Cities must fight warming, mayors say
NEW YORK ” City leaders from around the world declared at an environmental summit Tuesday that they can no longer wait for national governments to reverse global warming and instead must find solutions on their own.
Mayors from Seoul to Sao Paulo and Albuquerque to Addis Ababa gathered at the summit, hosted by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former President Bill Clinton, to exchange ideas on how their cities have gone green.
“We cannot sit around and watch our environment deteriorate and put this world in jeopardy,” Bloomberg said. “The public wants action, and if you have a void, the mayors are going to fill that void.”
Mayors and local leaders from more than 30 cities kicked off the conference, known as the C40 Large Cities Climate Summit, which first met in 2005 in London. Clinton did not attend Tuesday but was expected to be there Wednesday.
Organizers say cities bear a significant responsibility to address climate change because they generate 80 percent of heat-trapping greenhouse gases but cover less than 1 percent of the Earth’s surface.
“It is in cities that the battle to tackle climate change will be won or lost,” London Mayor Ken Livingstone said.
The meeting comes at a time when many countries are struggling to address global and national standards for carbon reduction. This week, U.N. delegates are meeting in Germany to gear up for December negotiations on a new set of international rules for controlling greenhouse gas emissions. The new accord would succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which ends in 2012.
When the Group of Eight major industrialized countries ” the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, Canada and Russia ” meet in Germany in June, climate change will also be on the agenda.
Meanwhile, the mayors said Tuesday, local governments can’t wait around.
“Where national governments can’t or won’t lead, cities will,” Toronto Mayor David Miller said.
Douglas Palmer, mayor of Trenton, N.J., and president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, said 500 of the nation’s mayors have now signed the group’s climate agreement, a pledge that is in line with the Kyoto Protocol. That 1997 international treaty requires the industrialized countries that signed it to cut emissions by 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012; the U.S. did not join the pact.
Throughout the first day of the conference, which ends Thursday, participants attended panels on various topics, from water use to transportation.
In a discussion on transportation, the mayor of the Brazilian city of Curitiba described his city’s solutions, which include a bus rapid transit system, while Livingstone described London’s program to reduce traffic by charging motorists extra money in the city center. Bloomberg recently announced his intention to begin a similar traffic charging program in Manhattan.
London traffic congestion dropped by 20 percent, and carbon emissions in the central zone similarly decreased, Livingstone said. The fee ” equal to about $16 ” has gone up since it started in 2003.
“People may not like paying the 5 pounds a day, but they certainly didn’t want to live with that style of congestion,” Livingstone said. He said his city’s next goal is to charge more for higher-polluting cars, a pricing scale that could mean a $50 equivalent charge for the worst offenders.
Summit organizers invited business leaders to the gathering in an effort to involve the private sector. They hope to convince them that going green ” through innovative construction, transportation alternatives and other environmental changes ” is profitable.