UN-HABITAT urged decision-makers at the UN climate convention in Bali to get local authorities in cities around the world more closely involved in the drive to tackle climate change.
More than 60 city managers, representatives of international organizations, non-governmental organizations and the private sector attended a special seminar to examine the UN-HABITAT strategy on cities in climate change.
Ms. Axumite Gebre-Egziabher, Director of the agency’s New York office, outlined UN-HABITAT’s mandate to promote sustainable urban development and adequate shelter for all, and stressed its local-level focus.
She explained that UN-HABITAT is one of the few un bodies that works with organizations at every level, including local governments to build, manage, plan and finance cities without slums that are livable places for all, which do not pollute the environment or deplete natural resources.
At the dawn of a new urban era with most of humanity now living in cities, UN-HABITAT is at the frontline of the battle against fast growing poverty in cities, rapid urbanisation, unemployment, disasters and the scourge of climate change that is caused by cities and hurts them most.
UN-HABITAT experts also told the seminar jointly organized with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that experts had met in Nairobi 22-23 November to discuss the agency’s role in supporting local adaptation strategies in developing countries’ cities.
Participants agreed on the importance of working with secondary cities and recommended focusing on multi-level governance and multi-hazard approaches.
The conference ended its first week with negotiations in full swing on key problems. According to Mr. Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Climate Change Convention, Bali has to deliver on several areas of importance to developing countries, including adaptation, transfer of climate friendly technology, strengthened capacity building and progress on reducing emissions due to deforestation.
In addition, he said, Bali needs to launch a process beyond 2012 when the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol expires.
In a special address on climate change this week to the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in Bangkok, Thailand, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon cited the "historical responsibility" we have to our descendants centuries from now. His view widely echoed that of an appeal by youth groups at the climate talks.
"I support the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities when it comes to climate change," Mr. Ban said.
Developing countries must participate, as successes in Bali hinge on major emitters from the developing world, he noted. Meanwhile, developed countries -- with their financial resources and technological capabilities -- have a "historical responsibility" to take the lead and assist poorer nations.
However, the Secretary-General pointed out that a century or two from now, our descendants "will never question whether you are from a developed country or whether you are from a developing country. They will question your leadership at this time."
Thus, "we must be responsible for what we will do and responsible for what we need to transfer to give this planet Earth to future generations in the most hospitable and environmentally sustainable situation," he said.
UN-HABITAT’s Executive Director, Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, is scheduled to address the climate change meeting on Wednesday.