Locals frustrated, encouraged by global climate change conference
In December, Boston-based ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability brought more than 1,100 delegates to the United Nations (U.N.) Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen (COP15) to discuss strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions with local, national and international leaders from across the globe. Despite attracting attention to their cause through programming, speakers and meetings with international leaders, ICLEI representatives still are experiencing frustration with the level of support they are receiving in the form of recognition, involvement and funding for environmental efforts.
ICLEI went to the conference with the goal of having one sentence included in any formal, binding treaty: “Parties recognize the role which local and sub-national governments play in taking mitigation and adaptation actions and will seek their active participation in the immediate implementation of this agreement.”
However, while the U.S. and other nations agreed to “The Copenhagen Accord,” a temporary, non-binding agreement that tentatively endorses a continuation of the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012, COP15 failed to produce a binding treaty. ICLEI still hopes to have the language included in any treaty that emerges in the coming months.
Also, Annie Strickler, ICLEI communications director, who attended the conference, says that, while ICLEI is pleased with the attention that local governments drew at COP15, constituents also experienced frustration. Knowing that cities will be responsible for helping meet any emissions targets set, mayors and other local leaders wanted to be included in discussions leading up to an agreement.
In addition to the lack of a legally binding agreement, almost all local government representatives were denied access to the last days of the negotiations. Highlighting the importance of sub-national governments, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger asked the U.N. to “convene a climate summit, like Copenhagen, but for cities, for states, for provinces and regions.” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg also reiterated the important role cities are playing in climate change during an ICLEI panel discussion: “Most of the environmental damage is done, and most of the chances for the improvement are in big cities,” he said. “You have to send the money where the problem is.”
Read ICLEI’s analysis of the outcome of COP15.