Skip to main content


Blog / Low carbon transition is a matter for engaged citizens

Low carbon transition is a matter for engaged citizens

Besides actors on the national level, the UNFCCC Paris Agreement acknowledges civil society, private sector, financial institutions, cities, local communities and other subnational actors as part of the solution to tackle climate change moving forward with the transformation towards a low carbon society. Despite this inclusive approach one major question remains largely unanswered: How to engage and work together with these subnational actors that represent such diverse interests?

Networking intervention by Cascoland at COP21 in Paris. Image: Florian Lorenz.

It is precisely in cities - within which 70% of global CO2 emissions are being emitted - where countless actors converge who can potentially contribute to and participate in mitigation activities, ranging from bold new public policies or initiatives within the private sector, to social mobilization on local or global scale. 

Over the recent years the role of citizens has shifted into a more (pro)active mode because of more environmentally-conscious lifestyles, and the need of urgent change towards sustainability in the face of the state-actors’ non-action. Citizens’ active participation in this quest towards climate action envisions that we can be all part of the solutions, especially when it comes to climate change mitigation and the roadmap to sustainable, resilient and low carbon cities.

The epitome of this movement is the onset of multiple citizens’ collectives worldwide, looking for and creating such change. Their role has become important not only for social mobilization but also for enhanced participation by providing ideas and solutions, personal commitments, and even formulation of public policy.

One example for this global movement is the group La Ciudad Verde, a “think-do-thank” lead by citizens that work for promoting sustainability in Colombia and worldwide. La Ciudad Verde is quickly becoming an important actor in mobilizing society towards more sustainable lifestyles in cities and regions, creating impacts not only for citizen’s involvement, but also for policy making within Colombia and abroad. The initiative promotes projects to raise awareness through academic evidence, knowledge sharing, tactical urbanism, activism, policy follow-up, and supporting citizens’ and public sector initiatives

In terms of public policy making, LCV created the “Pacto por la Sostenibilidad” (Agreement for Sustainability) a campaign that seeks the commitment from subnational government candidates to include sustainable practices in their government plans across Colombia. 300 local leaders have signed the agreement in 2011 and 935 in 2015.

La Ciudad Verde also created the Sustainability Award to encourage cities and mayors to measure basic sustainability indicators, and to involve citizens in tactical urbanism activities. In 2014 a total of 37 cities participated and 150 citizen’s initiatives applied for the award.

To raise awareness and educate citizens in diverse sustainability topics regarding the urban future, LCV is hosting a weekly public dialogue in several Colombian cities simultaneously promoting the interaction between politicians, entrepreneurs, citizens and experts. Until now more than 6.000 people have participated in this event series.

To promote sustainable transport and emissions reduction, LCV started a global campaign called “Bikes for Life | Bicis por la vida”, which invited citizens to mobilize on one specific day to raise awareness about using bicycles as an alternative and viable means of transport. In the years 2013 and 2014 about 200 cities around the globe have participated in this event. 

In 2015 La Ciudad Verde together with aligned NGOs and citizens hosted The Fourth World Bicycle Forum in Medellín, Colombia. With the title “Cities for All” the event gathered 6.500 participants from 38 countries to celebrate the transformative power of the bicycle for building socially inclusive and healthy cities. The event was held without participation fee and therefore united participants from various social strata and cultural as well as professional backgrounds.

Under the belief that citizens can play a catalytic role in climate change mitigation, La Ciudad Verde is now leading the Low Carbon City program that includes, amongst different activities, the first citizen-led global Low Carbon City Forum. The Forum, to be held in Medellin, Colombia from 10 to 12 October 2016, seeks a massive social mobilization to build low carbon cities from a localized citizen-driven approach. The organizers expect to bring together more than 3.000 citizens, politicians, academics, innovators, planners and urban leaders from around the world to unite as change-makers towards a low carbon urban future.

Prior to the Forum, cities like Vienna, Cape Town, Bogota, Quito, London or Hong Kong will host educational and tactical urbanism activities to raise awareness about the topic. In order to keep the issue on the public agenda in long term, the forum additionally aims to create a network of multiple actors working for low carbon transition to share experiences, knowledge, opportunities and maintain collaborative advocacy efforts. From now on, any organization, city, enterprise, NGO or citizen can contribute to the agenda.

The assumption that tackling climate change is exclusively a matter of international agreements does not open a promising path towards a low carbon urban future. As citizens, we can bring solutions to our daily lives, and patterns of living. Such is the most interesting approach of the Forum: That we are all part of the solution.


More information about us

the Low Carbon City
More information about the work of La Ciudad Verde: