Mayors of the world unite

Want to lead failing climate talks  

By J Basu
Published: Wednesday 30 June 2010

imageABOUT 500 city mayors and climate experts from 53 countries around the globe met in Bonn over the last weekend of May with one agenda: forge their own roadmap for a low-carbon future. India was represented by Mayors of Chennai and Howrah.

The first World Congress on Cities and Adaptation to Climate Change coincided with the latest round of talks under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in the same city. Unlike the UN talks in Copenhagen that ended in acrimony and a weak accord to which many countries did not agree, city halls from five continents reported progress.

The mayors and climate experts worked overtime and finalized a 10- point declaration, which demands a greater and independent role for cities in implementing climate adaptation programmes at the city level and direct access to finance and technical resources. Chairperson of the meet, Konrad Otto-Zimmermann, said repeated failure of UN-brokered climate change talks to provide a solution on how to curb greenhouse gas emissions and how to mitigate climate change impact has opened the door for cities to demand the centre-stage.

Howrah mayor Mamta Jaisawal demanded that the climate threat to urban poor should be explicitly recognized in the declaration; other mayors agreed. Releasing the declaration, Mexican mayor Marcelo Ebrard said several cities across the world are the hotbed of climate impact. Without their participation it is difficult to achieve any significant success on the climate front.

The declaration demanded a role for cities in future negotiations. Ebrard has convened a meeting of world mayors in Mexico just before his country hosts the next UNFCCC negotiations in November.

Outgoing Executive Secretary of UNFCCC Yvo de Boer supported the initiative and asked cities to push their respective countries to undertake climate adaptation programmes. “Don’t allow national governments to get away… keep pressurizing,” he said. The event was co-hosted by an international association of local governments for sustainable development, ICLEI, the World Mayors Council on Climate Change and the City of Bonn.

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