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Home / Environment / Mayors tackle climate change on their own (12:48 p.m. 12/14/09)

Mayors tackle climate change on their own (12:48 p.m. 12/14/09)

People take a ride on a five-person bicycle through the center of Copenhagen, Denmark, on Sunday. Municipal leaders from around the world have scheduled a “cities summit” to parallel the second week of the U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen. AP Photo by Anja Niedringhaus

People take a ride on a five-person bicycle through the center of Copenhagen, Denmark, on Sunday. Municipal leaders from around the world have scheduled a “cities summit” to parallel the second week of the U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen. (AP Photo by Anja Niedringhaus)

By Charles J. Hanley and Jan M. Olsen
AP Writers

Copenhagen, Denmark — It isn’t easy getting Italy’s city dwellers out of their Fiats, off their Vespa scooters and onto bicycles to ride to work, “like here in Copenhagen,” said an Italian environmental official.

“It isn’t a matter of painting a right lane and saying, ‘This is a bike lane,'” explained Emanuele Burgin, a Bologna provincial councilor. “We realize we’re far away from this.”

But Copenhagen’s lord mayor has her problems, too. Finding enough parking spaces for all those bikes is just the beginning.

“First, we must get rid of our coal plants, and we need to get that subway expansion built,” Ritt Bjerregaard told The Associated Press. She also wants even more Copenhageners cycling than the one-third who pedal each day to the office or school.

Bjerregaard and some 80 other mayors and local officials, including New York’s Michael Bloomberg and representatives of Tokyo, Jakarta, Toronto and Hong Kong, have converged on the Danish capital in their own climate and energy summit. They’ll compare notes on how cities can combat climate change and save money on energy and other costs.

This “cities summit” is scheduled to parallel the second week of the U.N. climate conference, intended to boost international efforts to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases blamed for global warming.

Today’s cities and towns consume two-thirds of the world’s total primary energy and produce more than 70 percent of its energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, according to the International Energy Agency. That will grow to 76 percent by 2030, according to the agency. Most comes from electrifying and heating private, commercial and municipal buildings.

In a report last week, the IEA’s executive director, Nabuo Tanaka, said local authorities “have significant potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions” through renewable energy and other means. “Yet relatively few are taking up the challenge,” he said.

Cities face many obstacles to becoming more “climate-friendly” — from extensive old infrastructure that would be cost too much replace, to political interests that resist City Hall’s plans. The New York example is illustrative.

New York City last week approved legislation requiring owners of larger buildings to conduct energy audits and replace insulation and take other steps toward energy efficiency. But under pressure from developers and real-estate interests, the measures were stripped of requirements for more costly improvements, such as total overhauls of heating systems and replacing windows.

Similarly, Bloomberg’s effort to cut traffic in Manhattan by charging fees to drive cars in certain neighborhoods was blocked by New York State politicians.

Although Italians may not be filling up bicycle lanes, their municipal leaders sound intent on rolling back CO2 emissions, even if they’re starting late: Italy’s emissions have grown since it accepted the 1997 Kyoto Protocol climate deal, rather than declined as required.

Burgin, at a weekend briefing at the climate conference, said energy savings and conversion in the city of Milan alone could have met one-seventh of Kyoto’s demands on Italy. And he said Italian cities are fast catching up on controlling emissions.

“Climate change allows you to interpret your plans in terms of emissions,” he said. “Until now everything we planned was planned in terms of money.”

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Dispute delays U.N. climate talks

Copenhagen, Denmark (AP) — Representatives from China, India and other developing countries boycotted U.N. climate talks Monday until informal negotiations resolved the dispute with rich nations, according to the European Union.

The developing countries brought the formal negotiations to a halt with a demand that rich countries offer much deeper cuts in their greenhouse gas emissions.

The move disrupted the 192-nation conference and forced the cancellation of formal working groups, delaying negotiators who are trying to resolve technical issues before the arrival of more than 110 world leaders later this week.

The developing nations were trying to shift the U.N. talks’ agenda to focus on the responsibilities of the industrial countries to halt global warming.

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