Cities, Climate and Change: Building up transformative skills and capacities

19 March 2024

Prof. Kes McCormick delivered a keynote speech at PLATFORMA-UCLG online Climate Academy on 13 March. He is Professor of Business Development and Sustainable Innovation at the Department of People and Society at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU). He also holds a position at the International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics (IIIEE) at Lund University.

“Since the early 1990s local governments began to position cities as central to the international effort to address climate change. We know that cities are part of the problem and part of the solution as well as that cities are key to both mitigation and adaptation. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) sums it up stating that cities are hotspots of global climate emissions and risk, but also hubs for innovation, action and resilience. Finally, we need to continuously remember that climate change is a technological, political, economic, social and cultural challenge as well as an opportunity for positive transformation in cities and communities.

In 2022, the European Commission launched a mission for 100 climate neutral cities (big, medium, small) by 2030 to pursue ambitious goals, significantly reduce emissions, and experiment with innovative approaches with citizens and urban stakeholders. The selected cities are developing strategies and taking actions, which include overall plans for climate neutrality across a diversity of sectors including energy, buildings, waste management and transport, together with related mechanisms for financing and partnering. The mission involves five key activities: Visions and Plans; Data and Tools; Finance and Partnerships; Engagement and Action; and Research and Innovation.

To fully implement the five activities, we need to enhance transformative skills and capacities both individually and collectively.

  • A key for embracing change is a learning mindset at both individual and collective levels. It involves a combination of experiences, reflection, re-thinking and trying out new ideas and new approaches.
  • Critical systems thinking involves understanding the complex causal relationships and feedback loops within and between systems, including understanding actor relationships.
  • Deep listening relates to deep learning (as opposed to surface learning), and involves connecting beyond facts and information. Opening up to different perspectives and approaches is key.
  • Cocreating abilities involves communication skills and the capacity to facilitate inclusive processes of trust and managing diverse values, interests and knowledge perspectives as well as team building.
  • Collaborative action through embracing experimentation involves deliberate testing of future configurations and learning for structural and systemic change, which is a key for transformation.

To learn more, check out a free online course on the five core activities and how to develop transformative skills and capacities.”

Subscribe to newsletter