In the weeks leading up to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Cancun, Mexico, the world seems to be finally getting on track with climate change initiatives.
Last week we told you about Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signing a Memorandum of Understanding with governors from Brazil and Mexico — an agreement which laid out parameters to establish the first compliance pathway for REDD+, promoting the conservation of tropical forests while providing a model for climate change action on a subnational scale.
Now, at the World Mayors Summit on Climate in Mexico City, 138 leaders from urban areas around the globe have committed to the “Mexico City Pact,” which supports the creation of the carbonn Cities Climate Registry (cCCR), a mechanism designed to provide effective measurement, reporting, and verification of emission records from each of the partner cities. All cities will be ranked based on their performance, with clearly identifiable objectives for emissions reductions and extent of improvement for each city.
“Mayors and urban leaders are on the front line of the planet’s fight against a changing climate,” notes Marcelo Ebrard, mayor of Mexico City and chairman of the World Mayors Council. In an effort to demonstrate the reliability of international commitments to skeptical national governments, these leaders may have provided a framework for larger, more inclusive initiatives such as those that might come out of Cancun. But the real question is this: will it be enough to start a real conversation?
Some of the world’s largest cities, including Los Angeles, Jakarta, Buenos Aires and Paris have committed to reduce emissions through this pact. Given that urban centers contain a growing proportion of the global population, it’s certainly a promising possibility. Improvements in water and air quality, conservation of land, and investments in city transportation methods through Mexico City’s “Green Plan,” for example, are designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 7 million tons between 2008 and 2012. However, local and national politics are played on very different stages; it’s easy to improve systems locally because the whole population can see and enjoy the improvements. National-scale improvements require a lot more patience before they can be noticed — a virtue the U.S. electorate simply does not possess.
Nevertheless, these two examples of leaders coming together to tackle the serious issue of climate change remind us that there is, in fact, a light at the end of the tunnel.
Josh Richards works on CI’s climate strategy team. Learn more about CI’s engagement at the climate negotiations in Cancun, Mexico.