Why are cities a key player in addressing climate change?
The world is realizing the urgency of climate change and we are seeing again that local governments are the first responders to that challenge. We keep seeing national governments discussing what and when to do, but they take a long time to make a decision. Cities do not have such a luxury, they need to take actions now.
How urgent for cities is it to act now on climate change?
Our own internal research has identified that the window of opportunity that the world has to prevent catastrophic climate change is closing but still achievable and major actions need to happen between now and 2020 in terms of starting the infrastructure and action deployment that will produce an achievable trajectory in emission reduction that will avoid the temperature increase to go up 1.5 degrees.
How do you identify which subjects to support cities with? And what is the traction for a subject like food waste?
Every year we have a data-collection process with the C40 member cities where they inform us about their main challenges, priorities and targets in terms of climate actions and plans across all the sectors. We identify the trends regarding what cities need, what their opportunities are, their abilities to implement are, and we adapt the C40 Networks to respond to the biggest potential opportunities to reduce GHG emissions.
Progressively more cities are interested in improving food waste management, therefore, we adapt the network content to respond to that collective demand. In fact, earlier this year we had a follow-up workshop for the Waste To Resources Network in Guangzhou, China. All participating cities highlighted improving food waste management as one of the key challenges in their climate action plan. We’re finding that food waste management is a key strategy for cities to reduce their impact on climate change.
How do you work together with cities on food and organic waste programmes?
Our primary engagement mechanism is the networks. Challenges are usually common among the cities, and therefore cities can learn from one another on solutions, or may be inspired by each other to try more ambitious actions. We have a network that deals with reducing, reusing and recycling, that we call the “Waste To Resources Network”. Additionally, C40 has a network that deals specifically with food systems.
Besides the international networks, we also have The City Solutions Platform, which is working with Rio de Janeiro on waste management which is called. The idea is that we do not just work in networks to connect the different cities, but also focus on one specific location where we are trying to connect different stakeholders, including technology providers, decision makers and financing entities. In other cases, food policy officials are not necessarily talking to the waste officials and through our networks we have been working to improve these internal city connections.
To what extent is food waste relevant for cities in Latin America, Africa and Asia?
In developing countries, the food waste fraction of the waste stream is significant. We are working with cities from developing countries to improve food waste management. For example, Sao Paulo recently launched guidance for schools who are big generators of food waste. They are recognising that they can have compost in school gardens with which they can start growing food for own consumption. To read more about food waste collection in Sao Paulo click this link.
A lot of programmes have focused on waste collection. In the case of Quezon City (Philippines) they have enforced a “no segregation – no collection” policy. The organic component is now seen as a potential resource for doing composting, creating soil and return it within the community itself.
How do you manage to be an expert on so many issues?
We are a small organisation that needs to have a global presence. We cannot have an in-person presence in every city, which is why the networks were born. The networks provide benefits to every member city in a way that is scalable.
What we recognize is that this collaborative approach sometimes needs external expertise to solve very specific issues, which is why we also developed partnerships with technical organisations which can provide specific input to solve technical challenges that cities have. We have a fantastic partnership with the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) and organization supporting a transition towards a circular economy like The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, The Circle Economy and more local organisations.
What are the entry points for cities to C40 programmes?
We have a point of entry for every city. We are working with cities that have fundamental challenges, like Nairobi or Dar es Salaam, where they need a proper collection system, to the other end of the spectrum, Stockholm or Rotterdam, where the transition to a circular economy is being planned. Every city can do better in waste and materials management. We want to make it easier for them to connect with the right stakeholders that can guide them through that transition.
It is important to see that in the context of sustainable development. There is no point to say that now you are sustainable, it is always a development path. The way that we can measure that a city is doing well is when they have management systems and they give themselves objectives and aims, for example, to reduce food waste by a certain percentage. This is also how we can point out to successful cases.
Beyond Food Waste
Food waste management is a key strategy that cities can take to address climate change. If you would like to find out more about the C40 network and how your city may take part, please check C40’s website.
Like C40, we have also found that cities face similar challenges and can benefit from sharing experiences and solutions. Beyond Food Waste is a blog dedicated to sharing best practice in food waste management, covering a range of topics including food waste programmes, legislation, communications campaigns and more. Sign up here to our newsletter to receive the latest stories and interviews.
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