European cities join global effort on climate

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A number of large European cities are promising to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions as part of a major international initiative to tackle climate change. The initiative was launched at a conference in Mexico City on 21 November 2010.

Some of Europe's biggest cities are among 138 local governments from around the world that have signed the Global Cities Covenant on Climate, thereby committing themselves to implementing measures that will help to reduce their carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

Cities that have already signed up to take part in the initiative include Barcelona, Bordeaux, Brussels, Cologne, Copenhagen, Geneva, Lyon, Malmo and Paris.

The covenant was presented at a World Mayors Summit on Climate, held in Mexico City on 21 November.

The summit was organised in partnership with the World Mayors Council on Climate Change (WMCCC), ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, and United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG). These umbrella organisations bring together many thousands of local and municipal governments throughout the world.

Mayor of Paris Bertrand Delanoë is one of the city leaders who spoke at the summit. He took the opportunity to remind national governments of the urgent need for them to agree on concrete measures in terms of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.

The pressure is now on world leaders to reach agreement on specific actions when they resume negotiations at the next United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 16), which is due to start next week (29 November) in the Mexican city of Cancún.

Monitoring and measuring progress

One of the ways that the global covenant will be implemented is through the creation of a monitoring and verification mechanism called the "carbon Cities Climate Registry" (cCCR), to be operated by Germany's Bonn Centre for Local Climate Action and Reporting.

The cCCR is designed to collect comparable data on urban greenhouse gas emissions as well as keep track of local projects that help to tackle climate change. Residents of the participating cities will be able to see how well their city is performing and compare the results against other cities around the world.

"The cCCR is a platform wherein cities can work together," says Elizabeth Gateau, secretary-general of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG). "Cities are ahead of the game of nations and are leading the global process combating climate change."

Commissioner welcomes covenant

Johannes Hahn, the EU commissioner responsible for regional policy, has welcomed the covenant that was launched in Mexico City.

"As already now more than 70% of the European population lives in metropolitan areas and over 70% of CO2 emissions takes place in urban zones, cities can and must play a pivotal role in the reduction of CO2 emissions," said Hahn.

The commissioner said that the Global Cities Covenant on Climate could make a positive contribution to the European Union's commitment to reduce CO2 emissions by 20% by 2020.

"I see the Mexico City Pact as a support for our policy goals and look forward to an intensive cooperation with all European cities and metropolitan areas, to tackle the issue of climate change via a joint approach, using EU Cohesion Funding as a tool to reduce CO2 emissions in these places where they occur most,'' Hahn said.

The Global Cities Covenant on Climate has many similarities with an EU initiative that was launched in February 2009. More than 2000 local authorities across Europe have already signed the European ‘Covenant of Mayors’ on sustainable energy, and are putting in place local action plans to promote energy efficiency.

The Copenhagen UN climate change conference in December 2009 was designed to outline a new international treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

But after two weeks of extenuating talks, world leaders delivered an agreement that left Europeans "disappointed" as it did not include binding commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The result was a minimalist deal, called the 'Copenhagen Accord', which included a pledge by developed countries to raise $100 billion per year by 2020 to help climate efforts in poor countries.

The next United Nations Climate Change Conference – also known as COP 16 – will be held in Cancún, Mexico, from 29 November to 10 December 2010.

  • 29 Nov.: Start of United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 16) in Cancún, Mexico.

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