Mayors with Pope

Pope Rallies Mayors to Lead on Climate Change

Following his new Encyclical on the urgency for action on climate, and with global talks on the horizon, Pope Francis gathered leaders from cities that are already taking up the challenge.

This July, the largest-ever group of city mayors met at the Vatican to discuss with Pope Francis one of the most pressing challenges in our day—climate change. Among the mayors in attendance were several members of the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance (including Boston), a collaboration of global cities committed to achieving aggressive long-term carbon reduction goals, and supported by five foundations, including Barr.

Leadership on climate at the city level has never been more critical. Cities are essential to combating climate change as they are home to more than half of humanity and are responsible for nearly three quarters of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions worldwide. “Climate change calls on societies to act quickly and cities tend to be more nimble than national governments,” said Pope Francis—a notion echoed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in his recent piece, “Why Municipalities Are the Key to Fighting Climate Change.”

The Pope called for the meeting following his May 24 Encyclical on ecology and climate change, Laudato Si, which set out to frame a new discourse about caring for our “common home.” The July discussion focused on how cities, along with faith-based and other community leaders, can cooperate to most effectively address climate. Pope Francis called for a redoubling of efforts in the run-up to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in New York City in September and COP 21 in Paris in December, and he vowed to bring this message with him when he meets with President Obama on September 23, Congress on September 24, and the UN General Assembly on September 25th.

The Vatican meeting resulted in a declaration signed by the Pope and mayors committing to significantly reduce climate pollution and improve the health and resilience of the poor and those in vulnerable situations. Signed by mayors from South America, Africa, the United States, Europe, and Asia, the declaration asserts the Paris summit “may be the last effective opportunity to negotiate arrangements that keep human-induced warming below two degrees centigrade,” and that “human-induced climate change is a scientific reality, and its effective control is a moral imperative for humanity.”

Achieving the dramatic GHG reductions required to avoid grave ecosystem disruption and serious human health impacts will require a fundamental, transformational redesign of the way we develop and operate urban systems. Fortunately, the cities in the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance are well underway, building the roadmaps for how this can be done in ways that preserve and enrich life for all who share this “common home.”


The Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance (“Alliance”) is a collaboration of global cities committed to achieving aggressive long-term carbon reduction goals. Members meet to share lessons and accelerate effective practices in planning for and implementing deep carbon reductions. The Alliance is supported by the Kresge, Barr, V. Kann Rasmussen, and Summit foundations, as well as the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

Global Philanthropy Partnership

To support the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance in advancing the development and implementation of deep carbon-reduction strategies in twenty-five cities around the world in ways that improve quality of life, increase equity, and enhance preparedness for the effects of climate change.

  • Award Date: 3/ 2/2015
  • Amount: $300,000
  • Term: 12 months
  • Program: Climate
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