City mayors and regional leaders discuss at COP19/CMP9

November 21st was the day when the first Cities and Sub-national Dialogue in the history of COP took place. The dialogue consisted of two segments, each with groups of selected Ministers, Mayors and sub-national leaders and representatives of civil society who were discussing mitigation and adaptation at a local scale. Debate was opened by COP19/CMP9 President Marcin Korolec, followed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Discussion was moderated by CEO of Climate Group, Mark Kenber.

The first ever Ministerial-Mayoral Dialogue that took place during COP referred to creating a link between the high level, national governments and regions. It can be considered as the direct and immediate implementation of the Nantes Declaration of Mayors and Sub-national Leaders on Climate Change adopted in September 2013. The discussion focused on enhancing adaptation and resilience in regions and on enhancing global mitigation efforts through acting at the local level. Participants shared their ideas and experiences that can be used in global struggle with climate change.

We are all familiar with the challenges in front of us, but our role is to transform those challenges into opportunities. Because in every crisis there is also an opportunity to change something – said UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon in his welcoming speech.

The newly launched carbonn Cities Climate Registry 2013 report presents data from 414 cities, which stand for 1/7 of the world's urban population. These cities implemented 4208 mitigation and adaptation actions as well as 836 climate and energy commitments. More than half of them have targeted emission cuts by 1% per year – that exceeds the cuts of even the most ambitious national governments that are working under the Kyoto Protocol.

Why cities are so important? They are crucial in our effort to tackle climate change. Cities are responsible for 75% of carbon emissions and 60-80% of energy consumption, while occupying only 2% of the Earth's land. So if we solve problem of emissions in cities we have already tackled climate change – said COP19/CMP9 President, Marcin Korolec.

Some of the lecturers, as well as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, emphasized the fact that according to scientists, 70% of human population will move to the urban areas by 2050, compared with 50% living there nowadays. This means that the dialogue with regional governments in terms of climate change must intensify, as it would be their role to protect citizens against climate change effects. As French Minister for Development, Pascal Canfin said, if cities won't be on board in Paris in 2015, the COP will not reach an agreement. Local authorities are standing in the first line to face climate change problems and their experience may be a great value to COP participants.

In the first panel which referred to adapatation, participants stressed out the fact that governments should not only give money for this process, but also propose the solutions for less developed countries. Rachel Kyte, Vice-President for Sustainable Development in World Bank said that banks have to put the tools to mayors' hands and let them work out how to minimize the impact climate change has on their citizens.

Mayors and representatives of civil society listed some of the aspects that affect the life standards of city dwellers that local authorities are in charge of – i.e. public health, transport, energy policy, demography or water supplies. They also presented their own ways of coping with changes in these areas.

The second panel concerned mitigation. Lecturers emphasized the importance of social contribution in the climate change combat in cities. Mayor of Warsaw, Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, stressed out that residents should be educated and encouraged to undertake actions that can reduce emissions, for example by responsible waste disposal policy.

Paul H. Oquist, Minister and Private Secretary for National Policies of Nicaragua reminded that every dollar not invested in mitigation before 2020 is 4,20 dollars that would be spent after 2020. That is why it is so important to create an international or even global network of local sustainable development. It would be a platform where local governments could exchange their experiences and technologies that helped them during struggle to combine emissions reduction with economic growth. If the platform would transform to World Parliament of Cities, as Mr. Gustavo Petro, Mayor of Bogota suggested, cities would become a new political and social subject in the climate fight, making this struggle more efficient.

The Cities and Sub-national Dialogue was closed by David Cadman, President of ICLEI, who expressed his hope that Cities Day will be the part of future COP conferences, because only working together with various stakeholders may bring striking benefits in terms of mitigation and adaptation.

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