By the end of 2017, it may have seemed like there weren’t any political or diplomatic precedents left to break. Nonetheless, the Trump Administration managed to break one more in November at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, when it declined to establish a pavilion space for American diplomats, NGOs, and business leaders to gather. Instead, there was an unofficial American pavilion, featuring California Governor Jerry Brown and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as chief diplomats. And it was, in fact, bigger than that of any country.

If that sounds a bit performative, that’s because it was. At one of the signature diplomatic meetings of the year focused around a global crisis, the most well-orchestrated, ambitious, and visible U.S. presence was not the U.S. government itself—it was a combination of cities, states, and companies.

2017 turned out to be a watershed year for urban issues on the international stage. Four weeks in particular, from mid-November to mid-December, featured especially intense international engagement by mayors and illustrated that some of the defining features of city diplomacy may be changing…

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