In Conversation: C40’s Johanna Partin leads discussion with USDN and the Cities of London & Curitiba

For the second year in a row, C40 and the Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN) teamed up to bring a couple of international C40 cities to USDN’s annual meeting, held last month in Houston. C40’s Regional Director for North America, Johanna Partin, sat down with select participants to get their thoughts on the exchange.

Johanna Partin (C40): As we did last year, C40 and USDN co-sponsored bringing two non-North American sustainability directors to this year’s USDN Annual Meeting—this time Leah Davis from London and Luisiana Silva from Curitiba. What value did the North American cities get from having Leah and Luisiana there, and vice versa?

Nils Moe, Managing Director, USDN:  Today, half of the world’s population lives in cities—by 2030, there will be five billion urban dwellers. Because cities have become global centers of innovation, it was incredibly important have the international cities of London and Curitiba represented at our meeting. If we are to enact the transformative change that we need to see in the world, we all need to look well beyond our boundaries for inspiration in our work. At this point, I can't imagine a USDN meeting without our C40 guests involved in the discussions.

Leah Davis, Principal Policy and Programme Officer, Greater London Authority:  London has a challenging target of reducing CO2 emissions by 60% of 1990 levels by 2025. To achieve this we will need to undertake significant transformative activity, and delivering that activity requires us to learn from others and come up with joint solutions making us more efficient and effective in our implementation. Hearing from US cities about some of the great work that is already underway was very valuable, as was being able to identify the commonalities in challenges and goals between cities in the US and London, despite very different contexts, and seeing where London can support others.

Luisiana Silva, Architect, Urbanist and External Affairs Advisor, Curitiba Institute of Urban Planning: It was an honor to participate in the meeting to share Curitiba's experience and to learn how other cities are creating policies for sustainability and climate change. Cities all around the world are facing the same kinds of challenges, and networks like C40 and USDN play an important role in promoting the valuable exchange of ideas between cities. I also found it very inspiring to meet people who are dedicated to designing a more sustainable environment for their urban spaces.

Partin (C40): One of the plenary sessions at the USDN meeting was on how cities that have formally adopted deep GHG reduction targets of 80% or more by 2050 are going to achieve these aggressive targets. There’s an old African proverb that says, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Reducing GHGs by 80% certainly qualifies as “going far.” How do you think C40 and USDN cities can “go together?”

Silva (Curitiba): Sustainability is not a topic to be dealt with alone. The collective and complementary global work is what will bring real and consistent results. The synergy created among these people and cities through these in-person interactions is key to achieving urban sustainability transformation.

Sadhu Johnston (USDN Co-Chair and Deputy City Manager, City of Vancouver): As city sustainability directors around the world know, achieving such deep carbon reductions is not easy. Having this discussion, not just between cities in the same region, but globally was really helpful. I found London’s planning efforts to map out what it will take to achieve long term carbon reductions with a clear outline of what they’ll need to do, both within their own city and what they need their national government to do, a useful framework that I think many North American cities will want to emulate.

Davis (London): The feeling is mutual! I came out of the Houston meeting with a long list of North American cities to connect London with as we work to advance our long-term GHG reduction strategy.

Moe (USDN):  Achieving deep carbon reductions will require cities to influence larger systems that we don’t have direct control over. An aligned global strategy will allow us to tackle these big issues more successfully.