Pope Francis is a unique ally in the pursuit of sustainable development, who has done much to amplify the message of climate change and environmental destruction in his recent Encyclical Laudato Si’.  This high-level 2-day event, convened by the Pontifical Academy with SDSN at the Vatican in Rome, was a unique opportunity to showcase the modern challenges facing cities and to demonstrate the bold leadership of cities and local governments in achieving sustainable development, encouraging national governments to follow suit in September 2015. More than 300 people participated including mayors from all continents, ambassadors, leading urban practitioners, academics and scientists.

The first day included presentations from the Mayors of New York, Rome, Madrid, Paris, San Francisco, Boston, Kingston, Stockholm and many more. Each focused on their cities’ actions to combat climate change and modern slavery (a personal concern for the Pontif). Towards the end of the day we were graced by the arrival of the Pope Francis who shared his vision for a new human ecology, which involves much more than just “being green.” He called on cities to lead from the ground up, forcing national governments to act. A transcript of the statements by Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo (Chancellor of the PAS) is available here.

The second day was a special symposium organized by the Pontifical Academy and SDSN. Professor Jeffrey Sachs and Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo opened proceedings explaining the SDG agenda and the importance of cities committing to fulfill the goals. Keynote speeches were delivered by the Mayors of New York and Rome. Mayor de Blasio specific spoke about OneNYC – his new strategy for integrated sustainable development in New York, and it’s alignment with the SDG agenda. He also announced a new commitment for New York to cut emissions by 40% by 2030 (an acceleration on the original 80% by 2050 plan). Over the course of the day there were four panels, focusing on climate change and decarbonization, social inclusion and inequalities, inclusive economic development and jobs, and finally, governance and financing. The economic development panel was chaired by Aromar Revi, who presented on the many complex, interlinking issues which beset inclusive economic development.

Towards the end of the day Bishop Sanchez and Professor Sachs asked participants to sign a declaration summarizing the proceedings and stating their intent to form an alliance in support of SDG implementation. The draft declaration was approved by all those in the room at the close of proceedings. It will be made available on the SDSN website shortly.

More information on both days proceedings are available on the SDSN and Pontifical Academy of Sciences (PAS) websites. Translations of the agenda are available on the PAS website via the translate button in the top righthand corner.