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Copenhagen Closeups: Looking to Cities for Salvation

Blog Archive | December 16, 2009 | By Brian Beauchamp

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With climate talks badly snarled, “act locally” is even more crucial a strategy for combating climate change.

Due to the absolute chaos and unrest inside and outside of the Bella Center today-including demonstrations, arrests, police brutality, and a massive effort by Danish authorities to silence dissent about the way negotiations at the COP15 are proceeding-many events around town have been canceled or re-scheduled.

One was today’s forum on green cities of the future. It was to convene mayors from around the world for an open discussion on how cities are at the center of climate solutions.

The adage, “think globally, act locally” comes to mind, especially as negotiations reach a grinding halt and conference-goers are left looking for ways to start taking the climate challenge into their own hands.

It makes sense: Much policy discussion on climate solutions is focused on cities and the contribution that they can make towards solving the climate crisis, and, as a result, benefit economically. And, sure enough, many cities aretaking big steps to cut carbon emissions are, indeed, already benefiting economically.  That trend will only increase in the mid- and long-term.

The concept is spreading. A report released by the Organization for Economic Development and Co-operation and Development, for example, calls on cities to play a central role in solving climate change. The report also clearly says that those that do the most to get ahead of the climate issue by implementing energy savings plans, renewable energy initiatives, and green community planning programs will be the ones that prosper the most.

Unfortunately, because of the growing civil unrest here in Copenhagen today, many of the public forums that were planned to bring mayors from around the world together to discuss green innovation are canceled.

While no one can predict what will finally transpire and what a final agreement might look like, it is abundantly clear that it is going to be up to communities, cities, and individuals to keep working together to get carbon out of the atmosphere and solve this global problem.

The good news is the advantage that will accrue to cities that do this. The real work, as maybe it always is and always has been, is going to have to come from us. So we might as well get started now and not wait for our world leaders.

There’s so much at stake-and so much to gain by doing so.

Brian Beauchamp is the Michigan Land Use Institute’s communications coordinator. Reach him at brian@mlui.org.


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