Local governments fight climate change
Local governments are already engaged in the fight against climate change. While the world has been focused for the past 10 days on international negotiations taking place at the UN climate change conference being held in Copenhagen, across town another group has quietly and effectively demonstrated it isn’t waiting for national governments to join the battle against global warming.
From Addis Ababa to Berlin, from Dhaka to London, from Madrid to Shanghai, the low-profile organisation called C40 - just one of many local and regional government initiatives at COP15 - represents a group of the world’s largest cities committed to taking action now against climate change.
Among municipal leaders attending the Climate Summit for Mayors, an alternative summit to the COP-15 conference aimed at reaching a new, stronger post-Kyoto agreement on reducing harmful greenhouse gasses, was C40 chairman David Miller, who is the mayor of Toronto.
Published news reports said Miller and other mayors vowed, in conjunction with the Clinton Climate Initiative, to make their cities more electric vehicle-friendly.
In his closing speech at the mayor’s summit, Miller said municipal leaders from around the world gathered in Copenhagen to show they are on the frontline of climate change.
“While climate change demands global action, we have shown that we are not waiting for others to act. In Copenhagen, we have learned from what others are doing and hopefully we have inspired each other to find new climate solutions.”
In a less diplomatic way, Miller has also provided proof of a schism between local and national governments when it comes to fighting global warming.
According to the Globe and Mail newspaper, Miller accepted two “Fossil of the Day” awards on behalf of Canada. The prize is awarded by 400 non-governmental organisations to countries viewed as blocking progress at the UN climate summit.
"Like most Canadians, I’m embarrassed. I’m embarrassed that our government continues to be one of the biggest obstacles to reaching agreement,” the Globe and Mail quoted Miller as saying.
The C40 website notes that cities have a central role to play in tackling climate change since they bear a disproportional responsibility for causing it.
“Cities and urban areas consume 75% of the world’s energy and produce up to 75% of its greenhouse gas emissions,” the website says. “That is why it is so important for cities to work together, set the agenda on this issue and show leadership on this issue.”
The website also says that about 50% of the world’s population currently live in cities, a figure that is expected to increase to 60% by 2030.
Copenhagen Mayor Ritt Bjerregaard thanked mayors attending the summit for their “commitment and strength of purpose in turning Copenhagen into Hopenhagen.”
Bjerregaard said it is the first time the group has been united in calling Heads of State to reach a deal on limiting greenhouse gas emissions caused by burning fossil fuels.
"With this Copenhagen Climate Summit for Mayors, we have proved for the first time that through resolute cooperation between national and local governments and cities, we can reach a common goal: to combat global climate change.”