Cities are aiding in the fight against the climate crisis, becoming beacons of science diplomacy.

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Last fall, the world watched as its ambassadors filed out of the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations (UN) Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27), the latest round of UN-led climate talks, which occurred in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, without a clear mandate on how to reduce global carbon emissions and curtail global temperature rise to a safer, 1.5 degrees Celsius. Participants, observers, scientists, and policy experts said they will continue to press forward with national plans and, in some cases, subnational efforts to close the gap. Some see science diplomacy among cities as a robust alternative to nation-state negotiations.

The need to assemble scientists and policymakers gave rise to the City Science Initiative (CSI), a European Commission (EC) effort started by European cities to conduct research and discuss policy. Caroline Nevejan, Ph.D., chief science officer, city of Amsterdam, launched the initiative with Patrick Child, then-deputy director of research and innovation with the European Commission, and then-EU and EC Joint Research Centre Deputy Director-General Charlina Vitcheva. The CSI includes five, citywide science experiments in air quality (Paris), circular economy (Hamburg, Germany), mental health (Thessaloniki, Greece), sustainable urban mobility (Cluj-Napoca, Romania), and tech and the city (Reggio Emilia, Italy).

“We share the challenges,” said Dr. Nevejan. “We’re all working on sustainability. We said [to the EC] with the billions of euros for research and innovation, cities should be in your focus.”

Dr. Nevejan explained that the CSI, as well as the science-policy hub that she leads in Amsterdam, requires substantial orchestration and investments of human capital to design effective and in-practice collaboration between policy and research.

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Icon afbeelding: Nevejan | Magazine.swe