08 June 2005

08.06.05. Mayors in summit agree to greener, cleaner cities

Editor’s note: Here we are back to these important cooperative city environment programs which are or at least should be our natural partners. We have yet to make these links but I am confident that as we continue to develop the content and support of this collaborative sustainability effort, we are going to achieve just that. And as a reminder of our fox and hedgehog strategy, I append the latest cut of that note to the end of this article. And of course we continue to await word from you as to how best to tighten these links.

Mayors in summit agree to greener, cleaner cities

Posted on : Mon, 06 Jun 2005 07:32:00 GMT | Author : Thomas Blythe

SAN FRANCISCO: The five-day U.N. World Environment Conference, ended here Sunday, saw mayors of some of the largest cities around the world signing a series of accords pledging to improve urban conditions, especially taking their cities on a greener, cleaner and healthier development path.

Mayors from as many as 50 of the major cities in the world signed a document in the ornate rotunda at City Hall committing to "build an ecologically sustainable, economically dynamic, and socially equitable future for our urban citizens".

They vowed among other things to ensure increased use of public transportation, substantial reduction in the use of trash in landfills and better access for more and more people to potable water. The accords, though non-binding, have 21 specific actions meant to make cities greener.

After the historic signing ceremony, the mayors heard a 500-member choir sing in unison a song composed for the occasion, "Together We Can." They also listened to U.S. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi say "What you are doing here today is taking a different approach — a united approach — on the stewardship of the environment." Pelosi later described the accords as a "blueprint for the future health of our children".

As participants in the accords, the mayors pledged to take at least three actions every year, that would cover initiating new laws and policies in the areas of energy, waste reduction, urban design, urban nature, transportation, environmental health and water. The accords have several noble aims -- like access to potable water by 2015 to the entire population of the universe, affordable public transportation for all city residents in 10 years, recreation facilities within half-a-mile vicinity for every city dweller by 015 and zero growth in the amount of waste being sent to landfills and incinerators by 2040. One another notable recommendation has been the increased use of renewable energy to meet 10 per cent of a city's peak electric load within seven years.

The mayors who attended the conference came from cities like
Jakarta, London, Seattle, Rio de Janeiro, Lausanne, and Kolkotta.

U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan told the mayors that by 2030, as much as 60 per cent of the entire world's population will be dwelling in cities. This growth poses great challenges for the urban planners and problems like clean water supplies and garbage removal, he said. "Already, one of every three urban dwellers lives in a slum. Let us create green cities."

June 5, the date on which the first environmental summit was held in
Stockholm in 1972, is observed the world over as the World Environment Day. For 2005, the summit had adopted the theme, "Greener planning for cities".

The conference deliberated on global warming and what mayors can do to curb greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

Environmentalists have described the accords as the municipal version of the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, which requires countries to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2012. The Bush administration, however, opposes the treaty because officials believe it would raise energy prices and cost millions of
U.S. jobs.

US vice-president Al Gore, in an address, told the mayors to initiate steps to fight global warming. Gore, one of the architects of the Kyoto document, said that climate change was already melting glaciers, raising temperatures and altering weather patterns worldwide.

"We are witnessing a collision between our civilization and the earth, a transformation of the relationship between our species and the planet," he said. "Is it only terrorists that we're worried about? Is that the only threat to the future that is worth organizing to respond to?"

Source: earthtimes.org - http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/3097.html


The Kyoto World Cities 20/20 Challenge – International Partnership Strategy

“The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing”

The Kyoto World Resources Inventory has thus far identified more than five hundred groups and programs as working in this and related areas world wide: each in their own way, in their chosen own target area, with their own time focus, with their own tools and goals. And, if they are lucky, with resources to do the job. In which case it's a fair question to ask: why should we as an informal world citizen consortium with no assigned institutional mandate dare to think about adding with our own efforts to all that? Might it not be preferable for us just to get out of the way let all these other people simply get on with the business at hand? Hmm.

