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City Leaders to Shape Green Recovery

Mayors, worldwide, co-ordinating efforts to support a low-carbon, sustainable path out of lockdowns.

Following our report on 9 April about Amsterdam adopting a new model for changing economic strategy from growth to thriving, and connecting bodily health to planetary health (Not Just Any Doughnut), it appears that cities around the world are putting their heads together and planning for life after lockdown, with a series of environmental initiatives being rolled out from Bogotá to Barcelona to ensure public safety and bolster the fight against climate breakdown.

Mayors from cities in Europe, the US and Africa held talks this week to coordinate their efforts to support a low-carbon, sustainable recovery from the crisis as national governments begin to implement huge economic stimulus packages.

Many cities have already announced measures, from hundreds of miles of new bike lanes in Milan and Mexico City to widening pavements and pedestrianising neighbourhoods in New York and Seattle.

The initiatives are designed to allow people to move around urban spaces safely in a world where physical distancing will be the norm for the foreseeable future – and do so without sparking a drastic increase in air pollution.

The mayors who took part in the newly formed economic task force this week believe these initial schemes point the way to more radical long-term measures that will help tackle inequality and the climate crisis.

The mayor of Milan, who is heading the task force run by the C40 group of cities, said: “Our immediate priority is to protect the health of our residents and overcome the Covid-19 pandemic. However, we must also look towards how we will keep our people safe in the future. How we structure our recovery efforts will define our cities for decades to come.”

The mayors discussed measures ranging from huge retrofitting programmes to make buildings more energy efficient, to mass tree planting and investment in solar and wind power.

The mayor of Montréal, Valérie Plante, who attended the video meeting, said: “We need more than ever to position our economic recovery in the context of our fight against climate change. It is also clear to me that our economic recovery must go hand in hand with our social recovery.”

Milan has introduced one of Europe’s most ambitious cycling and walking schemes, with 22 miles of streets to be transformed over the summer. Barcelona is adding 30,000 sq.m to its pedestrianised networks and 13 miles to the biking network.

In Paris, the mayor has allocated €300m for a network of cycle lanes, many of which will follow existing metro lines, to offer an alternative to public transport.

In Bogotá, the Colombian capital, a 75-mile network of streets usually turned over to bicycles one day a week will now be traffic-free all week, and a further 47 miles of bike lanes are being opened to reduce crowding on public transport and improve air quality.

New York has unveiled plans to open up 100 miles of streets for “socially responsible recreation” during the Covid-19 crisis, with a focus on areas with the most need, while Oakland, in California, is closing off 75 miles of its streets to passing cars and setting aside up to 10% of streets for recreation.

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