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1 Jun, 2014

City mayors urged to be at frontline of battle against climate change

United Nations, (UN News Centre) 29 May 2014 – The head of the United Nations agency on human settlements today said he hoped thousands of cities around the world will join forces to sign a compact to strengthen cooperation in tackling climate challenges when the UN convenes a summit on the issue four months from now.

“We have seen that many countries’ mayors have taken the lead in taking practical steps towards containing greenhouse gas emission in urban scenarios,” Joan Clos, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), told reporters at UN Headquarters on the last day of a meeting that focused on sustainable urbanization.

UN-HABITAT Executive Director Joan Clos. Photo: UN-HABITAT/CamaraLucida

“We hope to sign a compact between different networks…representing more than 10,000 cities around the world that have demonstrated already through everyday work how mayors are committed to [combatting] climate change,” Mr. Clos said at a press conference.

The Mayors of the cities of Paris and Kingston, Jamaica, and the Vice-President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), which hosted the three-day meeting, joined Mr. Clos at an afternoon press conference during which they discussed about how cities can cities can be at the forefront of new initiatives that will help people prepare for impacts of climate change and strengthen their resilience.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who will be convening a climate summit in September when world leaders gather at UN Headquarters for the annual General Assembly meeting, addressed the opening session on Tuesday and applauded the innovative ways that cities are trying to meet the climate challenge.

Also at the opening, Michael Bloomberg, UN Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change and former Mayor of New York City, said because mayors had executive powers, they did not have to wait for Government actions, which enabled cities to play a critical and innovative role in addressing global challenges.

According to UN-Habitat, cities are major contributors to climate change: although they cover less than 2 per cent of the earth’s surface, cities consume 78 per cent of the world’s energy and produce more than 60 per cent of all carbon dioxide and significant amounts of other greenhouse gas emissions, mainly through energy generation, vehicles, industry, and biomass use.

At the same time, cities and towns are heavily vulnerable to climate change. Hundreds of millions of people in urban areas across the world will be affected by rising sea levels, increased precipitation, inland floods, more frequent and stronger cyclones and storms, and periods of more extreme heat and cold.

The three-day ECOSOC meeting is part of the so-called Integration Segments designed to enhance the coherence of the three pillars of development – economic, environmental and social – in the run up to 2015 when new UN development goals will be established to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which will have run their course.