Cities must lead the way in addressing global climate change: Mayor
Government leaders and science experts are joining forces to create a new blueprint for action on climate change
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The onus is on cities to lead the way when it comes to climate change, Mayor Don Iveson stressed on the first day of the Cities and Climate Change Conference in Edmonton on Monday.
Edmonton is hosting the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Cities event until Wednesday, which brings together municipal leaders, scientists, representatives from the United Nations and other experts from around the globe to discuss the role cities will play in addressing climate change.
According to C40 Cities, a climate change action group, cities are responsible for more than 70 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, but only take up two per cent of the world's landmass.
Not only are cities responsible for the vast majority of the world's emissions, but they also have an important role to play because they are the centres for research, innovation and commercialization, the mayor said.
“There’s an opportunity for us to reinforce that cities will continue to lead based on the best science available,” Iveson said. “And this is important … over time, it will require the consistent commitment of local government leaders around the world.”
The conference is meant to stir discussion and boost understanding of the role cities play in fighting climate change in support of two key United Nations frameworks: The Paris Climate agreement and the New Urban Agenda.
Ultimately, the hope is it will lead to a new blueprint for tackling climate change, which will be implemented in the IPCC Special Report on Cities and Climate Change.
IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee, who travelled to the conference from South Korea, said cooperation between all levels of government is crucial to create meaningful policies.
“The success of climate change policy depends on how the national government’s policy will be able to engage the stakeholders in the local and provincial levels … that’s where the real decisions are made,” he said.
Iveson said he was grateful to be working with federal and provincial governments who are “aligned” with the city’s goals in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
But even if they weren’t, there’s still lots the city can do on its own. He pointed to investing in transit investments, supporting green housing retrofits, and finding efficiencies in where the city gets its fuel and electricity as ways the city can play a meaningful role in reducing emissions.
Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna said when she attended the Paris Agreement conference in 2015, the focus was primarily on what countries need to do. That’s no longer the case, she said.
“You’re seeing businesses across the world stepping up, but you’re also seeing cities … We’ve moved on from just nations providing leadership.”