Certainly no one thing is unique about the Kyoto World Cities Challenge, other perhaps than the fact that like Isaiah Berlin’s proverbial hedgehog we know only one thing: the true need for dramatic, effective, short-term, no-excuses action in our chosen target area of transport and sustainability in cities. Against this backdrop here are the defining factors that in our view combine to make Kyoto Cities a potential winner, certainly different from the rest, and perhaps a good partner for you and your colleagues in your work.

  1. Single focus: (a) CO2. (b) Traffic in cities. (c) Very sharp, openly targeted decreases (20%?). (d) To be achieved in a very short period of time (20 months?). That’s it!

  2. But is it only CO2 and Kyoto? Not by a long shot. We chose CO2 reductions as an initial target since they have a high profile and also provide a strong surrogate for the overall challenge of transport dysfunctionality. Cut CO2 and you cut traffic, pollution, accidents, costs, time abuse and the list goes on. Most of the world's cities lie in countries that have no legal Kyoto thresholds. But their needs in this respect are even greater.

  3. Geographic coverage: Program coverage is world wide (but can only work if it takes on one city at a time). This is above all a city project, a city decision, a city action. It does not depend on international treaties, other levels of government to foot the bill; it works within the city, its existing asset base, quality of leadership and degree of public support. In that city!

  4. Explicit targeting: You take up the challenge, do your homework and then set the targets that are going to do the job in your city. And then you either succeed or you fail. And all that firmly in the public eye. (No place to hide.)

  5. Big House/Open Doors: Invites enormous diversity of disciplines, backgrounds, geographies and competences, reaching way beyond the ‘normal’ transport or even environment groups, enriches the perspectives. Both for the Kyoto program overall and at the level of each city.

  1. Strong female leadership and participation. In large part motivated by dissatisfaction with traditional male dominance and the values that appear to go with it.

  2. Car-like mobility: This may surprise, but quite frankly we do not see democratic pluralistic societies agreeing to accept large downgrading of their mobility arrangements. Which gives us our target: as good or better conditions of transit than they are getting out of their cars under present arrangements. (Think about it!)

  3. International peer support network: The personal engagements, combined with the very high quality and great variety of backgrounds of the distinguished individuals who have agreed to support the 20/20 Challenge through the International Advisory Council. Members have both an international support role, and also as their time permits are helping to create “clusters” to support discussions and initiatives in their own city.

  1. Working partnerships: Organized from outset as an open international partnership project, working links are being set up (a) with international and national groups with broader sustainability agendas, and (b) at level of individual cities informal working groups are being created to lay the base for their local 20/20 programs.

  1. Comfort Zones (and lack thereof): Many programs and almost all committees seek to achieve "Comfort Zones" in which all interests present of lurking in the background come to a general agreement as to priorities, what needs to be done, how to do it, etc. Kyoto Cities seeks quite the reverse: a large number of competing ideas and points of view, plenty of room for internal contradictions and conflicts, and a good and continuing dose of cognitive dissonance as a means for accommodating all this necessary variety.

  2. Supporting context of intensive technology-based IP networking: The state of the art, practical, user-friendly Communications Bridge holds the underlying key to brining the pieces of the puzzle together and thereby making the whole thing work.

  3. Culture change: The project is about governance, democracy and citizenry in the 21st century. In its own small way it proposes and examines a new model. Once a 20/20 project has been carried out and the results assessed, your city will never look again in quite the same way at their transport, environment or indeed other problems of governance and quality of life. Which is why we sometimes call it . . . “the nose of the camel”.

If you take the time to work your way down this list, you will appreciate that this program and approach is not for everyone. It is certainly not for the timid nor for the all-too familiar half-interested. Indeed it cuts sharply across the grain of conventional thinking and behaviour in many respects. That is because it has to. The challenge is huge and immediate, and it requires a bold, high responsibility, high energy, no excuses approach. Is it for you?

The Kyoto World Cities Challenge is one well defined remedial program that cities can, if they wish and have the guts, start to engage immediately. It is not the only thing that they or the rest of the world should be doing to confront the challenges of environment and the costly dysfunctional transport arrangements that hinder almost all of them in their life quality and economic viability. It may not even be the best one around. But the issues are so important and so largely unaddressed, that if you have any concerns at all you probably should take a closer look (http://kyotocities.org).


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12 October, 2005 04:51  

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