Mayors bring message of local action to UN summit | Economic news


By DANICA KIRKA, Associated Press

GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) – On a train heading to Glasgow, the mayors of Seattle and Freetown, Sierra Leone, greeted each other as long lost sisters, bound by years of Zoom calls and collaboration in the fight against climate change.

They run cities on different sides of the economic and climate divide – one in the cool, northwest corner of one of the richest nations in the world; the other the capital of an impoverished country in the tropics of West Africa.

But Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and her Freetown counterpart Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr are both on the front lines of global warming, working to prepare their cities for rising sea levels, torrential rains. and extreme heat.

On Monday, they traveled to the United Nations climate conference in Scotland with a group of major city mayors to demand that world leaders follow the science and act now to prevent a catastrophic rise in global temperatures.

Political cartoons about world leaders

Political cartoons

Aki-Sawyer describes himself and other city leaders as captains of small boats trying to warn an ocean liner of the dangers that lie ahead.

“I’m going to stand on top of the bow and I’m going to wave my hands furiously and I’m going to say, ‘Look here, you hit an iceberg and you have to stop now'” she said. “And I hope there are enough of us doing the same to make a difference.”

Aki-Sawyerr and Durkan are part of a delegation from the C40 group of major city mayors demanding that they be included in decisions on how to tackle global warming and mitigate its effects. City leaders will be called upon to implement many decisions made by presidents and prime ministers, so they should be consulted and given funds to do the job, according to the group.

The delegation included the mayors of Los Angeles, Paris and London, as well as the northern cities of Oslo and Stockholm, and Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh.

The mayors sought to emphasize their environmental credentials by making the 645 kilometer (400 mile) journey from London to Glasgow by train. The electric train on which they traveled generates about seven times less greenhouse gas emissions per passenger than the airplane.

Together, the 97 members of the C40 group are home to more than 700 million people, or nearly 10% of the world’s population.

Mayors are not the only ones who say that cities will play a big role in the fight against climate change.

More than half of the world’s population now lives in urban areas, after crossing this threshold in 2007, and the trend will only continue. Despite the economic shock caused by COVID-19, cities are still seen as gateways to better lives as density and diversity lead to creativity and innovation, said Bernice Lee, director of futures at the group. Chatham House Reflection Hall in London.

“Crucially, about 80% of emissions come from cities around the world, so they really need to be part of the solutions, and decisions made in big cities really matter,” Lee said. “They can be great environments for testing and piloting the next generation of solutions, because there is both density and scale offered in cities. “

The United Nations climate conference, known as COP26, comes just two months after an international panel of climate scientists said time was running out to meet the goal of limiting the temperature rise world to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) and avoid catastrophic climate change. As organizers say Glasgow is the last best chance for a deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions, some world leaders, including Presidents Xi Jinping of China and Vladimir Putin of Russia, have decided against it. to assist.

China is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, followed by the United States, the European Union, India and Russia, according to the International Energy Agency.

Freetown is already seeing a chain reaction of impacts as a changing economy collides with global warming.

Increased migration from the countryside is forcing people to build informal settlements near coastal mangroves and on the hills around the city, destroying forests and worsening flooding during heavy rains. More than 1,000 people were killed in a mudslide in 2017.

In response, the city is planting trees and working to improve sanitation and flood mitigation projects, Aki-Sawyerr told the United Nations Environment Program last year. One program gave tricycles to groups of young people who collect household waste which is then composted and returned to urban farmers.

“There are billions of people in the south of the planet for whom the impacts of climate change are occurring today. Now. These livelihoods are being destroyed, ” Aki-Sawyerr said. “They are the smallest, the smallest emitters… and yet the consequences are disastrous. “

But the fight against climate change is also taking place 6,700 miles (10,800 kilometers) in Seattle.

Temperatures in Seattle, known for its cloudy skies and drizzle, exceeded 100 F (38 C) for three consecutive days in late June as a mass of warm air sat over the western United States and the United States. Canada. On June 28, the temperature reached 108 degrees (42 ° C), the highest in 151 years of detailed record keeping.

Washington state recorded 138 heat-related deaths in the summer of 2021, up from seven the year before.

As scientists hesitate to link a single weather event to global warming, officials in Seattle are bracing for rising sea levels, higher tides, and more frequent and lasting heat waves.

Seattle has maintained its commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement after former President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement. The city promotes public transport, cycling and walking as alternatives to car travel alone and strives to increase energy efficiency in public and private buildings.

“Mayors are on the front lines in their cities for anything that has or has not picked up trash,” said Durkan. “Policy at national level and at central government level – their biggest challenge is how to implement it? What does it mean? Boots on the ground? Our first thought is, how do you implement it and what does it mean for real people? “

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