Vatican hosts climate change talks for mayors

New York's Bill de Blasio urged city chiefs to take local action. Picture: AFP/Getty
New York's Bill de Blasio urged city chiefs to take local action. Picture: AFP/Getty
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DOZENS of environmentally friendly mayors from around the world demanded yesterday that their national leaders take bold steps at Paris climate talks this year, which they say may be the last chance to keep the warming of the Earth at levels safe for humanity.

Sixty mayors gathered at the Vatican for a two-day climate conference to keep the pressure on world leaders ahead of the Paris negotiations in December and to promote Pope Francis’s environmental encyclical, which denounced the fossil fuel-based world economy.

The mayors were expected to sign a declaration that states that “human-induced climate change is a scientific reality and its effective control is a moral imperative for humanity”.

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio announced new greenhouse gas emissions targets for the Big Apple and urged other cities to follow suit.

Mr de Blasio said: “The Paris summit is just months away. We need to see it as the finish line of a sprint, and take every local action we can in the coming months to maximise the chance that our national governments will act boldly.”

Mr de Blasio is a founding member of an alliance of cities that have committed to reducing their emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 or sooner. He said New York was taking an interim step, committing to reducing its emissions by 40 per cent by 2030.

The climax of yesterday’s inaugural session was an afternoon audience with the Pope, who has become a hero to the environmental movement and has used his moral authority and enormous popularity to focus world attention on climate change and its effects on the poor.

Another of Francis’s priorities has been to raise awareness of human trafficking. The Vatican conference is aimed at showing how both are related: the exploitation of the Earth and its most vulnerable people, with global warming often responsible for creating “environmental refugees” forced to flee homes because of drought or other climate-induced natural disasters.

“Addressing both these phenomenon, climate change and modern slavery, is a Herculean task for us as city administrators,” said Tony Chammany, the mayor of Kochi, India.

The final declaration calls for financial incentives to transition from using fossil fuels to using low-carbon and renewable energy and to shift public financing away from the military to “urgent investments” in sustainable development, with wealthy countries helping poorer ones.

And it says political leaders have a “special responsibility” at the Paris talks to approve a “bold climate agreement that confines global warming to a limit safe for humanity, while protecting the poor and the vulnerable from ongoing climate change that gravely endangers their lives”.

Other mayors attending hail from Boston; Boulder, Colorado; Oslo; San Francisco and Vancouver. The conference opened with two tearful testimonies by Mexican women who were trafficked into prostitution and forced labour.