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Cities at centre of energy revolution: Stern

There's a cold wind blowing in Copenhagen as negotiators hunker down in the Bella Centre. Snowfall from last night remains on the ground. Access for NGO observers is tightly constricted as world leaders work to find common ground. Negotiations were suspended overnight as developing nations rejected a new text drafted by Danish hosts of the summit. Negotiations resumed at noon today, with the U.S. and Japan promising funding for poor countries. The funding is dependent on China's acceptance of independent verification of green house gas reductions.   

In their speeches to delegates, many leaders are showing flexibility. Nicholas Sarkozy, president of France said "A failure in Copenhagen would be a catastrophe for each and everyone of us. If we keep on heading where we're going, we are heading for failure. So people want to keep Kyoto, OK let's keep Kyoto. But let us agree on an overall political umbrella." Sarkozy called on nations to stop posturing. France is a member of the EU, which has been supporting a new agreement rather than a continuation of Kyoto.

Nicolas Stern, the UK economist whose 1996 report on the economic impact of climate change helped to launch world-wide awareness, called for success in the negotiations while speaking at a side session in the Bella Centre yesterday. "Going as we are we have a fifty-fifty chance of seeing an increase of five degrees centigrade by the end of the century. It would be madness to go here." Instead, he said, "We can launch the most exciting energy and industrial revolution the world has ever seen." Stern says cities will be at the centre.

Cities and local governments have been active here. In the lead up to the climate change discussions, over 2,800 local governments listed their targets and climate action initiatives with the Copenhagen World City Climate Catalogue. Mayors have been sharing innovations at the Mayors Climate Summit for the past two days.

Today, ICLEI (an international association of local governments for sustainability with a delegation of over 1200) demanded action and offered collaboration. "Do not underestimate our voice, our willingness and power to act and our ability to mobilize." Cities and urban areas consume 75 per cent of the world's energy and produce up to 75 per cent of its greenhouse gas emissions.

In the words of the UK's Gordon Brown: "In these few days in Copenhagen, which will be blessed or blamed for generations to come, we cannot permit the politics of narrow self-interest to prevent a policy for human survival. It is not enough for us to do the least we can get away with when history asks that we demand the most of ourselves."  

The down-to-the-wire talks may yet yield a result that will allow the thirty young people who occupied a space on the Bella Centre floor last night, refusing to leave untill a fair, ambitious and legally binding treaty is reached, to go home.

Charley Beresford, executive director of the Columbia Institute, arrived in Copenhagen December 9th, where she is observing the climate change discussions at COP15. Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change have met annually since the establishment of the UNFCCC in Rio de Janero in 1992. The meetings are called a Conference of the Parties and the Copenhagen meeting is the 15th . From December 7th through 18th, the world is focused on COP 15 in Denmark, looking for a global deal on climate change following the Kyoto agreement, which runs out in 2012.

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