By Denis McClean
Durban - Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) is the driving force behind a major effort to have the voices of cities and local governments heard at the UNFCC-COP17 climate negotiations in Durban.
The Durban Climate Change Adaptation Charter is being debated and drafted during the course of a three day meeting which opened today - on the sidelines of COP17 - attended by several hundred city mayors and local government representatives.
ICLEI President, David Cadman, said the goal is to present the Charter at a high level segment of COP 17 next week and ICLEI would also be pressing for local government representation if there is COP 17 agreement on establishing an Adaptation Committee.
He said he was remaining optimistic about a successful outcome from Durban. In a reference to next year’s Rio+20 Earth Summit Conference, he said “It would be very difficult to go back to Rio twenty years later and to say we have done nothing on climate change, desertification and biodiversity. The Kyoto Protocol is not well adhered to. Countries like Canada, Japan and Australia are stepping back from it.”
He added: “Africa is totally responsible for about 4% of the world’s greenhouse gases so there’s not much to mitigate. They are going to be hit hardest by desertification. We saw flash floods here in Durban last Sunday when we arrived, which killed eight people.
“Because of climate-related events such as the shrinking of Lake Turkana we will continue to see significant moves away from rural areas and huge migration into cities which are already bursting at the seams. The resources are not there for climate adaptation so getting cities to work together on resilience with UNISDR is going to be critical.”
He said he was “stunned” at the recent announcement from the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria about funding shortfalls over the next two years and wondered where Africa would make up the loss of resources for treatment of people with weakened immune systems and tackle climate change at the same time.
ICLEI is expected to launch an Adaptation Charter which will call for a global partnership of local governments to develop an alternative vision of a “climate smart” world where injustice and inequalities are tackled to maximize adaptive capacity.
Signatories would commit to a range of actions including impact and vulnerability assessments; long-term local adaptation strategies to reduce vulnerability; eco-system-based adaptation; funding opportunities for local adaptation; registration of adaptation commitments; and promotion of partnerships city-to-city cooperation.