Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Why is it relevant to reinforce the role of local authorities?

Katharina Hess and Susanne Salz of ICLEI explain why local authorities need to be included in and empowered to play a greater role in global environmental governance. To find out more about ICLEI’s involvement with Rio+20, visit their website at

ICLEI — Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) is an international association of local governments and national and regional local government organizations that have made a commitment to sustainable development.  ICLEI highlights its work with 110 large cities in its membership, 12 of which are mega-cities as well as over 1000 medium-sized and smaller cities and towns in over 70 countries. Amongst others, ICLEI supports cities to become low-carbon, resilient, bio-diverse, resource-efficient, and to green their infrastructure and urban economy and to achieve a healthy & happy community. Its basic premise is that locally designed initiatives can provide an effective and cost-efficient way to achieve local, national, and global sustainability objectives.

ICLEI realizes that summits such as Rio+20 hold great significance in shaping the future we want.  We are currently living beyond the carrying capacity of our planet and in the next 40 years we have to build the same urban capacity which we have built in the past 4000 years.  ICLEI’s vision is to make systemic changes to ensure sustained human life on earth and for Rio+20 to be more than just a declaration – the conference needs to decide upon and present concrete actions!  ICLEI’s submission for the outcome document at Rio+20 therefore calls for a greater role of local authorities in the process, amongst others.

Why cities and local governments you ask?  In 2050, 9 billion people will live on this planet with two-thirds of the population living in urban areas.  Cities will account for 90% of the global economy and between 2005 and 2025, an estimated 200 trillion dollars will be spent globally on fixed urban assets.  This economic growth should be resource-productive, resilient, low-carbon and low-risk urban infrastructure. Moreover, cities will consume 80-90% of the global energy, and will be responsible for just as much greenhouse gas emissions stemming mainly from building heating and cooling, transport and energy production.   It therefore makes sense to include cities, and more particularly local governments, in global environmental governance since they are part of the problem but can also be part of the solution. 

The idea of MyCity+20 to engage citizens at the local level into the global Rio+20 debates is the embodiment of something at the core of ICLEI: "Think global, act local!". Let's work locally for a successful global Rio+20 conference!

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