Ilmar Reepalu, Mayor of Malmö, Sweden

02/02/2011 / Kaj

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Climate Negotiations: Change focus from nations to cities

Around 10,000 people attend the UNFCCC:s, annual COP meetings every year.   This opinion making group and legislators has failed to reach support for an international agreement on climate change.  Perhaps it is time to change the existing model and move the negotiations from the national to the city level.   Cities are directly affected by climate change and have already developed tools to meet the threats of Climate Change.  The World Development Report 2009 states that by 2050, 70 percent of the world’s nine billion people will live in urban areas. Given that cities produce up to 80 per cent of the world’s CO2 emissions, it certainly give them a mandate to negotiate.

The negotiating process that COP meetings have built up should be challenged and the COP 17 meeting in South Africa in December should see the decision to implement a new strategy  with a stronger committment at the Rio Conference 2012.

The UN has a specific coordinating role to play, but the question I want to make is – How can the UN use its budget of 65 million USD effectively so that an agreement that will reduce the greenhouse gases and strenght the work for a Sustainable Development is reached.  The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who made global warming his personal mission, is now keeping away from direct involvement with international climate change negotiations-  a very clear sign that the negotiating process is not moving in the right direction.

What the UN system should mainly concentrate on is finding financial systems  – build on values of Climate Justice and Sustainability – that facilitate entrepreurial and investment sources for the local economy in developing countries. According to UNEP, if all nations pledges are met in full and supported by sufficient climate financing then it is possible that 60% of what is needed to meet the 2 ° C target in 2020 are achieved.

Mayors are the natural partners for concrete projects involving politicians, industry and other stakeholders. As mayors they need to facilitate global trade between cities and strenght the models for a Sustainable Development at its heart.

Over the past five years we have seen the development of a strong local and mayoral-led network of cities that involves both Developed and Developing Countries. World Resources Institute, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability and the Clinton Climate Initiative – C40 are partners in different cities network models.

The C40 Group represent, according to World Bank 393 million people with 8 trillion USD in purchasing power and are responsible for 2 billion tons of greenhouse gases.

In the C40 group they discuss how, for example energy, waste, recycling, water and transport could reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Their targets are to reduce far more than any of the modest objectives of the international agreement on Climate Change.

It is about political action and key business models of interaction for a common cause.  Ilmar Reepalu, Mayor of Malmö – see the interview above the blog is one of the frontrunners. Malmö successful actions to reduce emissions draws visitors from different cities in Scandinavia, UK, China and Africa. They are interested to learn and “buy” the business models and solutions implemented in Malmo. The positive results as Malmos’s breed trust in politicians, businesses and organizations.

A trust that seems absent in the current COP model in the UN.

Kaj Embrén


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  1. Ilmar Reepalu is not just a visionary but also someone who acts on it. Some actor with purchasing and/or legislative power has to take the lead. In not national governments, why not cities? Change always starts with forerunners and Malmö I think is one of them.

  2. Pingback: Sustainable cities and challenges in the developing countries : Kaj Embrén

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