to adapt, mitigate and prevent climate-caused disasters – even if it is only because the symbolic doors of global economic progress and energy supply chains have been kicked open by this bi-national handshake agreement.
It is now up to cities to act as if the symbolism of the handshake gives them license for real action on the climate change file across the whole planet of cities. This gives a radically new meaning to and potential for action on the synchronistic emergence of the ISO 37120 standard on city measurements.