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Decarbonizing Cities: How To Build Coalitions And Get People On Board

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It is estimated that by 2050 more than 70% of the world’s population will live in cities. Already today, cities account for three quarters of carbon emissions worldwide. These numbers illustrate that we can only reach global emission goals if cities lead the way and radically decarbonize.

However, a change as dramatic as to ideally become completely carbon neutral will require deep transformations. These transformations cannot only consist of technical solutions. They need to take into account social dimensions as well. Decarbonization cannot be successful if it undermines social justice and security, and more than anything, it will require buy-in from the general population and many influential actors. This could, for instance, be achieved by involving arts and film to create and tell new narratives about desirable cities. New coalitions will have to be built in society, and there has to be a general consensus that reducing carbon emissions is a worthwhile endeavor.

In this panel,  the potential of activating these new actor constellations and new approaches to trigger social change towards zero carbon cities are discussed. Ideas and best practices on how to engage formal and informal urban influencers, for example through culture and art, to form and sustain novel urban coalitions are shared.


  • Gesa Schöneberg & Simone Sandholz, United Nations University – Institute for Environment and Human Security, Bonn, Germany


  • Saskia Sassen, Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology, Columbia University
  • Dirk Wilutzky, Film producer and director
  • Rogier van den Berg, Director Urban Development, Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, World Resources Institute
  • Maryke van Staden, Director of ICLEI’s Bonn Center for Local Climate Action and Reporting (carbonn Climate Center), ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability
  • Nuatali Nelmes, Lord Mayor City of Newcastle, Chair -GCoMOceania Steering Committee, Member –ICLEI Oceania’s Reginal Executive Committee