Outlook Plenary: “The two coming years are vital. Please go back home and transform the world”

Ending Resilient Cities 2014 is impossible; even though the weekend has been long, it has just begun. That is the continuing legacy of these ICLEI congresses: in facing the world’s twin super challenges – urbanisation and climate change – our work must be never-ending and our lessons learned never forgotten. Thankfully, the readiness of participants to return home to get started was radiating from smiling lips and crystal-clear eyes after the outlook plenary.

IMG_2420In the coming two years there is a convergence of decisions in many of the most important workflows of global cooperation. The closest is UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s pre-COP-20 climate meeting in New York, whereafter we have the COP-20 in Lima, the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, the incredibly important COP-21 in Paris, the final formulation and adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (where ICLEI wants an urban goal), and the Habitat III conference, among others.

ICLEI is therefore planning and executing all thinkable efforts to include these two coming years to the ranks of the most significant in human history: the next Cities Day at the COPs, the first Resilient Cities Asia, the ICLEI World Congress, the next Resilient Cities etc. etc. But ICLEI and expert organizations like it will never be able to do by their own doing. In the words of ICLEI President David Cadman:

“It is therefore time for all of us to mobilize the grassroots. There lies the only seed strong enough to nourish the courage and determination required of our elected leaders.”

For this to happen, we all need to raise awareness, on a daily basis. Because adaptation is happening, now, but whether we do it well or not is very much up for decision. We immediately must stop siloing issues of environmental, social and economic sustainability; we desperately need to improve our improvement rate. Cadman:

“We can do it. We must do it. There is no alternative.”

Due to Paris 2015, large parts of the outlook plenary concerned mitigation. Cadman was adamant:

“We need to send the message to national governments that returning home with no agreement, is not acceptable.”

Unfortunately, ICLEI’s work seems to be the work not only for cities and local governments, but also for our national governments – in mitigation as well as adaptation and resilience-building. As ICLEI Deputy Secretary General Emani Kumar made more than clear:

“Since a COP-21 agreement in Paris will not come into effect until 2020, the real responsibility of doing the necessary work until then will fall upon cities and local governments.”

Therefore, and because he deemed the collective work showcased during the conference so impressive, Cadman tasked us all to:

“Go home and transform the world”

Will do, was the unwavering response.

But before leaving this awe- and hope-inspiring conference (for this time) to try to do so, I also just want to express happiness over this conference’s all-but exactly equal gender balance among participants, improved youth representation and the impressive attendance of people from far away: non-Europeans constituted half of the participants, with a quite even distribution among the continents.

The diversity and willingness to cooperate seen here truly is a guiding star for the world to follow.

Tim Isaksson
Student, Lund University

Tim Isaksson