ICLEI: Cities set course for climate adaptation as UN Bonn Climate Change Talks begin

    Local government leaders set their own course for cities’ climate change adaptation as the Bonn Climate Change Talks of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) open today.

    500 Mayors, municipal decision makers and experts from universities and international organizations from all continents met for Resilient Cities 2010, the first world congress on the adaptation of cities to the impacts of Climate Change, organized by ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainable Development, the World Mayors Council on Climate Change and the City of Bonn.

    Konrad Otto-Zimmermann, Secretary General of ICLEI, commended Congress participants for making the event a success, but said there is a need for connections with leaders in other sectors. “The well-established disaster risk community and those who work in climate change need to work together to accelerate adaptation in cities,” he said. “We need to strengthen this movement of ‘adaptationists.’”

    Mayors promise to safeguard the urban poor from the effects of climate change, to press for greater local government involvement in international climate proceedings and to allot more funds to cities‘ climate adaptation. Mayors set out a local leader’s roadmap for climate adaptation preceding the UN Climate Talks (COP16) in Cancún, Mexico, 29 November – 10 December, 2010.

    The Bonn Declaration of the Mayors Adaptation Forum 2010 is local governments‘ loudest international response to the failed UN Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen of December 2009. COP15 did not deliver the bold, binding and global climate change agreement the world hoped for.

    While cities make efforts to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions and increase urban energy-efficiency, they are at the same time at risk. Climate change is already leading to an increased frequency of extreme weather events bringing floods, landslides and droughts while melting glaciers threaten the drinking water supply of large cities. Sea-level rise will affect the many large cities located along the coastlines.

    “Our cities are at risk now”, said Marcelo Ebrard, Mayor of Mexico City and chair of the World Mayors Council on Climate Change. “We are losing time, so we are working with other cities in order to have new ideas, new ways to do things faster than in the past. Our Mayors Adaptation Forum is a unique opportunity to discuss a way to get closer to the future we want.”

    “Ultimately, it is cities that will directly face and directly deal with climate change impacts,” said Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, who spoke emphatically about cities‘ role in international climate adaptation at the final plenary of the Congress.

    We know from past experience that the poor in all countries suffer most from the impacts of climate change. Local authorities are hard placed to provide [help] without a national and international policy framework,” de Boer said. “National governments should not be allowed to get away with this.”

    “The United Nations doesn’t yet have a good framework for interacting with local governments,” said Margareta Wahlström, UN Assistant Secretary General for Disaster Risk Reduction and moderator of the final Resilient Cities 2010 plenary panel. She called for an “increase of space for local governments in the national arena and in global agenda-setting.”

    The congress also saw the launch of the Making Cities Resilient Campaign by the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.

    The Resilient Cities 2010 congress organizer, ICLEI, is the world’s leading local government association engaging cities in programs addressing climate change. It works with over 1,100 member metropolises, cities, towns, counties and regions in 70 countries on sustainable development and environmental initiatives. ICLEI’s headquarters is in Bonn, Germany.

    Sources:
    Bonn Declaration of Mayors:
    available in pdf form

    Resilient Cities 2010 congress website:
    www.iclei.org/bonn2010

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