City leaders vow to make progress on climate change

1 Dec 16

Mayors from across the Americas, Asia and beyond have pledged to lead the charge on climate change, and said they won’t let US president-elect Donald Trump get in their way.



Trump’s threats to derail climate change initiatives at the national level has cast a shadow over hopes to curb greenhouse gases in one of the world’s biggest emitters.

But leaders from cities from Vancouver in Canada to Surabaya in Indonesia are gearing up to take the lead as they take up their seats on a newly created board to spearhead climate change initiatives at the city level for 7,100 participating cities.

“We do our best with national governments regardless of their stripes,” Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson told Reuters during a meeting of environmentally conscious mayors, which kicked off yesterday in Mexico City.

While he said the election of Trump has knocked the mayors’ confidence, countries like Canada have had “difficult” national governments in the past and have learned to work around them, including by turning to a “much more effective partner” – the private sector.

Robertson was one of nine mayors who will join the mayoral board of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, chaired by United Nations secretary-general’s special envoy for cities and climate change and former New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, and vice president of the European Commission Maroŝ Ŝefčovič.

Former executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Christina Figueres, will also serve as vice chair, while Patricia Espinosa, the UNFCCC’s current secretary, will join as an observer and advisor.

They will be joined by mayors from Atlanta, Cape Town, Paris, Seoul, Quito, Rajkot in India and Chefchaouen in Mexico.

The board will work to guide and support a global coalition of cities driving stronger climate action and trying to demonstrate the force of their impact on a global stage.

The world’s cities already account for more than 70% of global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions – a figure that is set to rise still as populations across the developing world rapidly urbanise.

The C40 network of mayors, which is hosting the conference in Mexico, and the Compact of Mayors acknowledge the fact that cities are therefore the epicentre of climate change, but are also best placed to drive solutions.

Bloomberg, who chairs the group, noted that that the leadership of cities is therefore “more important than ever” in the fight against climate change.

“This group’s diverse experience from cities on every continent will help support local action and speed global progress,” he said.

Figueres, former head of the UNFCCC which monitors the commitments countries made under the landmark climate change deal signed by almost 200 nations in Paris last December, agreed implementing the agreement “couldn’t happen” without city leadership.

But the push from local leaders comes just as the next president of one of the world’s largest emitters gears up to potentially roll back US achievements on mitigating climate change.

Trump, who has previously said climate change is a hoax concocted by China, is keeping an “open mind” about whether to pull the US out of the deal, which would be a tremendous blow to global progress on fighting climate change.

But the mayors are defiant. Clover Moore, Sydney lord mayor, told Reuters: “Notwithstanding a Trump-type government, you can get on and do an incredible amount.

“Denial doesn’t stop climate change accelerating to it’s even more important for cities to do their bit.”

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