Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Mayors Join Climate Race

The mayors of 30 of Europe's principal cities joined today in signing a message of cooperation and solidarity as they promote "local solutions" to a global climate problem (in English here). Tomorrow the mayors will meet in Paris, part of a world-wide 'local government' day for climate intervention (though the only North American venue I have detected so far is Vancouver). As masters of an estimated 2 trillion euros in annual budget appropriations, the mayors--who govern the capital cities of nearly all the EU countries--will look for ways to cooperate in supporting green infrastructural investments, and share strategies for improving key sectors such as energy-efficient housing rehabilitation, mass transit, energy procurement, and 'smart growth.' The mayors, representing 60 million of Europe's inhabitants, will also pledge to use their influence on national and continental energy policies as the EU and its member states prepare their national proposals for COP 21.

Are such initiatives useful? Apart from the fact that local governments are indeed on the front lines of many energy-related policies, the mayors' concurrence on the importance of climate questions seems significant. Assembling 30 big-city mayors around any set of issues is a major achievement, and the targeted policy areas point to the strategic importance of cities. Whether practical consequences in terms of shared policies and technologies or cooperative purchasing and sponsorship will result is hard to predict but worth watching. Cooperation among disparate peoples must be one of the hallmarks of any successful UNFCCC climate conference. Europe and its mayors play an especially important role in modeling that transnational cooperation.

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