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Cities are unlikely to get the formal recognition many crave at the UN climate talks, but they can make an impact
By Megan Darby
“A president talks about principles, but a mayor collects the garbage” – Park Won-soon, mayor of Seoul, South Korea.
The importance of cities in tackling climate change is undeniable. They are responsible for most of the world’s people, money and greenhouse gas emissions.
Emerging cities of Asia and Africa, in particular, have an opportunity to choose energy efficient hi-rise blocks and public transport over suburban sprawl and motorways.
So what role can mayors play in the UN climate talks, which are due to reach a global deal in Paris this December?
It was a critical question for ICLEI, a network of local governments for sustainability, at its summit in Seoul last week.
“It is difficult for cities to play a strong role [in Paris], given that it is an intergovernmental negotiating process,” says Yvo de Boer, director general of the Global Green Growth Institute and former UN climate chief.
“At the same time I think there is a growing realisation that cities are not only a significant part of the problem of climate change, but also a significant part of the solution.
“As a consequence, I think there is a greater willingness to listen to cities.”
By Lisa Friedman
International climate negotiations are “less scary” now than before the 2009 global warming summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, in part because there is little expectation of a legally binding treaty, former U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer said.
In an interview with ClimateWire, de Boer — now director general of the South Korea-based Global Green Growth Institute — said that at this time before Copenhagen, negotiators had “wildly different views” of what the summit would deliver. While many governments and environmental groups assumed the goal then was to nail down a legally binding agreement, the United States, China and a few other countries were actually never on board with that mission.
“I think the concept of internationally legally binding targets is pretty much off the table now. That makes Paris less scary,” de Boer said.