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Perspective

Cities Are Rising in Influence and Power on the Global Stage

Cities are challenging their invisibility in global governance structures, like the United Nations, by forging new alliances to influence international policy.
World mayors pose for a group picture after signing the Chicago Climate Charter during the North American Climate Summit in Chicago, Illinois, December 5, 2017.
World mayors pose for a group picture after signing the Chicago Climate Charter during the North American Climate Summit in Chicago, Illinois, December 5, 2017.Kamil Krzaczynski/Reuters

When Donald Trump announced in June 2017 that the United States was pulling out of the Paris Agreement—the pact between 195 nations (nearly all the world’s nations) to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions—the mayors of Paris, France, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, responded with an op-ed in the New York Times. In it, they announced that “an unprecedented alliance is emerging” among more than 7,400 cities worldwide to honor and uphold the goals of this agreement irrespective of their own country’s level of commitment. They vowed to do this not only for the citizens of their cities, but also for the citizens of “every other city in the world.”

Most people don’t think of cities when thinking about international relations or international law. After all, cities are local governments and their leaders are concerned with local, not global, issues and challenges. Right?