Monday, May 14, 2007

Climate change summit

World's mayors meet at New York climate change summit by James Hossack
2 hours, 31 minutes ago

Mayors and business leaders from more than 40 of the world's biggest cities were gathering in New York Monday for a summit devoted to combating climate change and cleaning up the environment.

Leaders from Seoul to Sydney and Mumbai to Mexico City are expected at the C40 Large Cities Climate Summit, billed as helping to reduce cities' greenhouse gas emissions and develop more energy-efficient infrastructure.

The summit, which opens with a reception late Monday and runs through Thursday, is expected to include several joint initiatives that harness the cities' combined purchasing power.

The event is being organized in conjunction with The Clinton Climate Initiative, part of the foundation set up by former US president Bill Clinton, who is due to address the summit on its last full day Wednesday.

The first large cities summit was held in London in 2005 and brought together environmental officials from around 20 cities to exchange ideas and set up a network of like-minded cities.

This year's meeting for the first time brings in business leaders.

The key to the summit is the financial case for addressing climate change, said Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, a non-governmental business leadership group organizing the summit.

"The feeling was it was important for this summit to focus on the potential economic benefits of cities taking action to reduce carbon emissions and address climate change," she said.

Former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern last year warned that the fallout of climate change could be on the scale of the two world wars and the Great Depression of the 1930s unless urgent action was taken.

Wylde said that by bringing together city authorities and the companies who can provide technological solutions and the financial institutions to back new initiatives, the summit was much more than just a talking shop.

"You've had lots of people that are abstractly talking about global warming and advocating policy change, but these are people who actually write checks ... who are making a public commitment," she said.

"It's no longer a matter just of rhetoric. Mayors are 'roll up your sleeves' guys that really have to run a city and do things," she said. "These are mayors with real budgets, real local obligations."

Other topics up for discussion include beating congestion, making water systems more efficient, adopting renewable energy sources, increasing recycling levels, reducing waste and improving mass transit systems.

Cities are responsible for around three-quarters of the world's energy consumption and are considered critical to reducing carbon emissions.

The summit would allow cities to pool their influence to create a movement that could make a real change to tackling global warming, Wylde said.

"If one city by itself implements a policy to reduce its carbon emissions, I don't think it's going to convince anyone that that's going to change the world," she said.

"But if the larger cities across five continents commit to do something, that could change the world. It could have a real impact on the case of climate change," she said.

Among the cities attending the summit are Bangkok, Beijing, Cairo, Delhi, Dhaka, Istanbul, Jakarta, Johannesburg, Karachi, London, Lagos, Melbourne, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Shanghai, Singapore and Tokyo.

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