Notes from Copenhagen – Day 3

By on 17/12/2009 in Blog

CopenhagenSandy Taylor, Head of Climate Change and Sustainability at Birmingham City Council, blogs on the third day of the visit that he and Deputy City Council Leader Cllr Paul Tilsley have made to the UN Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen…

The day started with the news that the non-governmental organisations had been excluded from the Bella Centre, which made us worry (yet again!) that we might not be able to get there to present the cities' case.

With some concerns, the first session started with high level messages from the OECD, World Bank, Richard Branson and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California.

Richard Branson talked about how mayors are the entrepreneurial chief executives of the future. New forms of partnership are the key – turning ideas into action – and that is why he has set up the Carbon Forum to get money into this agenda.

Robert Zellig (Chief Executive of the World Bank) made it clear that cities are an indispensable partner in addressing climate change. Cities must be included in the way forward. (Although we have to wait and see what words are included in the final Copenhagen agreement!)

There was a large media interest in the arrival of Arnold Schwarzenegger into the room. He was clearly totally committed to California leading on electric cars, geothermal and solar energy; moving towards California's 30 per cent renewables target; and that this is creating thousands of jobs.

But his key phrase was “We must get everyone involved in this green movement!  We must give people the knowledge to make all this “hip”. Don’t wait for “big daddy” national government.”

We then moved onto the Green Vehicles Parade. There were a dozen electric cars there - Zytec, BMW Mini, an electric mini-Hummer (!) and Mitsubishi were amongst the manufacturers represented.

Cllr Tilsley and Mayor Miller (Toronto) rode in the Mitsubishi electric i-MiEV car (25 of these same cars were delivered into Birmingham on December 12 for the CABLED Consortium) to the University of Copenhagen for lunch.

It was clear that when we talked to the other mayors and experts that they were very impressed that Birmingham was taking a powerful role in the promotion of electric cars.

The University of Copenhagen was then host to a discussion on climate change science and adaptation. We also had a presentation on another report on how climate change will affect cities and on adaptation to climate change.

There will be further work to be undertaken and given the work which we are already doing with the University of Birmingham on understanding climate change impacts on Birmingham I have asked the Copenhagen team if we can share knowledge and experience on this.

We were then shepherded onto our three buses to go to the Bella Centre. But on the way our guides were told we must be in convoy otherwise we would be stopped. We also found the motorway closed by police and helicopters overhead. After 30 minutes' wait the coaches took us to the rear of the Bella Centre and after going through there police checks and a security X-ray we were taken through the Press Media centre by a back door!

Once we managed to get in were then able to present the cities case to the Mexican Environment Minister and Professor Lord Stern and other national delegations.

In the Bella Centre I also met colleagues from Utrecht on possible joint work on electric cars and being a partner in a future European “Green car” project. We also had an exchange of ideas on district energy and carbon +ve homes developments.

I was also able to meet with the UK delegation office and present the Birmingham Declaration and also the Birmingham Children's Climate Change Summit message.

We then returned to Copenhagen City Hall after yet another wait for the buses to come back.

The Mayors Summit came to a conclusion with final speeches from Mayor Ritt Bjerregaard (Copenhagen) and Mayor Miller (Toronto). Both these mayors are standing down from political office, and this was a highlight of their office.

The Communiqué which all mayors in the summit had signed was handed to the Danish Minister for the Environment to take into the final stage of COP15.

All involved in the summit felt that this had been a very powerful grouping of political leaders. The cities at the event represented some 700 million people. This showed the power of cities.

And finally, the Deputy Leader said that he felt from the discussions he had with so many other leaders of the other cities that they were impressed with what Birmingham is doing - the electric cars, district energy, retrofitting, etc.

This means our visit has really helped to raise Birmingham's profile and reputation.

We have also secured a range of new contacts which we will be following through to learn form other cities and also with business.

So as we ended with an Earth Hour switch off of lights in the Radshuset Square, we saw the big poster saying “Hopenhagen” which is the hopeful message of the Copenhagen COP15 process.

But of course the final agreement is still very uncertain, less than 48 hours away from the close of the summit.

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