Mayors and local authority leaders made the appeal in Copenhagen at a meeting convened by their international lobby, Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI).
“Cities have not been adequately recognized and one message we want to send across to our leaders is that without local governments there will be no solutions to climate change,” former Bonn Mayor and the chair of the World Council of Mayors on Climate Change Ms. Barbel Dieckmann said.
Ms. Dieckmann said the onus for the success of the Copenhagen climate talks ultimately lay with the citizens of the world, and that is where the local governments came in.
Mexico City mayor Mr. Marcelo Erbrad said mayors should push for a greater role in the next round of climate negotiations. “We cannot understand the issue of climate change under 19th century terms. We must understand that we are discussing matters that are cutting across borders and that we are discussing the future of humanity,” Mr. Marcelo said.
The President of ICLEI Mr. David Cadman said subsidies to oil and gas industries by governments should be chanelled to local governments instead.
“We are saying no more subsidies for gas, no more subsidies for coal and no more subsidies for oil. This money should be given to the local governments who are better placed to impact on the populations,” he said.
The British economist Nicholas Stern said climate change posed grim future for cities because that is where the majority of the world lived.
“I had the chance to travel to Kibera slums in Nairobi with Mrs. Tibaijuka and I saw first hand how the poor are affected and what was more scary was that the majority of the residents were young people,” he said.
Melbourne Mayor Mr. Robert Doyle challenged his colleagues to always plan ahead so as to deal with system failures resulting from effects of climate change. Mr. Doyle whose city saw fierce fires earlier in the year which killed more than 100 people said such planning was sure to minimize risk.
The Mayor of Naples Mr. Jean Marc Ayrault said cities were both at the heart of the climatev change problem and at the heart of the solution as well.
“Cities require stronger cooperation between local and national governments because without citizens involvement no results will be achieved in the climate change discussions,” he said.
From Johannesburg Mayor Amos Masondo said his city was grappling with effects of climate change which included flooding in scales never witnessed before.
In her brief remarks, Mrs. Tibaijuka expressed pleasure that the mayors had come out strongly to articulate their views at the climate talks. The Executive Director informed tha mayors that the World Urban Forum, organized by UN-HABITAT as well as the agency’s Governing Council, gave them the perfect venues to present their case to the United Nations leadership.
“I must congratulate you because you have done a lot in raising the local voice. Now I must inform you that the Governing Council of UN-HABITAT and the World Urban Forum are the best avenues open for local authorities to articulate issues you want the United Nations to address,” she said, adding that next year’s Fifth Session of the World Urban Forum (WUF5) would be the perfect opportunity for post Copenhagen discussions.