Act locally on climate change, leaders urge


KYOTO — Sharing a growing sense of crisis over climate change internationally, mayors and municipal officials met Friday in Kyoto to discuss how their local governments can cooperate to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

“In order to save the Earth, local leaders must make citizens aware of the need to fundamentally alter our social and economic systems right now,” Kyoto Mayor Yorikane Masumoto said in his opening remarks to the Kyoto Conference on Climate Change. “Since the Kyoto Protocol went into effect two years ago, climatologists have amassed even more evidence that man-made greenhouse gases are a major cause of global warming.”

About 60 local government heads from two dozen countries are taking part in the three-day conference.

Kyoto Gov. Keiji Yamada noted the conference in northern Kyoto was opening in unusually warm weather for this time of year, when snow normally covers the ground.

“This mild weather might be nice. But it shows that Kyoto itself has felt the effects of global warming,” he said.

The Kyoto conference comes on the heels of a meeting of global legislators in Washington, and several weeks after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted a temperature rise of about 0.2 per decade for the next two decades.

At present, 168 countries and the European Economic Community have ratified the Kyoto Protocol. Of these, 35 industrialized countries and the EEC are required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions below set percentages. The European Union countries have to make an 8 percent reduction in 1990 levels. Japan is committed to a 6 percent reduction and the U.S. to a 7 percent reduction.

However, with the U.S. pulling out of the treaty in 2001 and countries that include China, India and Brazil not committed to any numerical targets, the Kyoto Protocol is in trouble, Yamada said. Other speakers noted the Kyoto conference was a good opportunity to push the world to think about what happens after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

“Local governments have a responsibility to work harder to get all of the rest of the world’s leaders, especially from the United States and developing countries, to understand the importance of coming to an agreement after the Protocol expires,” said Barbel Dieckmann, mayor of Bonn and chair of the World Mayor’s Council on Climate Change.

To that end, conference attendees will discuss specific areas in which local governments can play a more direct role in reducing greenhouse gases, regardless of their central governments’ policies.

These areas include promoting more effective use of electric power in schools, hospitals and municipal buildings, passing ordinances forcing vehicles to use more environmentally friendly fuels, and adopting more environmentally friendly waste and sewage management technologies.