Yesterday, when 134 countries walked out of the negotiations on Loss and Damages, the COP19 President was fired from being Poland’s Minister of the Environment for his lack of action to promote fracking, and negotiations generally seemed to be disintegrating, I found myself with an invitation to attend the Warsaw Dialogues on Scaling-up Local and Subnational Climate Action. It was a breath of fresh air and action compared to COP19.
Organized by the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, and EUROCITIES, the event brought together city leaders from around the world to highlight the work that is already happening on the ground in local municipalities, and solicit feedback on what support is needed from the national and international level.
Integral to this process were roundtable discussions with participants, representing municipalities from around the world, focusing on four key areas: adaptation, transportation, waste, and buildings.
General themes from the discussions included:
- the lack of awareness of the public or national governments on the actions that cities are taking, and why they are taking them;
- the clout that cities have, financially, politically, and in terms of GHG emission reduction potential;
- the need for regulatory flexibility in order to act innovatively and swiftly; and
- the potential for enhancing a bottom-up approach and empowering local governments by creating a platform for continuous dialogue between national government, cities, and members of UNFCCC parties.
In the “Buildings” session, we discussed the need for long-term consideration for decision-making, infrastructure investment, plans, and national policies. Have you ever thought about public procurement practices as a source of massive change? Neither had I. Apparently, tremendous emphasis is placed on green public procurement within the European Commission. Procurement rules can be modified to value life-cycle costing, incorporating life-cycle analysis from an energy and environmental perspective, and driving innovation. It may mean purchasing things that are more expensive up front but will be less expensive over their lifetimes. Key to implementation is training the public servants.
Actions already taken by cities were highlighted in an awards ceremony for the World Green Building Council Government Leadership Awards. Vancouver, Canada, won overall for “Greenest City 2020 Action Plan for Green Buildings“, which requires all new buildings to be carbon neutral by 2020, and utilizes a green building code introduced for all developments and a retrofit policy for all buildings seeking renovation permits.
Speaking with various attendees afterward, the general sense is the cities are not going to sit idle (nor have they been!) waiting for the UNFCCC to act. They have work to do.