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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Climate Change: Mayors Around the Globe Leading an Urban Revolution

NANTES, France - With presidents and prime ministers failing to take meaningful action to avert a planetary-scale climate crisis, the mayors of cities and towns are increasingly stepping up to enact changes at the local level."

“We continue to have the political courage to act,” said Anna Tenje, deputy mayor of the small Swedish city of Växjö, which slashed its carbon emissions 40 percent and aims to be Europe’s greenest city. Växjö was a very polluted region in the 1960s, but the public and business community backed efforts to re-invent it as a green city. People now fish and swim in the once polluted lakes that surround the city, she said at the 10th Ecocity, the World Summit on Sustainable Cities, a recent conference that drew more than 2,000 mayors, local officials and members of civil society to Nantes. Växjö is doing also every well economically, Tenje said, proving that cutting emissions is not a burden. All new apartment blocks are so well-insulated they don’t need furnaces for heat. Solar panels have been installed in schools and on the roof of City Hall. A biogas plant produces vehicle fuel from sewage and school food leftovers, while another larger plant using domestic waste as its feedstock is under construction. The city aims to be fossil fuel-free by 2030 and has launched a major effort to get people out of their cars by making public transit, walking and cycling more enjoyable than driving, the deputy mayor said. [...]

Many Danish cities get their energy from wind, and the Belgian city of Ghent doubled the number of bikes on streets in less than 10 years with the dream of becoming car-free. Citizens in the Brazilian city of Puerto Alegre have weekly neighborhood meetings to discuss how the city budget will be spent, resulting in a big improvement in services. Cities can also grow much of their own food, Simms said, noting that Havana’s urban gardens grow half the city’s fresh fruit and vegetables. New York City estimates it has 4,000 acres on which it too could grow food. The city of Boulder, Colorado is working towards producing all of its own food."