-by Moisés Flores Baca
On November 21 of this year the the World Mayors Summit on Climate took place in Mexico City, there, mayors from 142 cities around the world signed the “Mexico City Pact”, by which the signatories commit themselves to take meaningful action to reduce the emissions produced by their cities. Yesterday such pact, which contains the point of view on climate change and climate action of cities such as LA and Seoul, was officially presented to the members of the COP16.
The meeting was opened by the chair of the COP16, Patricia Espinosa, who emphasized the importance of the role of local governments and parliaments in the decision making process to address climate change. She said that it is well known that ‘politics is always local’, and that local politics is the one that has the deepest and most resounding effects on people, hence, the voice of local governments cannot go unheard in the climate negotiations since those governments are the ones closest to the people.
After the opening remarks by Patricia Espinosa it was Cristiana Figueres’ turn to speak. She added to what Ms Espinosa said that local governments are also at the front line when it comes to concrete climate action. She then brought up Calderon’s point -given during his speech the day before- that the only way to close both the wealth and the environmental gaps is to effectively combat the problem of climate change. Development and climate stability do not have to be mutually exclusive. However, for effective climate action to take place, she continued, it is imperative that national governments have confidence that they can reach agreements, confidence that can only be gained if we, the general public, give them our full support. Figueres continued by echoing what she said during her meeting with the youth representatives last week: that we are here now in Cancun to fertilize the ground upon which a legally binding agreement must bloom in the future -that is, in Durban 2011. Figueres also highlighted the importance there is in the fact that 142 mayors have come up with an agreement for climate action -the one signed in Mexico City- that demonstrates not only a common understanding of the climate problematic, but also a commitment to take the first steps toward a more sustainable way of doing things. She called on negotiators to look at what happened in Mexico City in November as an example of what should be happening here at Cancun, and must happen in future negotiations. She concluded by saying that at the climate negotiations there are four sectors that is imperative to take into account if we are to achieve our climate goals: the national governments level, the city and local governments level, the civil society, and the private sector. Only with these four working together we will attain a truly sustainable future.
Then it was the turn to listen to Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico City’s Mayor and the winer of the 2010 World Mayor Prize. Ebrard started by emphasizing the fact that yesterday was a historical day since it was the first time that a declaration signed by local governments is presented to the COP. In this way the importance that local governments play in the fight against climate change is recognized. After mentioning the fact that 142 cities including cities from Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas are signatories of the declaration presented, Ebrad explained that the effort made by the cities is not only to criticize the process of negotiations carried out by the UNFCCC, but rather, it is to support that effort. It is to remind them that the time they are spending is not only theirs, but it belongs to every single person on earth because it is the future of everyone that is at stake. Thus negotiators do not have the right to lose time, however, he continued, if cities such as LA or Seoul have been able to agree on drastically reducing their emissions, why do we have to wait for the international actors to reach an agreement?: local governments should take the first step and there is in fact a lot that they can do. Ebrad concluded by announcing that next year the results of the emission reduction plans of the cities signatories of the Mexico City Agreement will be made public for the whole world, keeping the spirit of transparency that he considers is essential to achieve the goals set.
For the second half of the event there were three speakers, the mayor of Brussels, a representative of Namibia, and Vancouver’s council, who respectively emphasized the fact that cities are the most efficient kind of human settlement arrangement that exists, the responsibility bore by parliamentarians to their people, and the irony of being willing to bail out bankers but not to commit to investing $100 billion a year to fight the effects of climate change.
I think that the most important take out point from the presentation of the Mexico City Agreement to the COP is that, perhaps, if the national governments around the world are incapable of reaching emissions reduction agreements, we should reach out to city or other levels of government. We do not have to solely rely on national governments.