Mayor Dijksma is the ICLEI Envoy with a special mission to COP27, Source: Utrecht Municipality

Sharon Dijksma: Without cities, it will be impossible to tackle global warming

Sharon Dijksma: Without cities, it will be impossible to tackle global warming

A conversation with the mayor of Utrecht on the occasion of her mission to COP27

Sharon Dijksma is the 332nd mayor of Utrecht. She has served in this position since 2020.

In 1994 she was elected as a Member of Parliament for the PvdA (Dutch Labour Party). She was State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science from 2007-2010, State Secretary for Economic Affairs from 2012-2015 and State Secretary for Infrastructure and the Environment from 2015-2017. 

From 2018-2020 she was the alderman for Traffic and Transport, Water and Air Quality of the Municipality of Amsterdam.

Madame Mayor, you served as the Special ICLEI Envoy for UNFCCC COP27 Ministerials. What was the main message that you brought to the climate summit?

The main message I brought was that cities should be included in global policymaking on climate and the upcoming climate summits. Without cities, it will be impossible to tackle global warming. Moreover, cities want to lead the way. They facilitate innovation and have the capacity to invest on a large scale in clean mobility, green construction and creating a sustainable energy supply.

This was the first-ever Climate and Urbanisation Ministerial at COP. Did that represent a win for cities, and how do you ensure that the momentum would not be lost going forward?

It was an exciting first step, but we need to make sure that this Ministerial will become a structural item on the agenda of future COPs as well. To make sure we won’t lose momentum, we should strive towards a more prominent role of cities in the international climate agenda.

It is time for real multi-level collaboration on all levels to keep the Paris goal of 1.5 degrees alive. A way to do so is to include cities in the Nationally Determined Contributions submitted to the UNFCCC.

COP27 had been announced as the “Implementation COP”. What does that mean to you and to local governments worldwide?

Simply put, we have no time to lose. Heatwaves, extreme droughts and floods threaten the already vulnerable parts of our world. It is vital that we set our sights on the action at both COP27 and beyond, with the important goal of ensuring that the parties that can make a difference make their voices heard.

Why do you think cities have been ignored for so long as key stakeholders in the global fight for the climate?

Good question. I believe that many cities have always played a part as a frontrunner of progressive climate policies but were simply never granted both financial aid and influence on national and international levels. I hope that with our efforts, cities’ voices will be heard more loudly in the future.  

Could you also share some good climate practices from Utrecht?

Utrecht has an extensive network of bike infrastructure throughout the city to encourage clean and healthy transportation. And we also have the biggest bike parking garage in the world.

Recently we have even turned a four-lane highway that used to be a historic canal going straight to the city, back to its original state. Now rainwater can be stored, and nature is allowed to flourish again. 



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