A new form of climate democracy? Coordinated climate action among cities

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Can Canada’s reputation on climate change be salvaged by coordinated climate action among local governments? The World Mayor’s Council on Climate estimates that the world’s cities contribute 67% of world energy demand and 70% of global carbon dioxide emissions. A united response among cities and mayors globally is an integral initiative for reducing global greenhouse emissions where they are created, at the local scale. The Global Cities Covenant on Climate, otherwise known as ‘the Mexico City Pact’, unites local authorities and local governments committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to building resilience to climate change in their jurisdictions. Edmonton has recently become the 7th Canadian city to sign the pact, reflecting a commitment to voluntarily report on 10 climate change actions at the local scale. These actions range from developing climate actions and voluntarily reporting inventories using carbonn Cities Climate Registry to promoting partnerships and city-to-city cooperation. 
For Canada, this signals a form of decentralized leadership on climate change in spite of the federal government’s recent withdrawal from its multilateral commitments in the UN climate process. This type of local authority cooperation, initiated in 1992 at the Rio Summit, has crescendoed in the international arena as a democratic appeal among the world’s cities for innovative and diverse forms of multilateral cooperation. As Rio+20 approaches in June of this year, it will be critical for cities and local governments to identify and discuss the compatibility between pursuing sustainable development objectives while simultaneously accounting for emissions reductions and activities that build overall resilience to projected climate changes. The initiative taken by Canada’s cities (and some provinces) offers hope that public service for the public good is still alive and well and that a different form of international leadership on climate change is still possible.
Alison Shaw