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How to Be a Good Climate Mayor

Local policy makers want to fight climate change. The World Health Organization has advice.

A sign of the climate crisis in London on July 19, 2022.

A sign of the climate crisis in London on July 19, 2022.

Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

As the effects of climate change become more apparent, the importance of action at the local level has never been clearer. So how can mayors who want to make their cities healthier, cleaner places overcome barriers to change? At a meeting of 16 global mayors convened in London by the climate-focused leadership group C40 Cities this week, Dr. Maria Neira, the World Health Organization’s director for public and environmental health, outlined six “prescriptions” for mayors aiming to deliver meaningful climate action to their citizens.

Having up-to-date information is crucial, says Neira, and not just because it helps mayors identify community needs and take timely action when problems emerge. Good data can also reveal connections between seemingly disparate issues. For example, pollution levels affect “not just health,” Neira says, “but even levels of violence.” This bold-sounding assertion has empirical backing: A 2016 study from the University of Arizona found that when windy days brought dirtier-than-usual air into Los Angeles, crime levels in the city rose by more than 6%.