Cities like ours were highly influential at the successful climate talks in Paris in December, according to Cr Arron Wood.
The City of Melbourne environment portfolio chair said that, while it was the nation-states that needed to sign up to international agreements, individual cities like Melbourne were the driving forces.
Cr Wood represented Lord Mayor Robert Doyle at the Paris COP21 convention and returned home inspired and invigorated from the experience.
He said the success of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) was beyond his expectation.
“Being in the sometimes negative climate change debate in Australia makes you forget the innovation and progress that is happening in other places around the world,” he said. “But it also reinforces the great work that cities like Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney and other Australian local governments are undertaking.”.
City of Melbourne representatives were in Paris to attend complementary major meetings of C40 Cities, International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) and 100 Resilient Cities.
Cr Wood said: “City of Melbourne is a founding member or ‘first-mover’ city in all of these international networks, which builds our international reputation, enables peer to peer learning and helps drive co-operative action at a global and local level.”.
“Cities are where the action must be taken because 70-80 per cent of global emissions come from cities,” Cr Wood said. “Cities can, and should, lead the process of decarbonisation and the process of adapting to the harsh realities of a changing climate.”
He said a “Compact of Mayors” declared the commitment of more than 360 cities and will deliver more than half of the world’s potential of urban emission reductions by 2020.
“At one the city gatherings during the Paris COP there was over 1,000 mayor or deputy mayor-level city representatives in the one room, all focused on sharing case studies on everything from green buildings, renewable energy, public transport, to waste and resource recovery and how sustainable cities are also more resilient cities.”.
He said the examples and enthusiasm shown by representatives of cities in Paris influenced and encouraged the nation-states to commit to the Paris agreement.
However, Cr Wood acknowledged that, while cities can lead and take on-ground action, they have limited direct control.
“The City of Melbourne directly contributes to less than 1 per cent of the municipality’s emissions and has limited control to regulate the remaining 99 per cent,” he said.
Cr Wood admitted that state and federal governments had ultimate authority and responsibility to make positive changes.
“We cannot deliver on climate action goals alone. We must focus our efforts on education, partnerships and incentivising action,” he said.
Some of the ideas that Cr Wood brought home to Melbourne include initiatives around: freight trams; electric share vehicles; public charging stations; green walls and roofs; micro wind generation; co-procurement of renewable energy; revitalisation of indigenous vegetation; and public composting services.
He said cities were doing some amazing and interesting things.
For example, he said, in the Indian city of Shimba, motorists are prevented from buying cars unless they have parking spaces.
Tshwane, in South Africa, is using biomass fuel and CNG buses and Copenhagen is using river water in centralised heating and cooling.
‘The great thing for City of Melbourne is that cities, states, nations and businesses were all very keen to hear about what we’ve achieved as a city,” Cr Wood said.
“In one session alone I represented our city in a meeting chaired by former US vice president Al Gore and attended by Google, Facebook, Phillips Lighting and business representatives on behalf of Richard Branson.”
“At a gathering like the Paris climate summit you quickly realise this isn’t just about climate change, it’s about whether Melbourne is seen as a forward thinking city.”