Secretary of State John Kerry says cities need to take the lead on climate change, because national governments are falling down on the job.
“A lot of mayors around the world are ahead of their national governments, and a lot of local citizens are well ahead of their elected leaders,” Kerry told The Washington Post. “I think we need to find a way to highlight that.”
The statement comes as world leaders prepare for climate talks in Paris that aim to replace the Kyoto Protocol, an agreement to reduce climate-warming pollution that was adopted by 193 countries — not including the United States.
Of course, cities are already doing laps around national governments when it comes to the climate fight, and have been for some time. In 2005, when the George W. Bush administration refused to sign on to the Kyoto treaty, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels announced that his city bloody well would, and he challenged other mayors to do the same. Five hundred of them did.
“Because the U.S. was undermining attempts to create new accord [in Montreal], it gained international significance,” Nickels told me in an interview last week. “It became a symbol to the rest of the world that there is intelligent life in America, and at some point we would rejoin the fight.”
Makes sense, really. The United Nations estimates that cities are responsible for 70 percent of the world’s carbon emissions. And cities are simply better equipped to turn talk into action.
“There’s an accountability at the local level,” said Nickels, who lost a reelection bid in 2009. “If I come up with some of the stuff that Congress comes up with, I’m going to be laughed out of the supermarket next time I go to get groceries.”
The Compact of Mayors, a collaboration between the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI), and others, is pushing more cities to inventory, then slim down, their carbon emissions in the lead-up to Paris.
All indications are that the mayors will once again make a mockery of world leaders, who seem content to fiddle while the world warms.