PHOTOS: Eleven Cities Showing What Bold Climate Action Looks Like

Eleven cities from around the world were celebrated recently in Mexico City at the C40 Cities Awards for their commitment to innovation in the fight against climate change.

The eleven-year-old C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group brings together officials from 85 of the world’s great cities that collectively represent one quarter of the global economy. The group’s focus is spurring urban initiatives that reduce greenhouse gas emissions while increasing the health, well-being, and economic opportunity of the more 650 million people who call those 85 cities home.

Sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies and Chinese green-tech developer BYD, the C40 Cities Awards recognized the “best and boldest” work being done by mayors to fight climate change and protect their constituents from climate risks.

“The winning projects show that great progress is being made on every continent, and they serve as an inspiration to other cities,” C40 President of the Board and U.N. Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change Michael R. Bloomberg said in a statement. “They also show how cities can help the world meet the ambitious goals set a year ago in Paris.”

A panel of former mayors and climate experts selected the ten cities that they felt had adopted the most ambitious and effective urban sustainability programs in the world — and C40 partnered with the Associated Press to capture images of each winning city’s projects, allowing you a sneak peek whether you live near one of them or not.

“Today, we celebrate some of the projects that are key to delivering on the world’s climate ambition and will help put us on a path to a carbon-safe future,” Chuanfu Wang, Chairman and President of BYD Co. Ltd, said at the awards ceremony. “We recognise the incredible human power and thoughtful consideration that goes into making these projects reality.”

Addis Ababa, Ethiopa

The city of Addis Ababa is a winner of the C40 Awards 2016 in the Transportation Category. The Addis Ababa Light Rail Transit (LRT) Project has improved the city’s public transport system and created more than 6,000 jobs. The cumulative emission reduction potential of the LRT system is forecasted at 1.8 million tCO2e by 2030.


A lady holding her baby wrapped in a white shawl is transported on an Addis Ababa LRT. (Mulugeta Ayene/AP Images for C40)


An Addis Ababa Light Rail Tram passes through Ethiopia’s largest business district Merakto. (Mulugeta Ayene/AP Images for C40)


Pedestrians look out over commercial and residential buildings on the city skyline. Nearby an Addis Ababa light rail tram passes by. (Mulugeta Ayene/AP Images for C40)

Copenhagen, Denmark

The city of Copenhagen is a winner of the C40 Awards 2016 in the Adaptation in Action category. Copenhagen is threatened by sea level rise and heavy downpours. The Cloudburst Management Plan is an integrated system of green streets and pocket parks that will function as water retention areas and water basins. Thus it will not only deal with the risk of flooding — it is also an opportunity to create green growth, to increase the number of recreational areas across the city, and to improve the quality of life and increase health.


In the suburb of Tåsinge Plads drains can be seen where water is guided through into underground basins. (Jens Dige/AP Images for C40)


Drains have been constructed in the Gammel Strand suburb to send rain water into the nearby canal. (Jens Dige/AP Images for C40)


Drains are being built in the Gammel Strand suburb to send rain water into the nearby canal. (Jens Dige/AP Images for C40)

Curitiba, Brazil

The city of Curitiba is a winner of the C40 Awards 2016 in the Sustainable Communities category. Since 1986, Curitiba’s Urban Agriculture Program has used empty public spaces to encourage communities to grow their own food. In addition to creating sustainable communities, the project reduces greenhouse gas emissions: directly through carbon sequestration in soil and biological nitrogen fixation by legumes and non-use of chemical nitrogen fertilizers; and indirectly by reducing food and waste transport distances, composting organic waste, reduction of “heat islands” and creating environmental awareness.


A young adult with special needs in a vegetable garden adapted for wheelchair users in a school in the outskirts of Curitiba. (Rodolfo Buhrer/AP Images for C40)


A woman holds produce grown in a community garden under the high voltage electricity grid in the community of Rio Bonito, outskirts of the city of Curitiba. (Rodolfo Buhrer/AP Images for C40)


Students of the municipal public network in class learning about healthy foods and the cultivation of vegetables on Nov. 17, 2016, in the Municipal Market of Curitiba. (Rodolfo Buhrer/AP Images for C40)

Kolkata, India

The city of Kolkata is a winner of the C40 Awards 2016 in the Solid Waste category. Kolkata’s climate change risks have been exacerbated by unsanitary disposal and waste dumping. Kolkata Solid Waste Management Improvement Project has achieved 60 to 80 percent (depending on site) segregation of waste at its source, with further waste segregation occurring at transfer stations. Looking forward, the project aims to eradicate open dumping and burning of waste and to limit the concentration of methane gas generated in landfill sites. Communities can produce more that 25 metric tons of compost a day, which is sold for $41 per ton and can thus generate around $1000 per day. The project will benefit more than a million people.


At the compost plant maintained of the KMDA Solid Waste Management Project, a worker uses the compost making machine. (Subrata Biswas/AP Images for C40)


Rajkumar Dom, 32, is on his everyday morning chore of collecting solid waste from houses in Uttarpara municipality area. As an intrinsic part of the project, Rajkumar separates the solid waste into non-biodegradable and biodegradable objects and puts them in different boxes accordingly. (Subrata Biswas/AP Images for C40)


Mantu Kar, 45, poses for a portrait at the compost making plant in Uttarpara. He has been working here for 9 months. (Subrata Biswas/AP Images for C40)

Melbourne & Sydney, Australia

The cities of Melbourne and Sydney are winners of the C40 Awards 2016 in the Building Energy Efficiency category. The CitySwitch Green Office program aims to overcome the knowledge and resource gap between building owners and tenants by prioritizing the reporting of fully auditable achievements, and encourages members to adopt an energy target of between 4-Star and 6-Star on the National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS). The program has an overall target avoidance of 50,000 metric tons of new CO2e per year by its signatory businesses.


