Cities Make Historic Commitment to Climate Change
December 8, 2011  //  By:   //  Blog Post  //  No Comment

Sometimes the most important changes happen close to home. While representatives of national governments negotiated at the official COP17 conference, according to organizers 114 mayors and other elected local leaders representing over 950 local governments from around the world also gathered in Durban for the Durban Local Government Convention: adapting to a changing climate.

The Convention was organized by ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, the South African Department of Environmental Affairs, South African Local Government Association (SALGA), South African Cities Network (SACN) and eThekwini Municipality.

Negotiations at the national level are still ongoing. On Wednesday, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on heads of state to resolve any differences they may have on the Green Climate Fund in Durban, so the fund can be launched.

The resilience of local communities is critical as the effects of climate change are felt most at the local level, as drought or flood, as heat waves and rising seas. Local governments, as represented at the Convention, can often respond to these changes more quickly than national ones, as they know their communities, and can adapt more readily. While COP17 negotiations continued, the local leaders, representing municipalities from across the globe unanimously signed the Durban Adaptation Charter, making a political commitment to strengthen local resilience to climate change.

According to ICLEI, by signing the Charter, local governments have committed to unprecedented levels of local climate action to:

• mainstream adaptation as a key informant of all local government development planning

• ensure that adaptation strategies are aligned with mitigation strategies

• promote the use of adaptation that recognizes the needs of vulnerable communities and ensure
sustainable local economic development

• prioritize the role of functioning ecosystems as core municipal green infrastructure

• seek innovative funding mechanisms, etc.

The commitment to local communities and ecosystems within a larger global network parallels Green Boston Harbor Project’s global green harbors network. This is a historic moment, says Anamarija Frankic, there is no need for a governmental agreement, as the agreement has already been reached where the battle will be won or lost.

(Based on reports from Durban from ICLEI and GBH Director Anamarija Frankic)

About the Author :

Lisa Greber is a PhD student in the Environmental Earth and Ocean Sciences (EEOS) Dept. at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She is a Research Associate for the Green Boston Harbor Project (GBH) at the Center for Governance and Sustainability.

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