Thursday, October 23, 2008

World's major cities pledge action on climate change

ABC News Online, Posted 11 hours 9 minutes ago

Leaders of 40 of the world's major cities pledged action to fight climate change, taking measures ranging from promoting solar energy to tracking genetically modified food.

Warning that crowded urban areas were especially susceptible to the planet's rising temperatures, city officials said they needed to take the lead in adapting to climate change.

"Very important actions are taking place by mayors who act," Toronto Mayor David Miller, the chairman of the so-called C40 climate initiative of cities, said after two days of talks in Tokyo.

"The focus of this conference was adaptation and particularly on measures that support adapting to climate change that is already occurring," he told a news conference.

The city leaders also urged national governments to commit to "drastic" cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, which are blamed for global warming, in the period after the Kyoto Protocol's obligations expire in 2012.

Some 40 cities are part of the C40 including Beijing, London, New Delhi, New York, Paris and Sydney. City planners from 32 of them took part in the Tokyo talks.

The cities charted out 13 areas for action to prevent the "urban heat island effect," in which temperatures tend to rise in crowded metropolitan areas.

The ideas include expanding green space in urban areas and building corridors to allow more wind and water to come into cities.

The city planners also pledged to look into renewable energies such as solar power and to introduce water retentive pavements. The widespread use of concrete is a key reason that cities absorb heat more than rural areas.

Another idea is to regulate genetically modified (GM) food and monitor the effects on global warming.

Advocates of GM food say it can solve food shortages in poor nations but critics say the crops' effects on health and the environment are untested.

Under the plan, each city can choose which of the 13 areas it wants to pursue to fight climate change caused by carbon dioxide and other emissions.

The cities that will monitor genetically modified food include Addis Ababa, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Toronto.

The cities agreed to study their chosen areas so that they can agree on concrete action when C40 mayors hold a "climate summit" next May in Seoul.

Of the cities, Tokyo opted to pursue the most ideas to fight global warming, agreeing to launch studies in nine of the areas.

Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, an environmentalist with outspoken views, said it was crucial to take more than symbolic action against climate change.

"We brought here experts who are directly facing this problem so they can discuss specifically what should be done so that the Seoul summit doesn't end up just with abstractions," Ishihara told the news conference.

"Many municipalities tend to be reserved when faced with central governments. But the situation has reached the point where they don't need to be and even shouldn't be," he said.

Mr Ishihara renewed his criticism of international deals on climate change.

He blasted as "spineless" last year's UN-led conference in Bali that set a goal of reaching a post-Kyoto Protocol climate treaty by the end of 2009.

The C40 conference agreed to send a representative to next year's talks in Copenhagen that are due to seal the new climate deal under the Bali process.


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