World mayors rally for climate change action

Friday, April 10, 2015

A leading network of urban sustainability leaders, including more than 100 mayors and elected officials in cities across the world, recently gathered in Seoul, Korea to adopt the Seoul Declaration, which outlines measures to target municipal climate change action.

The seven-point plan was released at the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), Local Governments for Sustainability World Congress 2015, as a means to rally for more global support.

The Declaration states that municipal leaders will “promote city-to-business cooperation platforms, and will partner with the WBCSD [World Business Council on Sustainable Development] to institutionalize new local government-business cooperation models.”

“Our current societies are exploiting the planet in an unsustainable fashion and we are beginning to face the consequences of climate change,” said Gino Van Begin, ICLEI’s secretary general. “As the global population increases, the need for sustainability will become ever greater. That is why our members are setting out a vision for sustainable cities.”

Vancouver is one city committed to the plan. During the Congress, Andrea Reimer, a councillor for the City of Vancouver, spoke about Vancouver’s goal to become the greenest city in the world by 2020.

“People will embrace significant action when they see significant leadership and they have the tools to act.” Reimer noted.

Several mayors also discussed their respective city initiatives linked to climate action. Mayor Kinlay Dorjee of Thimphu, Bhutan described how Bhutan has established a Gross National Happiness index, introducing meditation and the study of green initiatives in schools.

As EcoMobility is one emphasis of the Seoul Declaration, Park Tau, current mayor of Johannesburg, reminded attendees that the central business district of Johannesburg will be closed to cars when the city hosts the EcoMobility World Festival in October 2015.

In Seoul itself, officials announced that the city plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 10 million metric tons over the next five years.

“Here in Seoul we are pursuing a number of initiatives to radically increase sustainability, including the ‘One Less Nuclear Power Plant’ project, which cuts dependence on fossil fuels,” said Park Won-soon, mayor of Seoul and president of ICLEI, adding that the Delcaration will “inspire these kinds of initiatives to every city and region.”