Your Excellency, Honourable Ulla Tornaes, Danish Minister for Development Cooperation,
Ladies and gentlemen
It is an honour and a pleasure for me to address you at the closing session of this Local Government Climate Change Leadership Summit. I am delighted that this Summit was held here, in view of the commitment of Denmark and Copenhagen to “walk the talk” regarding sustainable urbanization and carbon-friendly cities.
The sessions held at this Summit have debated issues such as climate change mitigation and adaptation; climate justice; low carbon development strategies; and access to finance and technology. A wide range of innovations have been presented and lessons of experience discussed. I would like to add some reflections on some of these issues.
[Mitigation – Transport – Buildings]
It is no coincidence that global climate change has become a leading international development issue at the same time as the world has become urbanized. The way we plan, manage, operate and consume energy in our cities is the key driver behind global warming. The large majority of global energy consumption occurs in cities. Roughly half of this comes from burning fossil fuels for urban transport.
In fact, urban transportation is the planet’s fastest growing source of Greenhouse Gas Emissions. As was discussed in one of the sessions, urban transport is the single most important area, where wisely invested city budgets can make a big contribution in continued climate change mitigation.
Car use is dictated by urban form, hence the critical role of urban planning to combat climate change. Low-density, sprawling cities are two to three times more expensive to run and service than cities more densely populated. This is because less energy is needed to heat, light, cool and fuel buildings and because residential units are packed closer together.
The construction and operation of buildings contributes to approximately one-third to CO2 emissions. We know that constructing energy efficient buildings and even retrofitting usually makes economic sense. Yet, it is still not often enough turned to action.
This all reinforces our belief that cities are at the core of the solution. Given the scope for further energy savings in building and infrastructure construction and operation as well as in transport and waste management, cities are in the position to significantly reduce their climate footprint. The past three days were an excellent demonstration of the powerful contribution of cities to mitigate global warming.
[Low carbon development strategies - Finance and technology]
This meeting takes place in the midst of the most severe financial and economic crisis in living memory.
Conventional wisdom tells us that this crisis will inevitably have implications for the availability of public funds for social services and private capital to finance the much needed improvements in housing, basic infrastructure and services and the investments required to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions and to prepare for the impacts of Climate Change. Conventional wisdom also tells us that the global economic downturn will lead to fewer employment opportunities, affecting first and foremost the developing countries and the poor.
However, the commitments by world leaders, for example at the G20 meeting give rise to the hope that we have collectively chosen to look at things less conventionally by addressing environmental concerns and the concerns of developing countries as well. The current crisis needs to be seen as a clear opportunity to make our urban centres into the driving forces for a green economy.
The opportunities for green jobs need to be seized now. Currently they feature in city development plans more as a side product of environmental initiatives rather than with clear strategic intent. Climate change mitigation can be a good business opportunity. Clean, low-carbon infrastructure investments, retrofitting of buildings, the renewal of our transport systems are opportunities for ‘green’ investments. However, climate change adaptation also provides cities with opportunities to create jobs and a new future for vulnerable populations. Slum upgrading, the provision of climate proof infrastructure and services to a broader group of citizens could lead to significant job and skill creation.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
[Adaptation – Vulnerability – Climate Justice]
As you all know, no matter what the efforts will be to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions, the impacts of Climate Change will be felt strongly in the years to come. As was highlighted in one of the sessions, adaptation is all about local development, with a key enabling and mediating role for local government.
If see levels rise by just one metre, many major coastal cities will be under threat: Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Los Angeles, New York, Lagos, Alexandria-Cairo, Mumbai, Kolkata, Dhaka, Shanghai, Osaka-Kobe and Tokyo to mention just some mega cities. As one of the speakers said this week, the focus of investment in adaptation has to be in the “epicentre of climate injustice” – which means the big coastal cities in the South. But the many smaller coastal cities, especially those in developing countries and those of island nations will perhaps suffer even more, due to their limited adaptation options, and they also need our attention and support.
Urban growth in most developing countries mainly takes place in slums. In sub-Saharan Africa, slum dwellers constitute over 62 percent of urban populations. Everywhere the urban poor live in places no-one else would dare set foot – along beaches vulnerable to flooding, on slopes prone to landfalls, near polluted grounds. They scratch out a living in shaky structures that are flattened the instant a hurricane strikes causing untold loss in lives and destruction. In this new urban age, the mega-cities therefore loom as giant potential disaster traps.
More and more people are drawn to the urban magnet. In many parts of the world climate refugees from rural areas that have been hit by drought or flooding aggravate the migration to cities.
Vulnerable cities need to prepare their infrastructure for the impacts of climate change. But, as one panelist put it: “disaster is not gender and age neutral”. Within our cities, women and the children they support are usually the first to suffer when disaster strikes. Women, youth, and children should therefore be actively involved in the climate change debate and their perspectives should inform policy, programme design and implementation at the global, national and local level. Women’s local knowledge and experience of the environment should be tapped in designing climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In closing, I would like to emphasize that the next 6 months are crucial for cities in determining their role in addressing Climate Change. We all hope that the needs of cities and the role they have to play vis-à-vis climate change will strongly enter the Post-Kyoto protocol.
UN-HABITAT has received new mandates by the General Assembly and by our Governing Council 2 months ago to support cities in addressing Climate Change more forcefully. In partnership with UCLG, ICLEI, C40 and other key organizations we will face the challenge.
UN-HABITAT’s Cities in Climate Change Initiative (CCCI) seeks to minimize impacts on human settlements and increase the adaptive capabilities of local governments by strengthening governance structures and engaging the private sector and civil society in finding practical solutions. This is part of our broader advocacy and capacity development activities, and a cornerstone for our global Sustainable Urban Development Network, SUDNet.
For cities to be taken seriously, they need to monitor their mitigation and adaptation efforts. The need for this was clearly highlighted this week. In partnership with the Cities Alliance, the World Bank and the United Nations Environment Programme, we are committed to work with local government associations to develop and refine methods to support cities to keep track of their climate footprint and assess their climate change vulnerability.
I commend the organizers for raising the voice of Mayors and local authorities. This summit will strengthen the resolve of cities that are grappling with climate change adaptation and mitigation. I urge you to continue to advocate for making the climate change debates, processes and procedures more city-friendly – so that COP15 can deliver a high quality agreement that enables cities to accelerate their mitigation and adaptation efforts.
For this to happen, much larger streams of financial resources must find their way to the local level. This must be linked to an accountability framework, with results-based connections between local, sub-national, national and global levels.
Indeed, this Local Government Climate Change Leadership Summit made it abundantly clear that we need to avoid dispersing our efforts. Municipalities cannot fight this battle alone. They must have the backing of national and regional government and the business sector, especially in these times of financial crisis. This Summit has been an inspiration for us all on the roadmap to a post-Kyoto agreement that values local authorities as indispensable partners and actors.
Thank you very much for your kind attention.