Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

A harbor in Oslo, Norway

City officials in Oslo, Norway, are attempting to enact an ambitious plan to drastically cut the city's greenhouse gas emissions—but they're being stymied by the right-wing national government. (Photo: Nadir Hashmi/flickr/cc)

Cities Worldwide Take on Climate Fight—And See Pushback From National Governments

Many cities are outpacing national governments in the climate fight, setting the stage for power battles

Nika Knight Beauchamp

Cities worldwide are setting climate goals that are far more ambitious than the targets agreed upon by national governments, leading to clashes between urban leaders and national ones, Reuters reported Monday.

"Just over half the world's population lives in urban areas, meaning municipalities will help to determine whether the historic shift from fossil fuels to cleaner energy agreed in Paris succeeds or fails," Reuters notes. "But as many cities become more assertive, governments are reluctant to cede control."

Oslo, for example, is battling Norway's right-wing coalition government to enact an aggressive plan to cut the city's carbon emissions.

The city is pushing "to more than halve the capital's greenhouse gas emissions within four years to about 600,000 tons," Reuters reports. "The plan for the city of 640,000 people includes car-free zones, 'fossil-fuel-free building sites,' high road tolls, and capturing greenhouse gases from the city's waste incinerator."

Yet the national government's "Transport Ministry is dragging its feet" on the plan, introducing delays that have slowed the introduction of new tolls and car-free zones for months, Oslo's deputy mayor told Reuters.

It so happens that supporters of the far-right Progress Party, which together with the Conservative Party forms the ruling coalition, are deeply opposed to climate change policies.

In Denmark, meanwhile, Copenhagen's mayor is accusing the national government of levying unfairly high fees on the city for using the national grid to power its fleet of electric buses. And on the other side of the world, Sydney officials are battling the conservative Australian government for the city's right to power itself with its own solar panels without paying hefty fees.

And in the U.S., green-minded city leaders are taking to the frontlines of the climate fight in the face of a right-wing, climate change-denying Trump administration.

Cities are powerful players in the global effort to combat climate change. Urban dwellers consume 75 percent of the world's resources and are responsible for 60 to 80 percent of the planet's greenhouse gas emissions, according to Columbia University's Earth Institute. Because of their large and dense populations, locations, and infrastructure, cities are also most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

"Cities are on the front line of both the cause and effect of climate change," said Somayya Ali Ibrahim, program manager for the Urban Climate Change Research Network at the Earth Institute. "Cause—because if there are so many people gathered in one spot, there are more emissions and more energy is used. And on the converse side, they will be most affected by climate change because of coastal flooding, heat waves, urban heat island effects, epidemics, [and impacts on] water and sanitation systems, and transport systems. So most of the people affected [by climate change] will be in cities."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

UN Agency Condemns 'Homophobic and Racist' Monkeypox Reporting

"Stigma hurts everyone," says one ranking UNAIDS official. "Shared science and social solidarity help everyone."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Tax the Rich,' Say Millionaire Activists Protesting at Davos Amid Record Wealth, Inequality

"As someone who has enjoyed the benefits of wealth my whole life I know how skewed our economy is and I cannot continue to sit back and wait for someone, somewhere, to do something," said one demonstrator.

Brett Wilkins ·


Rights Group Urges Civilian Safeguards as Biden Sends Troops Back to Somalia

"A culture of impunity for civilian loss breeds resentment and mistrust among the population and undermines efforts to build a more rights-respecting state," Human Rights Watch's regional director asserted.

Brett Wilkins ·


Australian Progressives Hail 'Greenslide' Amid Big Left Wins and Morrison's Ouster

"People have backed the Greens in record numbers and delivered a massive mandate for action on climate and inequality," said party leader Adam Bandt.

Brett Wilkins ·


Omar Leads Charge Against Baby Formula Monopolies Amid US Shortage

Democrats urge the FTC to probe "any unfair or unsustainable practices, like deceptive marketing, price gouging, and stock buybacks, that may be weakening our nutritional formula supply."

Jessica Corbett ·

Common Dreams Logo