National governments must give cities the support they need to tackle climate change impacts, UN-HABITAT Executive Director Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka said at the end of the marathon climate change talks in the Danish capital.
Mrs. Tibaijuka, this year’s co-winner of the world’s top environment award, made her appeal to national governments meeting in Copenhagen at a meeting with Mr. Konraud Otto-Zimmermann, Secretary General of the local authorities lobby, Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI).
She commended world mayors for bringing the urban dimension of the climate change debate to the global talks at a time cities have grown to the point where they are now home to more than half the global population and growing.
“The mayors have shown leadership and must now get a conducive atmosphere to operate. This is important if you consider that cities are the places where the battle against climate change is being fought,” she said as world leaders and their delegations worked through the night Friday to come up with a consensus.
Mrs. Tibaijuka said that although the overall goal was to reduce emission of harmful gases, it was at the household – and therefore the city – level where the battle was being fought. “If it is a matter of changing lifestyle, mode of transport and all the other issues affecting the environment they must be decided at the household level,” she said.
With 80 percent of pollution taking place in cities and other urban centres, there was an urgent need to empower the cities to deal with the problem, she said.
As many people voted with their feet to leave villages and other places to seek better lives in the cities, the issue of adaptation was not an academic argument for the cities, the Executive Director warned.
“The adaptation strategies being employed by the millions who flock the city can also be seen as a survival strategy and for cities adaptation is real,” she said.
Mrs. Tibaijuka, who will launch a new World Urban Campaign next year to press home these points, said many people were yet to fully appreciate that towns are cities are a crucial environment matter. At the same time, she said she was very pleased that the United Nations General Assembly had acknowledged her argument here an upgraded UN-HABITAT into a fully fledged programme of the United Nations.
The United Nations-led climate talks in Copenhagen are meant to be the finale of two years of negotiations. But they hung in the balance on Saturday without a firm accord agreed by world leaders, after a final, all-night plenary session, chaired by the Danish Prime Minister, Mr. Lars Lokke Rasmussen with national negotiators failed to come up with the first climate blueprint since the U.N.'s 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
Several developing countries, countries including Venezuela, Sudan and Tuvalu said they opposed a deal spearheaded on Friday in Copenhagen by the United States, China, India, South Africa and Brazil at the summit.
But the majority of countries urged the Danish hosts to adopt the deal, even though it was imperfect. Officials said to be accepted as an official UN agreement, the deal needs to be endorsed by all 193 nations at the talks.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged delegates to work hard to “seal the deal”.