A general view of the NAB building at 700 Bourke Street, Docklands on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016 in Melbourne.


A cyclist in Southbank, on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia.


The offices of WWF Australia, Smail Street, Ultimo, Sydney.


A view of Bondi Beach through foliage on Friday, Nov.18, 2016.

Paris, France

The city of Paris is a winner of the C40 Awards 2016 in the Adaptation Plans & Assessments category. The Paris Adaption Strategy is aimed at tackling climate change-related challenges including heatwaves, urban heat island effect, flooding and droughts. The program addresses other sustainability issues like air pollution and health-related risks, climate refugee challenges and water scarcity. It will see 20,000 trees planted, as well as the creation of 30 hectares of green spaces, 1 million square meters of green roofs and walls, and 20 green streets.


People swim in the early morning in the outside pool of the Buttes aux Cailles swimming pool in Paris. (Thibault Camus/AP Images for C40)


A woman walks on a path through a green space in Paris. (Thibault Camus/AP Images for C40)


Nadine Lahoud and Joel Riandey, members of Veni Verdi association, examine the garden on the rooftop of the Henri Matisse college, in Paris, Monday, Nov. 21, 2016. (Thibault Camus/AP Images for C40)

Portland, United States

The city of Portland is a winner of the C40 Awards 2016 in the Climate Action Plan & Inventories category. The overarching goal of Portland's 2015 Climate Action Plan (CAP) is to deliver an integrated set of strategies by 2020 to keep Portland on a path to reduce GHG emissions 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050. The proportion of citizens traveling primarily by public transport, cycling or walking is expected to rise to 50 percent, and the number of electric vehicles is set to increase four-fold to 8,000. The CAP aims to reduce energy use in existing buildings by 1.7 percent annually, resulting in an annual GHG emissions reduction of 280,000 metric tons in 2020.


“Sharrows” (bike lane markings with double arrow) connect low-traffic neighborhood greenway streets throughout the city, providing cyclists with safer options for getting around in Portland. Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. (Greg Wahl-Stephens/AP Images for C40)


A volunteer sorts salvaged building materials for resale at the nonprofit ReBuilding Center in Portland. (Greg Wahl-Stephens/AP Images for C40)


DeConstructionist Angela Ramseyer at a home in Portland. Deconstructing, rather than demolishing older homes, allows for high quality building materials to be salvaged and reused rather than going to waste. (Greg Wahl-Stephens/AP Images for C40)

Seoul, South Korea

The city of Seoul is a winner of the C40 Awards 2016 in the Social Equity category. The Energy Welfare Public Private Partnership (PPP) Programme aims to contribute to the city’s targets on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction while simultaneously reducing energy consumption and spending for low-income families. In 2015, Seoul financed energy retrofits for 1,295 households and aims to finance a further 1,050 households in 2016.


Won Young-Ae, 69, a resident at Sangol village carries a flowerpot on the roof of a house where cool roof and photovoltaic panels are installed for energy-efficient refurbishment by the city of Seoul's Energy Welfare Programme. Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016. (Lee Jae-Won/AP Images for C40)


A woman walks in the Haneul Park in Seoul. The site was previously a landfill holding 140 million tons of garbage. The city of Seoul installed methane gas extraction wells throughout the former landfill. The gases are channeled into wells by use of fans and used to provide heating for public sites including the Seoul World Cup Stadium, households and office buildings nearby. Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016. (Lee Jae-Won/AP Images for C40)

Shenzhen, China

The city of Shenzhen is a winner of the C40 Awards 2016 in the Finance & Economic Development category. Shenzhen is one of the fastest growing cities in the world with a population of 15 million and an annual GDP growth rate of 10 percent. Implementing an Emissions Trading System (ETS) scheme carried many challenges, but Shenzhen has recruited 636 enterprises to partake into the scheme. In the initial 3-year period, those businesses showed a rapid reduction in carbon emissions while maintaining economic growth. Green low carbon development of the city is now possible thanks to uncoupling GDP potential from GHG emissions.


China Emission Exchange in Shenzhen (Brent NG/AP Images for C40)


A view in the electric bus control room as they oversee on road bus battery condition in Shenzhen. (Brent NG/AP Images for C40)


A public green space in the central business district in Shenzhen. (Brent NG/AP Images for C40)

Yokohama, Japan

The city of Yokohama is a winner of the C40 Awards 2016 in the Clean Energy Category. The Yokohama Smart City Project uses Smart Grid technology and solar panels to help cut energy consumption in homes and businesses by between 15 and 22 percent (Yokohama aims to reduce its CO2 emissions by 80 percent by 2050). The project is designed to engage citizens and stakeholders as a key factor of successful implementation.


An employee walks past solar panels on the roof of a building at the Hokubu Sludge Treatment Plant in Yokohama, Japan, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. (Tomohiro Ohsumi/AP Images for C40)


An employee walks past digestion tanks where organic substances are biologically decomposed at the Hokubu Sludge Treatment Plant in Yokohama, Japan, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. (Tomohiro Ohsumi/AP Images for C40)


A woman walks past a monitor displaying the status of the energy management system (BEMS) inside a commercial building in Yokohama, Japan, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. (Tomohiro Ohsumi/AP Images for C40)